The focus on process improvement has been one of the key strategies for business success over the past 40 years. Whether simple checklists or complex process maps, what started on the manufacturing floors is now seen in every industry. Quality, speed to market, cost savings, safety, and innovation are just a few outcomes that can be realized.
So where does service fit here? Looking at when and how we interact with internal colleagues or external customers is clearly a part of many business processes. But are we improving the customer’s experience with our processes (the Perception Points), or are we focused only on improving the process itself (the Process Points)?
Here is a simple example of the Process Points in the “order to cash” procedure for a company that sells material to be picked up by the customer in a truck:
- Order is placed by a customer over the phone with a sales representative
- Truck pickup and loading is scheduled
- Paperwork is completed and provided to the traffic office
- Truck enters the loading area and is weighed
- Materials are loaded on the truck
- Truck is weighed and paperwork is confirmed with driver
- Delivery is confirmed with customer by email or by phone with sales representative
- Invoice is sent to customer
Service training often focuses on those “Process Points” that have direct interactions with customers. In this case, telephone skills training for sales representatives who take and confirm orders from customers: what they should say, how should they respond to special requests, and how to resolve complaints quickly? Service seems to be less “visible” at many of the other areas of the other “Process Points” in this “order to cash” procedure. Yet the experience a customer has runs throughout every touch point of this procedure.
To improve service, it is vital to look beyond the obvious “Process Points” to discover the full range of “Perception Points”: the moments when a customer experiences any sound, step, sight, or stage of the procedure. Breakthroughs occur when we look at “what is the customer’s experience of what we do” – and not only “how do we do what we do”. Seek out the “Perception Points”, not only the “Process Points” we have defined in our procedures. “Perception Points” are where the treasures of distinctive service are created.
For example, in the “order to cash” procedure above, the company could dramatically improve customer experience by asking these questions — from the customers’ point of view:
- How easy is it to place an order? Why can I only do it by telephone? How do I order outside of office hours, or on weekends?
- What are my options for scheduling? Do I get priority as a premium customer? How much business do I need to bring here to become a priority customer?
- Is the loading area clean and orderly? Is it attractive and well-lit?
- Are my drivers treated with respect at the security gate? Are they expecting our truck on-time?
- Is the paperwork completed in advance? Can I review it before my trucks arrive?
- Are the company staff friendly? Do they know our names?
- Are directions through the loading process clear and well-documented? Is there good signage at each step of the procedure?
- Are my drivers offered a good place to rest while the truck is loaded?
- Is the order reviewed and confirmed in person before my drivers leave?
- Is the invoice sent accurately and on time? Is it easy to get my questions answered quickly?
Many of these Perception Points do not involve the sales representative and would not appear on a standard map of “Process Points”. Yet they all contribute to customers’ opinions about the service the company provides.
Mapping customer experience can be applied to any business procedure, whether it involves direct customer interactions, working with internal partners or shared services, or backroom operations.
When you seek to improve service, step into your customer’s shoes to discover and explore the full range of “Perception Points” in the experience. Don’t just evaluate the efficiency of your “Process Points” — map your “Perception Points” completely, accurately, and truthfully. When you find chronically weak or dissatisfying “Perception Points” then you can make improvements and build new procedures with processes to consistently deliver those improvements.
This approach combine two powerful perspectives to fuel continuous service improvement.
“Service Transactions and Perception Points” is just one of ten fundamental service principles taught in our Service Excellence Workshops. Click here for details.