INNOVATIVE SERVICE: HAPPY PROCESSES

What is a service process?  A service process can be defined from two perspectives.  From the inside looking out, it is a collection of procedures and practices that govern a complete operation.  Bottom line, it is the means that organizations use to deliver service to customers.    From customers’ viewpoints, however, it is what an organization puts them through to get what they need or want.  Given the high level of importance that customers today place on their experience, making certain your processes are “happy” is critical for service success.

The term “happy process” originated with one of our international clients.  We were grappling for a way to explain the meaning of process alignment as a part of developing company wide service standards and norms.  Our client thought about the end result and suggested that one outcome of alignment might be “happy processes.”  The label proved to be a powerful metaphor that vastly contributed to understanding and efficiency in the company-wide alignment effort.  

Customers do not generally desire a service process.  Most would prefer to simply snap their fingers and instantly get the product or outcome they desire. Granted, some organizations have created processes so delightful customers look forward to going through the hoops.   Yet, the primary rationale for installing processes is to insure that service is delivered consistently, efficiently and productively.  

My wife and I recently encountered a very unhappy process from our cellular provider. I have been generally pleased with our cellular provider’s customer service so the recent experience was a bit surprising. As so often happens, the company changed a policy that impacted the customer but failed to effectively communicate the change to customers. The result?  An extreme inconvenience for my wife and I.  When I spoke with a manager about the policy change the situation got uglier. The manager instantly threw the organization “under the bus.” “I am sorry for the inconvenience,” he began. “They changed the policy and I don’t know why. It doesn’t make sense.”

The secret to maintaining processes in a state of “happiness” is to remember they are means, not ends.  They are the ultimate servant in the quest for customer loyalty and devotion.  Treating them as a common slave may give you process acquiescence and ultimately customer disdain.  But treating them as a contributing partner will yield you process alignment and customer devotion.

In this case the front line and the customer agreed on the degree of unhappiness of the process. Where’s leadership? What other processes have been turned into unhappy ones? Have you analyzed your processes from the employee and customer’s perspective?  Are your processes in sync with the type of experience your organization strives to deliver?

About Chip&John

Chip R. Bell and John R. Patterson are customer loyalty consultants and the authors of several best-selling books. Their newest book is "Wired and Dangerous: How Your Customers Have Changed and What to do About it."
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