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Tools for Optimizing Customer-Facing Processes

Sometimes you need more than one map to get where you’re going. Use customer journey and process maps together to create the ultimate customer experience.

When analyzing and redesigning a process, an organization should always consider the impacts on two categories of people: those executing the process and the customers experiencing the process. When a process directly influences customers, internal or external, we recommend employing a combination of both process and journey maps to improve the customer experience (CX) while redesigning the overall process at the same time.

Understanding both process and journey maps independently is important to appreciating how they complement and interact with each other. Typically, process maps are used to document and analyze the sequence of activities in a process in order to identify opportunities to optimize quality, cost, and speed. Process maps provide an inside-out perspective and are often multi-functional in design to indicate all internal business areas impacted by a given process. Process maps start when an activity triggers that process (e.g., “customer places an online order”) and end when all activities are completed or the end of the current process triggers the start of another (e.g., “order entry complete, move to fulfillment process”).

Journey mapping, on the other hand, provides an outside-in point of view by documenting the stages a customer goes through when interacting with an organization. These stages should start before the customer engages with the organization and end after the transaction or scope of interaction is completed.

Diving Deeper

Journey maps focus on the persona, an archetype of customers with similar preferences, needs, and objectives that an organization would anticipate to act in a similar manner. Journey mapping identifies interaction points with customers and how those interactions impact customers’ overall experience and, as a result, their perception of the organization, product, or brand and desire to continue to extend the relationship. This serves as the basis for determining ways to “win” those interactions by meeting and exceeding customer expectations.

Example of a journey map:

Mapping out a process flow enables a business to identify complexity, waste, and friction points. Visualizing a current-state process flow can also help an organization train and onboard new team members, align different parts of the organization, and work to provide structure. Designing a future-state process flow can serve as the basis for analysis to redesign or re-engineer the process to be more effective and efficient.

Example of a process map:

Layering both tools helps an organization rethink processes to create a more efficient flow of activities and enhanced interactions for a better customer experience. With customer-facing processes, we can leverage customer preferences as guidelines and boundaries to ensure the process is efficient and effective and maximizes value. This can include considering customer sentiment and designing with empathy for end-customer needs, motivators, and expectations.

EXAMPLE

Let’s dive into an example to see how this works in practice. Imagine an established, long-standing aftermarket automotive parts supplier. This supplier has just acquired a company in the same space that serves a niche market and has shown consecutive years of growth and an expanding product catalog. For the acquiring firm to maximize the value of the merger, it wants to integrate the acquisition quickly and merge the supply chains. In order to achieve these goals, it develops process maps for both companies to identify inefficiencies. By removing redundancies and applying its policies, the acquiring company believes it will improve the overall processes and reduce costs by a significant amount. Some of these policies include expedited shipping for top-tier accounts, white-glove service for strategic partners, and deep training on the full product catalog for account leads and customer service representatives. Examined in a silo, adopting these policies seems like a great opportunity, and the organization should move forward.

Using the same situation, a different team analyzed the acquisition company from a CX perspective to identify how it grew and developed a loyal customer base so quickly. It first developed personas to identify the types of customers and then built customer journey maps to identify how customers engaged and the touchpoints that allowed the acquisition to win over customers. That analysis found that the acquisition’s customer base was diverse, with a small but growing number of large accounts. Further, customers were fiercely loyal because the company always helped them find what parts they needed and delivered the parts quickly. In fact, the company was able to charge higher prices for products than the industry average. The higher prices could be justified because the company empowered its sales agents to learn as much about the industry as possible and sell products outside the company’s current product catalog if they could find the best items for the customer outside what the company had available. Additionally, it promised 24-hour shipping to most major domestic locations for all customers. The major difference was that the company charged customers for every expedited order, regardless of account size. Customers were willing to pay for this service because they trusted the agents and organization to deliver the right parts at the right time and to do whatever it took to fix any issues.

Had this parts supplier not used both tools in determining its path forward, it may have decided to implement a plan to only remove redundancies. However, when looked at holistically, it makes sense for the company to also change some of its sourcing and distribution policies in order to possibly get a higher return on products while making its customers happier in the process.

conclusion

Internal Focus

With the right tool set, creating an efficient process does not need to come at the expense of the customer experience. Taken at the most basic level, the question being addressed by process redesign is this: How can we cut costs? Those costs might be related to time, unnecessary expenditures related to waste, or duplicated effort due to unaligned processes and activities.

Customer Focus

With the right tool set, creating an efficient process does not need to come at the expense of the customer experience. Taken at the most basic level, the question being addressed by process redesign is this: How can we cut costs? Those costs might be related to time, unnecessary expenditures related to waste, or duplicated effort due to unaligned processes and activities.

Balanced Focus

With the right tool set, creating an efficient process does not need to come at the expense of the customer experience. Taken at the most basic level, the question being addressed by process redesign is this: How can we cut costs? Those costs might be related to time, unnecessary expenditures related to waste, or duplicated effort due to unaligned processes and activities.

Through practice and repetition, an organization can become more comfortable taking this balanced approach. Over time, this balanced approach can help an organization develop a sustainable competitive advantage because it can create efficient processes that do not sacrifice customer experience.

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