Process excellence might not be a glamorous or buzzworthy topic, but when it comes to delivering value to your customers consistently, it can be a real game-changer.
Despite its ability to fix what’s broken, and let’s be honest, most customer experiences certainly feel that way, process excellence is often viewed by executives as the slow, boring route to transforming the business and achieving a competitive advantage. Unfortunately, the prevailing “fail fast” culture and the pursuit of quick wins have overshadowed the importance of identifying your gaps and optimizing processes before layering in the technology.
If your customer experience is riddled with broken processes, disjointed interactions, and incomplete data, start with your customer needs and expectations, and take an outside-in approach to continuous improvement and process excellence. Technology can provide answers, but the success of an organization’s customer experience strategy hinges on its ability to execute effectively at the process level.
What is Process Excellence?
In a nutshell, process excellence (PEX) is the backbone of an efficient and effective contact center. It encompasses the systematic evaluation, improvement, and implementation of streamlined workflows to enhance productivity, improve service experiences, and unlock more value for your customers. PEX also takes into consideration how people and technologies can be utilized to achieve high-value process improvements and identify the problems worth solving through the lens of the customer – especially when paired with design thinking.
Wait, Isn’t Process Excellence a Thing of the Past?
When most people think of process excellence, they think of rigid performance management and quality systems going back to the glory days of Six Sigma. In a world where channels, systems, and customer preferences are in a constant state of flux and speed is of the essence, it’s easy to see why companies are more invested in staying agile. But despite its lower profile, the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control) process remains extremely relevant.
Let’s put it another way, in case you weren’t around a decade ago. If you have a strong prompt engineer, ChatGPT and generative AI can provide value. When it comes to transforming the customer experience, your processes are the prompts that will enable your technology and strategic investments to deliver on your brand promise and your CX roadmap.
Tips for Leveraging Process Excellence to Unlock Customer Value
So how should CX leaders be leveraging process excellence principles and methodologies to optimize the contact center and derive more value?
Start with Customer Needs
Align your processes with the needs and expectations of your customers. Take an outside-in approach by understanding their journey, pain points, and desired outcomes. This customer-centric perspective will guide your process improvement efforts.
Leverage Technology Appropriately
It’s easy to get caught up in the promise of instant gratification with plug-and-play technologies. Why slow down the path to innovation with process mapping when technology vendors are offering free trials!? Well as one of our clients realized, these offerings are product-led not customer-led. Starting with the technology will almost always guarantee a waste of time and resources – no matter how quickly it fails. Plan out the user experience and map the technology back to the customer journey before signing up for that free trial – your colleagues will thank you.
Map and Streamline Workflows
Once you’ve mapped out the customer journey and user experience, it’s important to take note of your top contact drivers and map the key processes back to the customer issues and fallout that account for 80% of your volumes. Your team can then streamline key workflows to remove friction, eliminate unnecessary steps, and automate manual tasks to enhance efficiency, reduce errors, and improve the customer experience.
Invest in Training & Development
The truth is most failures in the contact center are not people-driven, but process-driven. Most organizations have a lot of tribal knowledge that goes undocumented and never makes it to the frontline. If you don’t have a centralized governance model across your BPO base, or if your partners are all operating with different systems and knowledge articles it can create a broken and inconsistent service experience. How the process gets documented, communicated, and embedded into the operational rhythm of the center is a crucial but often overlooked step.
By understanding the root cause of most process failures, your operational team can proactively address and prevent them. Broken processes often result from changes in technologies, shifting organizational structures, and a poor understanding of the customer journey. Signs and symptoms to look out for include frequent escalations, long handle times, low containment rates, increased customer complaints, and spikes in repeat calls.
Encourage Cross-Functional Collaboration
Most organizations are still operating in functional silos, so when it comes to implementing new technology or addressing a customer pain point, transformational initiatives usually require multiple handoffs and stakeholders. Foster a collaborative environment where teams can share knowledge, insights, and best practices to drive process excellence collectively.
Embrace Continuous Improvement
Finally, it’s important that every employee feels empowered to identify and address process inefficiencies. Process excellence won’t work if it’s contained to a small group of consultants. Encourage feedback and ideas for improvement from frontline agents who interact directly with customers and can guide your efforts.
By leveraging process excellence principles and methodologies, organizations can optimize their contact center operations and close the CX gap. It might not be glamorous, but with poor customer service costing businesses more than
$75 billion a year in losses, it is time for companies to revisit the basics, taking a step back to lead forward and remain one step ahead of the competition.