My recent experience with a large retailer opened a few thoughts about what superior customer experience really means and what it takes to achieve it. Turns out, a business process touching any aspect of a customer is the king, and BPM is the king maker.
A few months ago, I ordered a bookshelf for my office from a large traditional multi-brand retail outlet that has been in business for decades. They recently entered into online retailing with an impressive mobile app. It was a delight to use the iPad app and the whole process of ordering was pleasant. It was customer experience at its best. As the fate would have it, that was too short lived an experience.
The delivery of the bookshelf was delayed after it was re-scheduled three times. Even after two months, the bookshelf was not delivered. There was no pro-active communication from the company. Frustrated, I cancelled my order. Then started the painful refund process. After three months, I neither have the bookshelf in the office nor the refund in the bank.
What started as a superior customer experience with a modern and beautiful app, ended with a frustrating experience.
We often relate customer experience with usability of the customer touch points. Whether an app, online portal, or a website, a modern, intuitive, mobile enabled interface provides a rich experience to customers. In this case, it did this pretty well. It booked my order without any hassles. However, a great app is just one aspect of customer experience. Good usability is necessary, but not sufficient.
The retailer failed with its broken order fulfillment business process. This is what I think is broken:
- The new app created on a mobile platform is not thoroughly integrated with back-end systems and the app does not know if the warehouse has enough stock to fulfill all orders in pipeline.
- The order fulfillment process is executed piecemeal across silo’ed enterprise systems with manual work being done for some activities
- This results in a lack of process visibility and missing alerts when things are delayed. There wasn’t proactive communication to me when the order was delayed.
- The system running the customer support process is not integrated real-time with order fulfillment. The customer support agent does not have visibility into the exact order status.
- The manual and inefficient nature of the business process execution results in longer cycle times.
A great app won them a customer. A failed business process lost the customer.
The solution to this problem lies in having a more holistic view of customer experience, looking beyond just the usability of customer facing apps. The business process that runs the show backstage also needs to be first-rate. In the case of the retailer, the following is required:
- End-to-end automation of order fulfillment business process enabling seamless execution of the process across the multiple systems and people involved
- Strong process monitoring with ability to track Service Level Agreements (SLA’s) of product delivery at every stage with pro-active escalations when deliveries are predicted to be delayed – not reactively after they are delayed
- Proactive communication to customer via variety of channels (emails, text messages, etc.)
- Deep visibility into the process execution with ability to know the latest status and related updates about a delivery to everybody who needs to know – e.g. Customer Service, Warehousing, Dispatching, etc.
- Analytics to identify process improvement areas
Modern BPM – The Necessary and Sufficient Condition for Superior Customer Experience
The above analysis reveals a two-prong strategy for addressing the situation at hand:
- Rich and modern user experience
- Robust business processes
Business Process Management (BPM) platforms were born to build process excellence. BPM has traditionally empowered organizations to build robust business processes that add great business value. The modern BPM platforms have taken this further with new capabilities that equip them to address even wider pain areas.
- Dynamic Case Management
Ability to execute ad-hoc workflows to resolve a customer situation quickly – like order delays, in my case.
- Low Code Application Development
The ability to build modern apps thoroughly integrated with underlying systems without writing much code.
- Mobile Enabled Interactions
Modern BPM’s have a robust mobile strategy. Developers can build their process solutions once and deploy on multiple mobile platform without re-writing the code, avoiding the need of a stand-along mobile development platform that needs to be separately integrated into the IT infrastructure.
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Modern BPM’s offer integrated RPA capabilities to enable automation of routine, manual tasks such as reading from document, updating an excel sheet, uploading files to SharePoint, copy-pasting data into legacy applications, etc. These highly fatigue prone tasks can now be automated leading to improved efficiency.
- Empowered by AI
Artificial intelligence built natively in modern BPM platforms offers sophisticated capabilities to organizations to learn about their customers, e.g. in my case, an AI driven BPM would have identified a pattern of negative sentiments in my emails and flagged customer service to take action proactively.
The above five capabilities extend the horizons of modern BPM platforms into areas that were assumed to be outside the scope of classical BPM. The modern BPM platforms can not only build robust business processes, they make them even more flexible, agile, intelligent, and powered by rich user experience. The precise solution my retailer desperately needed to fix their customer experience.
What has been your experience dealing with your service providers? Do you think they need a modern BPM? Let us know.