Process improvement is as important as customer experience

Over the last few years “Digital” has become synonymous with “Customer Centricity.” Too often digital initiatives only focus, some might say obsess, on “the customer experience” and the impact on customer engagement – via new channels, new market segments, new products or services. In the post Brexit world of uncertainty, it is important to watch all costs.

Whilst customer focus is vitally important, too many organisations are overlooking the potential of digital to radically transform their cost base and internal processes. If done well then successful digital process improvements can even fund and accelerate customer experience improvements, creating a “Virtuous Cycle” of internal organisational and external customer benefits. But how can you identify the right digital cost reduction opportunities and processes to improve or better yet, eliminate entirely? And what kind of digital technologies are available that can be rapidly deployed to achieve this?

Process improvements can fund and accelerate customer experience improvements

Which are the right processes to simplify or eliminate?  A set of straight forward questions can focus you on the right areas and processes:

  • What are the most common and time-consuming tasks and questions at my call-centre/branch/store/operational team?
  • Where do I have significant costs due to complex, repetitive, manual processes that are generated by my customers?
  • What process/activity would be more accurate and faster if my customers just did it themselves?

It is the process improvement that both saves money and gives more control to the customer, that is the ideal focus. Undertaking the right simplification and automation of back office processes can also enable improvements in the customer experience.  The money saved by being more efficient internally can fund these external changes. We believe that the ultimate prize is to generate a “Virtuous Cycle” by seizing the right digital opportunities to deliver internal process improvements and enhance the customer experience, which in turn inspires ideas for more improvements, as per the diagram below.

Richmond Housing Partnership delivered a 45% reduction in their cost to serve, whilst transforming their digital customer engagement

Richmond Housing Partnership (RHP) is a social housing provider with over 10,000 properties, and 17,000 tenants. RHP is facing revenue reductions due to government legislation stipulating housing associations must reduce rent by 1% each year.

Gate One partnered with Richmond Housing Partnership to start a “Virtuous Cycle” by implementing a new CRM system which integrated with their asset management and finance systems, automating the property management workflows which form a major part of their business.  RHP moved from traditional phone and face to face interactions only, to using multiple online channels: self-service web, live web chat, Twitter, Facebook, app, and e-community forums. RHP tenants can now seamlessly access services anywhere, anytime, and on any device with faster, improved services.  RHP have realised many benefits:

  • 45% reduction in cost to serve,
  • 31% reduction in call volumes,
  • 65% of interactions are now through digital channels,
  • 74% of customers rate RHP as easy to do business with,
  • Ranked #1 in 2016 Innovation Index by Inside Housing

This has been hugely popular with customers and by dramatically reducing call centre demand and cost, all the changes are self-funding and allow valuable resources to address other operational challenges and offer customers more choices.  This has started a “Virtuous Cycle” which is continuing to drive more improvements and savings at RHP.

Digital provides radically better technology options to improve or eliminate processes

The starting point on your quest for a leaner organisation may well be to review how people, process and technology interact to determine what savings could be achieved, and how the customer experience could be fundamentally improved.  But, all of that is obvious and straight out of multiple manuals on process redesign, so what is new?

The digital revolution has provided radically better technology, which can be deployed at pace to speed-up, simplify and eliminate processes. There is an “Armoury of Digital Tools” that allow a new level of automation and intelligence in back end systems. For example, the advent of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) has allowed many companies to automate, streamline and eliminate back office processes quickly.

Contextor is a RPA/RDA tool to quickly simplify and automate repetitive processes and activities, with no need for complex APIs.

BNP-Paribas launched Hello Bank, an online bank for France, Germany and Belgium. Customers apply online to request an account, but a complicated back office process was required to initiate and open the account resulting in more than a 3-week response time causing customer frustration.

Automate the repetitive and support the decision making process

Contextor automated all the Know Your Customer (KYC) control tasks and systematized the checks. Contextor uses the data entered in the online applications and launches automatically all the internal and external applications, such as Banque de France, loan checks, and provides a comprehensive report on the applicant’s eligibility. Contextor supports the user by offering the right decisions, and removing the tiresome and redundant tasks.

Realise benefits in weeks not years

Contextor deployed the solution in six weeks, which reduced the time to open a new account by 80%.  Hello Bank now opens accounts in a couple of days not a couple of weeks.

The “Virtuous Cycle” can drive your digital transformation

Digital transformation is more than just improving your customer’s experience; it is a fundamental shift in the way your company operates.  Therefore, taking an inside out approach of seeking areas for internal improvement that also improve your customer’s experience can spark a “Virtuous Cycle” that fuels this transformation.

The increasingly rapid improvements in technology on multiple fronts provide a new “Armoury of Digital Tools” that must be employed to be competitive.  It seems rather obvious and old school to talk about process improvement, but this focus is often lost in today’s obsession to WOW! customers with new apps and social media channels.  It is those companies that are as obsessed about wasted effort and improving agility inside their organisation as much as they are about their customer’s experience outside, who find those “Virtuous Cycle” opportunities.

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