THE TIPPING POINT I BY WOODY DRIGGS AND ROB HOLLAND
Putting Customers Before Politics COOs struggle to navigate a siloed culture
TO TRULY ADDRESS BUSINESS
CHALLENGES, ORGANIZATIONS NEED
TO VIEW CUSTOMER OPERATIONS AS
THE C H I E F operating officer of a globalHR and payroll services provider threw upher hands in despair. Month after month, shereceived reports indicating that more than half of the company’s sales orders had errors. Sometimes it was bad customer data; other times, the service options offered to the customer had been bundled or priced incor- rectly. For every error, the salesperson would return to the customer to redo the order. This was incredibly inefficient and eroded customers’ confi- dence in the company, some- times to the point of canceling orders altogether.
The COO had twice attempted to implement a technology solu- tion that would reduce the error rate. Both times, the effort failed because the business allowed for inconsistent processes. Sales processes and IT infrastructure were slightly different from one business unit to the next, and business unit leaders jostled to prioritize pet projects over what was in the best interest of the organization as a whole.
Navigating a culture built on silos, and challenging fief- doms that ultimately hamper productivity and profitable growth is an experience many COOs face. The key is to involve the right stakeholders and eliminate the politics by focusing on what is of most value to the organization.
To truly address business challenges, organizations need to view customer operations as a whole. An integrated customer operations approach requires representation from across the func- tional silos. By fostering collaboration among sales, operations, legal, finance, internal audit, and marketing, organizations can make deci- sions knowing the compromises that both the front and back office need to make.
With the right stakeholders involved, the next key element is getting them focused on the right issues. Using an outside-in perspec-
tive, focusing directly on customer experience through the use of personas and scenarios, is particularly help- ful. Personas capture what both internal and external customers care about most and the key issues that the organization must resolve. Scenarios establish a common
understanding of the capabilities needed to optimize an end-to-end process or transaction.
Once the organization knows what the customer wants and which processes to focus on, it needs to enable them. Business input can result in hundreds, or even thousands, of requirements. Perhaps it’s too expensive, takes too long, or is unnecessary. Instead, organizations can use a value-driver model to determine which requirements have high value (e.g., reduce cost, improve performance) and prioritize
them based on which v̂ill have the most impact on the organizafion’s bottom line. This approach offers an objective view of how to enact the transformation—and succeed.
An integrated customer oper- ations approach also requires a change management component. This includes using iterative pilot programs that gather relevant stakeholders in conference rooms
and solicit their input. Identifying gaps earlier in the program makes them easier and less expensive to address. At the same time, early and frequent stakeholder involvement wül drive greater adoption as the improvement effort moves forward.
In the case of the HR and payi-oU services organization, by using an integrated customer operations approach, the COO was able to successfully implement a scenario-based, value-driven, technology-enabled process transformation that resulted in lasting change throughout the organiza- tion. The new fully automated sales order processes fun- damentally changed the organization’s relationship with its customers. Customers had greater confidence in the organization, resulting in an increase in sales.
An integrated customer operations approach gives orga- nizations the framework they need to create a culture that makes transformation programs feasible. By making the effort objective, while still making affected stakeholders feel as if they are an integral part of the outcome, organi- zations can design and implement programs that optimize operations, reduce costs, improve productivity, make the most of IT investments, and ultimately drive value that directly and positively affects the bottom line. (R?
Woody Driggs is the global advisory customer leader for Ernst & Young He is a principal in the company’s Advisory Services Performance Improvement practice and is based in Washington, f)C. Rob Holland is a principal in Ernst & Young’s Advisory Services Customer practice and is based in Houston.
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