customers, processes and bureaucracy

September 1, 2014 2 comments

A couple of things around customer experience have inspired this week’s musings, one of them personal and the other through something on TV.

The personal experience is with one of our energy providers and represents the depths to which process management and regulation can drive things. The other was in watching Hotel India from Mumbai.

In the hotel the philosophy that guests were Gods may be influenced by cultural thinking in that specific instance, but there is no reason why it could not be transported anywhere, and some of what was shown were things that we once did here in the UK in many places, but have now largely turned our backs on.

My electricity provider may have some well meaning employees in their problem resolution team, but if they do they are hampered by having to work to scripted contact with customers and multi-layered processes. The results of this way of working are immensely frustrating to customers, which somewhat defeats the object of resolving their problem and can’t be much fun for their employees.

Money is a factor of course, for the hotel’s prices are high end and in such circumstances you can afford to push the boat out, but the service ethic was driven more through the pride with which their people took in their jobs, the application of exacting standards and allowing the employees some freedom of action in serving the guests.

Good service need not be more expensive than poor service even if you only look at the direct costs; you are still paying people, but in is the tone set by the leadership that makes the difference. Beyond that the better the service the greater the loyalty and retention will be in customer terms and that translates to revenue. Poor service loses you customers and you have to work harder to replace them.

Part of the problem for the electricity supplier in my example here is that they have to be able to demonstrate to the regulator that they have worked within whatever rules are set out. It is one of the stupidities of de-nationalisation that in de-regulating an industry the first thing we seem to do is to set up a regulatory office. We just love bureaucracy, and whilst it is necessary, even essential, at times it is all too often applied without any thought to whether there are genuine benefits for the consumer.

I like processes; they give some backbone to work around, but if you have too many they will stifle any creativity make the organisation too rigid. Good structure need to be able to flex or they will break and the same applies to organisations.

Getting the balance right comes from good leadership, and sometimes that has to be leadership that is outside of the organisation. Government driven bureaucracy, in any form, rarely really helps to deliver good service and the utilities sector is a good example of how abysmal things can get. Thankfully there are still places where their stifling tendrils haven’t reached and people can make their own difference.



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