Monday, 28 February 2011

Customer Service Mass Production

In the early part of the 20th century Henry Ford said "You can have a model T in any colour as long as it is black!"

The days of building large volumes of mass produced items in batch have almost disappeared with the introduction of lean thinking. Manufacturing might have reached this state of mass individualisation but has customer service?

Not a week goes by without encountering yet another example of crass service design that end up making this grumpy business architect even more grumpy.

We have to realise that we can't codify everything and sometimes humans have to apply common sense and yet this seems to rarely happen, particularly when activity gets outsourced and off-shored.

Lift and ship to a place that is "cheap"; standardise activity to minimise the need for high levels of 1st language communication skills and pay staff a fraction of what you did before - "Kerching" all in the name of reduced costs and competition.

The result is often a fed up customer, threatened loyalty and renewals but in a culture of management delusion where no-one knows that the service they offer end to end from an individual customers perspective was dreadful; as introspective KPIs continue to "fog" the management that all is well.

Does all this facilitate growth, customer retention or even customer advocacy? ehh... No!

Simple problem really - think and apply common sense and build exception routines into your processes and staff accordingly to flex the requirement for a bit of sensible response.

Mass produced customer service done on the cheap in mass call centres using foreign cheap labour to drive down costs; does this sound a bit like a car assembly plant sixty years or seventy ago!

Maybe in years to come we will see a similar revolution in customer service that can deliver service excellence pulled as customers demand it, individualised and intelligent, rather than the frequently bland, frustrating and cost reduced excuses that we regularly put up with today.

Then we will look back on the noughties and say: "well you could have customer service then as much as you liked, as long as you obeyed the BPM work-flows!"

Will the early 21st century be quoted in future business studies texts as the dark days of customer service before the enlightenment of lean mass individualised service; well we shall see if things improve - there is certainly lots of scope for that in my view.

I will resist the wish to share yet another fiasco I experienced with an insurance company that sparked this post but you really will think I am being grumpy if I did that, so I will spare you!

Well maybe for now- I reserve the right to come back and reveal all!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Applying Business Architecture to Micro Businesses

This week we delivered a morning unit of business design in support of a local FE college offering training for potential entrepreneurs referred from Job-centre plus .

An eclectic mix of nine delegates assembled to receive training on a variety of topics on starting a small business.

I delivered a session on business models using the Osterwalder Business Model Canvas and the group saw the relevance of this type of holistic analysis - not that it was presented as such!

I often wonder about applying business architecture methods and techniques to smaller businesses than we normally get involved with and this event shows that if you carefully choose the material and make it relevant a lot of value can be transfered.

The key benefit seemed to be the recognition by delegates that customer segmentation and client need analysis needed to be linked to specifically aligned propositions with a supporting framework behind them to make it all work.

The approach to all this was a deliberate attempt to remove corporate jargon and not to present method for method sake - the feedback gained from the session was encouraging.

So, business architecture, even though the subject title was deliberately not mentioned at all during the session, is valuable for for big and small businesses a like. You just have to position it in an appropriate manner.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Measures determine behaviours and not always as intended!

Continuing on the theme of measurement several people have mentioned how they do things differently according to the way things are measured.

The "game playing" i.e. the behaviours developing to meet the measures can result in the measurement being totally pointless.

An example is an organisation that needs to collate attendance data and berates its staff for not doing this by close of play that day when in reality the following morning isn't really an issue; so what happens the staff fill the attendance in advance just in case they forget to fill it in especially when they get tired towards the end of the day, so they don't get "told off" thus challenging the actual quality of the data.

The measurement goal seems to be achieved but - oh dear - the data is probably no good now as attendance is always positively flagged by default and if someone forgets to overwrite the present mark with the correct data then it is artificially presented.

A bit of patience, communication and empathy for working practices would have resulted in better data quality and timeliness to boot. A bit of process evaluation might have helped to actually design more appropriate measures; but that requires a bit of structural thinking!

Changing the measure to allow 48 hours for the data to be entered would have been a compromise and resulted in less game playing and then timely data of a good quality would have been the result.

The person receiving the stats probably things his/her management has been excellent - tick- " am I not wonderful" - but in reality statistics blind the truth - the behaviours have now bucked the system because the consequence of the measures haven't been thought through correctly!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

"You cannot manage anything you cannot measure" True or False

There was an interesting interview on the Today programme on Radio 4 yesterday morning with reference to NHS care for the elderly. The interviewee made the point that society doesn't value anything that we cannot count and concluded that this was the reason we seem to be moving backwards in progress in many fields.

Many managers say "you cannot manage anything you cannot measure" it became a cliche particularly around six sigma.

I think that this is not as true as many people think; because instinct for doing the right thing is not based on randomness but application of experience and patterns, the latter being quite difficult and complex to model mathematically

Saturday, 12 February 2011

What order? Vision Imperatives or Business Model?

Recent Business Architecture Course in Glasgow debates what comes first: Vision , business model or imperatives in a process for developing a Target Operating Model.
The Teacher Building Glasgow Excellent Training Venue. Having used this venue twice now in recent years I found the staff and levels of service second to none.

In a recent business architecture course delivered to a leading bank in Glasgow the debate was about what comes first in constructing a target operating model: the business model, the vision or the imperative statements ( goal statements). Normally I show the business model choice first, followed by imperatives, design principles and then the vision.

I suppose it depends what you mean by vision but essentially, semantics put to one side, it's what you see as being the future probably in a variety of levels of detail.

The conclusion from the group was that rather than a sequential approach the process was probably iterative i.e. that each one informed the other and it was necessary to examine each stage several times in a rotation until the conclusion was satisfactory.

The business analysts on the course thought that the vision should come first, followed by imperatives and then the model, the model being the solution, as this fits in with their normal way of working; however the group as a whole concluded that actually all the items fed into each other and the iterative conclusion seemed to become the consensus.

So, the message was work them through several times until the whole connected sequence makes sense- interesting conclusion; another nail in the coffin for waterfall type thinking!

If this makes sense great, but if not make contact and book a course for your business analysis/design team in business architecture and we will help you get to grips with building an operational model based on your strategy for your business to work towards - A Target Operating Model.