How to please all your customers all the time

This is a follow-up to ‘How to really annoy Americans’. You can join the extensive discussion to the original article at

Let’s turn our attention instead to making people happy and for that we need a candidate organisation who know precisely how to create and manage call centres and the resulting activities. This is also derived from ARG’s research and provides useful pointers to all of us who need to intereact with customers via the phone.

Every telephone operator at Cabela’s speaks English, and a customer never speaks to a machine. “Every single call is answered by a live person,” Ron Spath, VP Customer Relations, states “We don’t have any interactive voice recorders and there are no menu’s. The feedback from our customers is very clear about how they appreciate not having to waste a lot of time to someone who speaks broken English. We realise that outsourcing these calls to india costs less but we think it is a good investment to pay more in order to save customers time.”

To cap it Cabela’s, the worlds largest outdoor retailer, even prints its telephone number on the front and every page of its website. Just imagine that, a company who actaully want to talk and learn from their customers.

This positive Outside-In approach pays on the bottom line and has seen Cabela grow to being the world leader in its market in just 50 years. You can read the story at

So is it that hard to do. Actually let people talk to people that really understand?

Where in BPM is the Customer?

This is something scribed three years ago just after the launch of the book ‘Customer Expectation Management – Success without Exception’.
Has anything changed? Well yes and no – however you be the judge.

The application of Business Process Management (BPM) is known to have multiple benefits that produce a hard return on investment (ROI). Automation, quality, compliance, management, and optimization of activities represented by business processes are the areas most often cited in this regard. Yet generally the focus of BPM started – and remains – as an “inside-out” perspective, placing hard limits on the benefits BPM can achieve.

At a time where customer satisfaction and loyalty have reached historic lows, and competition has reached its historical peak, the question must be asked, “where in BPM is the customer?” Yes, the customer is a missing piece in the vast majority of BPM practices and products. Management principles have traditionally approached business success from the inside-out perspective, concentrating on margin-based improvements. That made a lot of since during the time when internal activities suffered from substantial bloat and competition was limited by geography and time to market.

Yet over the years we have dipped into that well many times, and the well is about to run dry. Some statistics suggest as we continue to try to achieve the same percentage of gain through each improvement cycle, each iteration produces significantly less tangible value to the organization. It’s a funnel affect that just gets narrower and narrower through every cycle, leaving less and less real benefit for the business.

Meanwhile what is really driving business success? The answer, of course, is the customer. In the 21st Century Value Chain. It is the number of customers and the lifecycle of the business-customer relationship that determines business success.

Known as Customer Expectation Management, the setting of customer expectations and the delivery of those expectations without exception is the “secret sauce” behind the success of market-leading companies such as Virgin, Fedex, Zara, Best Buy, and Southwest Airlines, to name a few.

Many of these market leaders are not competing on price. Sure, their prices are competitive but that is not where their success lies. In many cases they are even able to charge a premium for their products because they are setting and managing customer expectations with a vengeance. They are telling customers what to expect, making their customers’ lives simpler and easier while delivering on these expectations with consistency.

Meanwhile, price competitors are stuck in a no-holds barred dogfight for the worst customer any business can have, the customer who buys predominately by price. There is no place where customers are less loyal and more demanding than in the arena of lowest-price decision buying.

Taking Customers to Heart
Yet BPM by-in-large doesn’t include the customer except as an adjunct to inside-out activities. Improving quality and streamlining processes can help reduce really poor customer experiences or align a business with the market expectation a competitor has set. But these are only secondary effects to the goals of reducing internal costs, increasing worker productivity and so on.

In an age verging on unlimited choice, global competition, and customers often livid with dissatisfaction, the only way to be a market leader is to be a customer leader. We all know that our businesses must have customers and we have all had our share of unsatisfactory customer experiences. In spite of this, why is it so difficult for us to quit viewing our business from the inside-out? Habit and tradition is all that is holding us back. Will we allow our history to determine our future? It’s our choice.

Is there a way to know if the customer is really part of the BPM practice?
Absolutely. Take a look at your business processes. All business processes have an outcome, right? So how many of your business processes have a customer outcome? What about the concept of a successful customer outcome (SCO)?

To fulfill its destiny of being the Next-Generation Business Enabler that its proponents want it to be, BPM must realign its focus to the customer. Business processes must focus on the customer, minimize potential points of failure (such as Moments of Truth, which yield either Moments of Magic or Moments of Misery), and produce successful customer outcomes at all points where the customer touches the business.

That’s the essence behind Customer Expectation Management. It is the critical element in the drive to increase growth and profitability. Traditional inside-out process improvement leverages customer success by maximizing the net positive effect to the organization’s bottom line but it won’t create success by itself.

The only reason we are here is to serve our customers and by serving our customers, making their lives simpler and easier, and helping them be successful we will make our businesses successful. It’s simple and straightforward. Focusing on the customer from the customer’s point of view is our opportunity to achieve the success we all want. It’s the experience we all want when we are in the role of the customer. It should be at the heart of everything we do and should be woven into the fabric of every application and system we use.

Will BPM be a cornerstone in the creation of success for your business?
It could be, but the question you should be asking yourself is far simpler:
Is the customer at the heart of your BPM plan?

The principles above are derived from direct experience and research within world leading companies. Prospective Certified Process Professionals gain full exposure to the techniques, tools and CEMMethod(tm) in the Business Professional programme

How to really Annoy American Customers

This is based on the research from ARG (Charleston)..

To really annoy your customers have them talk to a telephone operator in India.

The numbers from ARG reveal an uncomfortable truth:
“43% of Americans told us they can’t understand what a person from India is saying” and .. “21% get downright angry” Also “95% say they are provoked when a person speaks broken English when they answer their call” The same survey says “32% of Americans said its driven them to stop doing business with the company”.

We’ll review one excellent case study why it doesn’t have to be that way in the next mini article.

What is your experience?

Process & Organisation Maturity – ORCA

Within the CEMMethod(tm) we talk extensively of Organisation Maturity. The Organisation Readiness and Competence Assessment (ORCA) is designed to help with that endeavour. Now in its 5th year it has been extensively deployed by organisations seeking answers to the three questions:

1. Where are we now?
2. Where do we want to get to?
3. How big is the gap?

Certified Process Professionals have access to the full toolkit – for more information visit

Here is the ORCA overview:

Process Improvement – the tip of the iceberg

Most process improvement techniques focus on only a small portion of the improvement potential in every process… the tip of the iceberg if you will. How big is the opportunity resting out of our sight, hidden below the waterline of current practices?

Recent research by the BP Group suggests that 70 to 90 percent of the work people do comes directly from process Points of Failure and Causes of Work and this work is NOT part of the “job” for which these people were hired! Instead, this is non-value add work that takes away from people’s ability to do their job.

Does this sound familiar? Can you identify places where these Points of Failure and Causes of Work are distracting you from what you really want to be doing?

Are you required to fill out this form, check up on that order, or follow-up on those activities? Do you get tasked with finding the answer, knowing the rules, fighting that fire or explaining why you did this or that?

Fixing affects (the tip of the iceberg) only gets us so far. To create real change in how efficiently we use our time requires us to focus on eliminating the Causes of Work (the rest of the iceberg).

This is the first step we must take in aligning our businesses for success in the 21st Century.

Eliminating the Causes of Work

Fixing effects is a lot like shuffling the chairs on the deck of the Titanic. Lots of work gets done and things look different but the original problem still remains.

Fixing effects increases the complexity of our work and the technology we us to support it. It’s a vicious cycle many of us are stuck in. The more we do the worse it gets. Soon analysis paralysis sets in. We’re stuck and there’s no place for us to go.

Meanwhile successful companies around the world are now eliminating causes rather than fixing effects. But how do they spot causes and eliminate them? Is a host of Master Black Belt Cause Eliminators needed to get the job done?

Of course not. Moments of Truth, Break Points and Business Rules are the causes of work. Once we start looking for them we spot them. Elimination comes from challenging what we currently do – looking for Actions that eliminate Moments of Truth, Break Points and Business Rules.

How big is the size of the prize? Efficiency and productivity gains of 30% to 60% are common. Cost reduction of services by 50% is not unusual.

Cause elimination is a seek and destroy mission. It’s the challenge to weed out the “dumb stuff” in our organizations. Are you ready to challenge your assumptions and start eliminating those causes of work?