Workflow - 4 steps to create a great customer experience
How do you ensure you are delivering the best customer experience possible while leveraging the benefits of workflow?
Bad customer experience happens as a result of other competing priorities in the business. Very few organisations set out to deliver a truly awful experience yet we’ve all probably experienced it ourselves.
One of the best solutions to customer experience can also be the worst culprit - workflow automation. Often deployed in practices to streamline processes and make work more efficient, it can also lead to unexpected negative outcomes. The fact is that if there is a problem in your process somewhere, using workflow to speed the process up will amplify the problem, not resolve it.
Whilst your team does its best to resolve problems internally, your clients may not. They are far more likely to see this as a degredation of service and a lowering of quality. If these issues aren’t rectified it could lead to loss of clients and damage to your reputation and profits.
Therefore it's key to get everything in order before you automate. Automating a bad process won’t make it better. Take a look the steps below to make sure you get the very most out of any workflow activities.
1. Get to know your customer
Don’t fall into the trap of viewing core processes such as payroll, bookkeeping and VAT returns as just a compliance issue. It can be easy to assume that the needs of each client are the same. In reality, your customers will have a diverse set of drivers and an equally diverse range of fears.
For example, a business looking to reduce costs by outsourcing payroll will have different requirements to a business looking to improve employee satisfaction by providing an online portal for payslips and related documents.
Do a bit of research first by surveying a sample of clients to understand why they took your services initially, what they like about your service and where they would like to see improvements. Start with client interviews using an open discussion format to see where they take the conversation. Between 5 and 10 interviews is normally enough and many clients will appreciate the chance to provide feedback.
Based on the outcome of these discussions you can form a number of hypotheses about what makes your service great and what would improve it. Create a survey that you can send out to a larger number of clients to confirm or disprove each hypothesis.
Summarise this information highlighting the insights so that you can reference it and share internally.
2. Know your Own Practice
Every well run practice will have key processes documented in a clear and concise way and available to all staff. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and that repetitive or complicated activities are done in a standard and consistent way.
If you don’t have processes documented in clearly laid out process maps, now is a good time to do it. It may seem like a daunting task, but that activity of putting them down on paper will reveal a lot of improvement opportunities, so the benefits easily outweighs the time taken. This is essential to the next step.
3. Align your Processes with Customer Needs
Create a customer journey map. This is just another type of process flow chart where you bring together what you have learnt about your internal processes and customers. Look to create a journey map for each of your key services, starting with the higher volume ones and those that touch the most clients.
Look at the steps your client takes when using your service but ignore what you do for now. Try to map out processes from their perspective. For example in payroll they may complete timesheets, gather timesheets, complete leave requests, calculate any deductions, submit information, receive payslips, pay salaries and pay tax & NI contributions.
Then, identify the points that interact directly with your practice and place a box describing the work you do at each of those points. On another line you can then start to describe the processes you follow internally before or after those client interactions.
Finally, start to highlight all areas where there is obvious friction for the customer. Some of this will be clearly visible to you on the map. Review the customer research conducted previously and also highlight the areas described there.
As a team you can now discuss the areas that need improvement, what you can do to improve them and prioritise. Many of these can be resolved with new workflow and some may just require alterations to existing workflow. Whichever it is, it should be clearly visible to everyone on the map.
4. Monitor, Measure and Improve
Like any proposed improvement it’s difficult to know whether it works unless you can measure it. From your customer journey map think carefully about how you can measure various points along the process and monitor them over time.
Workflow can be very powerful here as most workflow systems will allow you to easily measure and report on key metrics. For example, if a client had complained that it took too long to respond to payslip updates then measure how long this takes and set a target for improvement.
Having clear measures mean you can track progress and make future improvements quickly and easily. You may only need to review and update your customer journey map infrequently but you should continue to monitor and improve your internal processes and make sure everyone is always on the same page.
Taking the time to research your customers desires, needs and issues first and foremost means that any workflow systems you implement or upgrade will mean success. If your customer’s experiences are positive and enriching, the benefits to your practice are well worth your time and effort.
If you’d like to learn more about how to implement successful workflow automation, or how to map your processes then please get in touch with one of our experts today. Take a look at our website or email us at [email protected]
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