Don't Think BPM And Customer Experience Are Your Problem? Think Again

Development leaders! Project leaders and business analysts! Application and solution architects! Want to move forward on your business technology (BT) journey and be viewed by your business stakeholders as a valuable team member? Take a tip from last week's Forums held in Boston. Embrace Business Process Management (BPM) And Customer Experience. Don't ignore them, embrace them. Why? They're essential to helping you achieve your business outcomes.

I know, I know. You read the above and now think "Gee Kyle, what's next? Going to enlighten me on some new BPM or customer experience management technology that's going to transform my very existence, my company's future?"

Nope. Let me explain....

Last week we hosted more than 250 of your application development and delivery and business process peers in Boston and focused on how to succeed in the new world of customer engagement. The most impactful discussions I heard were the side conversations we held with attendees, sometimes occurring over dinner and cocktails. We didn't discuss technology. We discussed the skills your peers were developing in two fundamental areas:

  1. BPM - no, not the technology but the Lean and Six Sigma based methods, techniques, and tools organizations use to focus on business processes and not functions; to strive for continuous improvement; and to focus on customer value. 
  2. Customer experience - defined more eloquently by my peer Harley Manning, but I'll summarize as the methods, techniques, and tools used to understand how customers perceive their interactions with your company.
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The Frustrating Pursuit Of Experience Design Excellence In Healthcare

I had a meeting yesterday with a very well-respected experience design agency. The purpose was to try to identify opportunities within the healthcare sector (writ large) for the kind of work that they do. Its approach sits between what a traditional agency does (which focuses on campaigns and visual design) and what a consultant/systems integrator does (which focuses on technical architecture and systems design). Its focus is on designing technology-based experiences that are engineered — from the back end to the front — to meet users’ needs.

We could collectively identify a plethora of opportunities where healthcare firms (payers and providers) could benefit from its services: health insurance member service sites that need a user-centered re-engineering to achieve their self-service mission; wellness initiatives that need to engage users in difficult and sometimes-unappealing tasks; patient communication platforms for hospitals; and even EMR interfaces to streamline clinician workflow.

Where we struggled was to find the buyers with the vision and appetite to undertake the kinds of changes these experience overhauls would entail. On the health insurance side, we stumbled up against the fact that the typical website/mobile solution owner has no control over the content presented on digital platforms (and most of that content can best be described as inscrutable). She also often has little ability to access the kinds of source data (read claims, billing, and benefits data and rules) that would enable her to display meaningful information online — as opposed to simply regurgitating the incomplete content that is distributed to health insurance consumers in offline media.

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Forrester’s Tech Radar Assessment Of 24 Contact Center Technologies For Customer Service

The contact center technology ecosystem for customer service is a nightmare of complexity. At a high level, to serve your customers, you need to:

  1. Capture the inquiry, which can come in over the phone, electronically via email, chat, or SMS, and over social channels, like Twitter, Facebook, or an interaction escalated from a discussion forum.
  2. Route the inquiry to the right customer service agent pool.
  3. Create a case for the inquiry that contains its details and associate it with the customer record.
  4. Find the answer to the inquiry; this can involve digging through different information sources like knowledge bases, billing systems, and ordering databases.
  5. Communicate the answer to the inquiry to the customer.
  6. Append case notes to the case summarizing its resolution and close the case.
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A Great Customer Experience Depends On Customer Understanding

My colleague Andrew McInnes recently wrote a post about the tunnel vision that results when companies rely solely on analytics for understanding customers. By neglecting qualitative research methods like ethnography and related tools like personas and customer journey maps, firms run the risk of thinking they know what customers want and need but in reality not having a clue. And that’s the root cause of some of the worst customer experience problems — issues that can drag down a business.

Take the case of Kevin Peters, Office Depot’s president, North America. Kevin recently spoke at our Customer Experience Forum where he described the biggest puzzle that confronted him when he got his job. Even as sales declined, store mystery-shopping scores compiled by a third-party research firm were going through the roof. How could this be? How could customers be having a great in-store experience but not actually buying?  

As it turned out, the mystery shoppers had been asking the wrong questions. They were accurately reporting that the floors and bathrooms of Office Depot stores were clean and that the shelves were stocked with merchandise. But as Peters put it: “Who cares?” When he personally visited 70 stores incognito, walked the aisles, and talked to customers, he discovered his real problems. For example, the combination of very large stores, weak signage, and employees who weren’t all that helpful made it hard to find products. That resulted in customers who walked in determined to buy and walked out without a purchase.

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Use Enterprise Suites For Best Practices; Use BPM Suites For Transformation

In June, Forrester convened a roundtable of some of its leading thought leaders on business process and customer experience to discuss empowering customers through business process transformation. This is also the topic of Forrester's Business Process Forum later in September and our Tweet Jam on September 8 from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm ET (hashtag: #BPF11).

What follows is an excerpt from that discussion. For more, download a free copy of the Forrester report “Empower Customers By Transforming Business Processes” (site registration required).

Connie Moore: Where are enterprise suites going now that the game-changers — mobile, cloud and social — are giving new life to some apps that were looking long in the tooth? Do you think that big enterprise suites like CRM or ERP can empower customers, or do they automate the status quo? If they merely automate the status quo, how do you deliver business transformation?

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Goodbye Yellow Brick Road?

Most Forrester readers certainly understand the importance of empowering their employees to contend with highly informed and increasingly demanding customers. But I’m often asked just how to overcome the process and data integrity challenges of apps or services that empower employees and/or drive continuity of experience for consumers across channels. With the rise of mobile as well as web and call center interactions and with a proliferation of new tools for managing distributed processes and data, most application development and delivery professionals as well as their business process and applications colleagues have to absorb all the arguments before they make decisions that could be critical to their firms’ futures – to say nothing of their own careers.

One pioneer whom I interviewed was immensely proud of his lightning rollout of a guerilla app to support his firm’s front office in advising clients on complex product choices. I asked him about future plans and sheepishly he admitted they would be starting again from scratch because the guerilla app was unable to leverage enterprise services exposing critical data about product offerings. He remarked ruefully that sometimes you do have to follow the IT standards “yellow brick road” rather than just head for the hills, but wouldn’t it be great to have the best of both worlds, with both agile deployment and full advantage taken of enterprise assets and data?

If you need a deeper understanding of the issues and options, then I’d like to invite you to join us at Forrester's Application Development & Delivery Forum, where my colleague Clay Richardson and I will discuss in practical terms how to deliver integrated experiences across multiple touchpoints.

What Will Business Processes Look Like In 2020?

Have you ever thought seriously about the future of business processes? If not, it’s time to. With trends coming at us fast and furious — business transformation, the age of the customer, mobility, cloud, social, process outsourcing — processes of the future will look very different from how we work today.

Forrester is in the process (pardon the pun) of looking at business processes in 2020. We’ve interviewed 10 major thought leaders at large global organizations and a number of systems integrators and vendors in the BPM space. Wow, have we learned a lot from these deep thinkers! Many of the trends they identified are already being actively worked on in their companies — so these are not just pipe dreams — and include:

  • A major strategic alignment between business process transformation and customer experience
  • Very little concern about technology issues — because they believe the technology will work well (and this is not what keeps them up at night even now)
  • A major focus on standardizing processes across the globe so that work can easily flow to the lowest-cost labor at any given moment
  • The belief that processes will run in the cloud (private or public) and that businesses will consume processes-as-a-platform
  • A strong conviction that IT will largely vanish into the business
  • The need for access to global talent pools driving some of the need for business process transformation
  • The expectation that being dynamic and turning on a dime will be critically important
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