As social media makes it increasingly easier for customers to either recommend or pillory a company, organisations are becoming critically sensitive to customer opinions. Yet many organisations struggle to improve the level of respect customers have for their services.

One of the key reasons for a low marketplace opinion is that process failures lead to unnecessary customer irritation.

Often process failures prove difficult to address, particularly if management utilises clumsy techniques to pinpoint problems, and inefficient paths to develop deployable solutions. So enterprises continue to pay to deliver a service that frustrates customers, while also paying to try and deal with the problems and complaints.

How can organisations do better?

Managers need to understand the nature of a process failure phenomenon known as ‘Noise’©, which is a measurement of the people-time spent addressing process failures. If the Noise level in an organisation is high, then it is likely that it is suffering from a range of costly process failures. For example, errors in inputs can clog up the process machinery so that rework is required later. This means paying twice for the result. It also means that, by the time the rework is done, the customer will have been unnecessarily inconvenienced. Other types of problems include having to chase something or someone that should have been readily available (had the process been working well).

While organisations might have a sense of the issue, they often don’t know how bad the problems really are, or which problems need to be addressed most urgently.

Thus the first thing they need to do is get a grasp of the issues–quickly and in a quantifiable manner. However, organisations should also be aware of simplified approaches that are either too shallow or time consuming.

The next step is to develop and deploy solutions. This does not mean immediately pursuing the perfect answer. The reality is that perfection can take a long time and a lot of money to achieve, for instance, building a whole new computer system. A more practical way to approach this conundrum is to make the processes better through simplification. Indeed, simplifying the processes whilst making them better does pave the way for automation further down the track.

How does one go about finding a better solution?

The answer is often a version of the methodology known as ‘Agile’. This was an approach developed to speed up technology deployments, but versions of it are now available to speed up process, policy, and product deployments. At their heart, Agile approaches bring people from different functions together to collectively solve problems in a fixed timeframe. For example, one organisation with input error problems started with an Agile team which was charged with simplifying forms. They removed more than 70% of the information required from the customer, which in turn enabled another Agile team to put the simplified forms online. While this was not a perfect solution, it was still a greatly improved process.

If you want your customers to respect your service, try targeting the Noise created by your own processes. Only by genuinely getting better, can you sustainably improve the customers’ opinion of your performance.

See the original article published in CEO Magazine here.

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Roger Perry is the Managing Director of the Bevington Group, and one of the region’s foremost productivity improvement and organisational design experts. He has been an Assignment Director and Steering Committee member on over 40 transformation programs.