Knowing and Improving Your Business Process
We normally just do it without being conscious how it's done.
The reason: You have always done it that way.
There's always a form somewhere that tells you someone is receiving something in some point in time or at some point in the process.
You will most likely know what was not done rather than what was done exactly because something does not arrive in some point in time or at some point in the process.
To pass on this process to someone, you will most likely do a show-and-tell routine. This usually happens when somebody doing this process for you leaves.
Your Show-And-Tell routine:
You show the new guy the general way of doing your stuff and describe it in broad terms and then show him how it's done.
This is an approach where your new guy will come to you hours after with a bundle of forms (to ask you how he's going to fill it up).
After that he is going to ask in what part of some procedure (which you also forgot to tell him) he is going to use the forms.
You tell the guy the process and the forms he is going to fill up in some part of the process.
This is an approach where you use a full day telling him about the voluminous forms he is going to fill up in each part of the stuff you do.
I did a study of a merchandising store several years back. The store had 44 different forms just to track inventory from delivery to store display.
After going through half of your forms, you really won't have time to show him anything else.
You tell the guy how you do your stuff in general terms then proceed to give a blow-by-blow description of the step in each part. Because of the gory details and the far-away look of your new guy, you drop the show-the-forms routine altogether.
You're so dedicated in indoctrinating your new guy of your management style, you show him everything.
You describe the stuff you do, you give him all the colorful details, with specific instruction how to use forms in each step and actually watch him do it himself.
This usually takes weeks and months to finish.
Half way to your indoctrination program, your accountant calls because of late income tax return, you have upcoming deliveries pending, and a customer complaining about warranties.
All these usually happen when you least expect the tax man to walk through your door.
You get your new guy to ask the questions because he is going to ask it in the point of view of the dumb or the ignorant.
He is going to ask a lot of questions. He will probably be asking the right ones too.
Don't believe about all that crap on security and confidentiality.
If you are not paying your employee more than half of what you are earning, that employee will be your worst threat to security and confidentiality when he leaves.
If he leaves because he hates you, and your competitor gets hold of your guy, your competitor is going to pay him well to beat you at your own game.
If your guy left because he is smarter than you, you can bet your mother's wedding ring that he is being paid more than half what you are earning.
What have we done so far?
- We defined the profile of your customer (Dimension One: The Customer).
- You have identified what bugs your customer and have realized the benefits for your customer when his problem is solved and more.
- You have come up with a way to remove what is bugging your customer by creating a service. You even have a name for this service.
- You have a general idea how to deliver your service or at least able to describe it(Dimension Two: The Service Concept).
We are now going to build your customer service piece by piece.
Building Your Customer Service Process
The critical component that makes a service great is the process. You must have good picture of how your process works.
In fact, you literally must have some form of picture or diagram of your process.
You must be able to manage the process so you can deliver results. To ensure the integrity and quality of the process, you must be able to have some form of documentation.
Through documentation you can institutionalize the process and preserve the quality of whatever you deliver.
Make sure you can maintain and protect the integrity of the process and its anticipated results by devising a mechanism for feedback in each stage of the process.
Process flow is the general description of how one part of the service starts and where it terminates.
Usually it is better represented in a diagram called a process flow chart.
The major parts or chunks of the service are described in boxes connected by a solid line connecting each of the boxes in a logical and sequential flow.
Very easy to state above how it is but putting it on paper is really another thing. When I let the client's staff document their process, they really have no idea what I'm talking about.
You must be able to distinguish between key business process and procedure.
A process is better represented by boxes and lines while a procedure is really a set of specific steps to get a task done.
What you will see really in a procedure is a title, a short description of what is this procedure (usually includes what is the expected result) and the specific steps for example: Steps 1 to 7 how to start up a machine.
If you have to do this yourself, don't be surprise if your people give you a procedure instead of a process.
9 out of 10 supervisors in different department from different organizations will not be able to diagram their process clearly.
It's fairly easy to see this.
Simply ask them to diagram the start and the end of the process in their department or team and include the feedback mechanism.
Usually, you don't have to look at the whole process anymore.
Give your most senior operations staff this homework to be submitted the next working day.
Go ahead and try.
When I was doing it for the company I worked for I don't know if I should laugh or cry when I saw their homework, but that was along time ago.
Management of Process and Results
Most organizations have layers of processes and procedures without really appreciating the purpose or objective of these processes or procedures.
A process must have an objective or purpose. Without any objective or purpose, a process is literally a practice of futility.
It is a formal way of going through the motions.
You must be able to define what the process is supposed to accomplish or to achieve.
Once you know what your process is suppose to accomplish, you must now determine what resources will be needed to make the process work and who should be doing what to complete the different components of the process.
You must synchronize all the tasks and coordinate the people involved to ensure the process works smoothly.
You must be able to establish accountability for the integrity of the process.
Controls must be established to protect the integrity of the process.
You must find a way or institute mechanisms to inform you what is happening at every critical point of the process.
It is also important that you already have the necessary procedure to act when things don't go the way you plan or expect.
Designate someone to be accountable for the integrity of the process and another for the desired results.
If you are a frontline staff, you will most definitely be accountable for results.
It is the first line supervisor, team leader or immediate superior who will be given the responsibility of ensuring that you follow procedures, keep within standards, and get the resources you need at the right amount and moment to get your job done to achieve the objective.
Documentation of Process
The most significant piece of documentation you should keep is the process flow of your key business processes followed by the process flow chart of your customer service program.
In the process flow chart shall be the key positions responsible for the integrity of the process and key positions or teams responsible for results.
Your documentation of the process flow chart should include where the process begins and where it terminates.
Anyone reading the process flow chart must be able to discern if a document (a report or completed form) is needed to start or complete a key component of the process or if the component will generate another document.
The duration in man-hours or man-days should also be reflected to provide information regarding the time required to complete each key component of the process.
Documentation of Results
To be able to document results you must know before hand what results to expect and what exactly to document.
When you are documenting a customer service event, you are confirming two (2) sets of events: the completion of a process; and the delivery of customer benefits (product/service).
The documentation of the completion of a process enables the customer service manager or leader to monitor
- the beginning and termination of an event
- the proper execution of a process
- the leader to know if delivery has been completed
- the customer service staff to confirm or validate acceptance of delivery by customer and the customer's level of satisfaction
- the customer to know and validate that a service has been rendered or a product has been delivered and that the customer service personnel has conducted the delivery in a manner acceptable to the customer
The best service organization however institutes a separate documentation process after the completion of delivery.
A telemarketer or account manager can have a delivery and satisfaction checklist and calls the customer to validate if indeed delivery was conducted in a manner compliant with internal service standards and according to the customer's satisfaction.
The level or degree of detail is really dependent on the commitment of the organization or service unit to customer service standards.
The essential part of managing the customer service process is to get feedback. You must know if every component of the process work and if the results are actually achieved.
You must integrate a feedback mechanism into the process.
The feedback mechanism must do a lot of things for you. It must help you:
- Confirm and validate delivery of product or service (achievement of objective)
- Measure your cost of delivery or management of process
- Gauge the ability and capability of the process and human resource to deliver product or service (delivery of benefits)
- Open a channel of communication with your customer about the content and process of delivery of the product or service
- Collect data to improve the content of the product or service or the process of delivery
- Determine the state of your relationship with your customer
- Assess the conduct of your human resource in the presence of customers
It could be anything that will trigger an action or a response from either your customer service team or your customer.
It must be able to capture information about the quality of your service delivery or the end result of such delivery.
The content of your feedback must be actionable or it must have relevance to your ability to respond to the customer or improve your ability to respond.
The bottom line is: What will you do with what you know?
The next post might be something you would want to read through more thoroughly. It touches on specific tools I used to make my work easier in managing Customer Service programs.