In my last post I harped on about how processes are constantly evolving and about the need to document each small change and to communicate processes and process changes clearly. At the end of my previous post I also stated that this might not be enough to ensure that a process is followed over the months and years and I promised to tackle this in my next post. So let’s get started shall we?
Most of us receive hundreds of emails every day, send many more, receive phone calls, attend meetings, watch the news, read articles and posts, send and receive text messages, follow people on twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, all posting titbits of information. Information abounds, it’s everywhere and we cannot always control the flow. Hence we are constantly assimilating new information. As humans we also try to filter information so as not to be overloaded and hence some emails are ignored, some are marked to view later and simply forgotten about, some are read but the information is not absorbed to make space for the information we require at the time. Emails, memos and other forms of communication about process changes may not be given the right importance by staff. So how are we to ensure that processes are followed?
From the literature I came across most would advocate in involving your team when defining the process, give them a sense of ownership, a sense that they were part of the decision so that they will follow process more willingly. I am of a different opinion.
I do not disagree with the statement that the staff needs to be involved and consulted, in order for the process to fit the needs of the company, the team needs to involved and sometimes also the clients. Without consultation the process drafted will probably be missing a number of elements which would cause the process to have a substantial number of changes to be done to it in the early days causing uncertainty. So why do I disagree that consultation is the way to go for process enforcement?
Let’s draw up a scenario, an established company with established processes which has been in operation for a number of years. Probably the original customer support team who were consulted on the processes have moved on and are not within the same team. There is no need to change the process, hence no consultations are in order. In such a case how do we ensure that the process is being followed and enforced?
We can go down the route of saying it is the manager’s job to ensure that their team is following processes and I would tend to agree in saying that it is the manager’s responsibility. Consider however an intricate process with a number of small tasks to be accomplished? Do our managers have the time? Should their time be wasted in such a way?
Right now I imagine that some of you are thinking, okay hero, so you’re shooting down the consultations as a solution, you’re saying that the manager’s time would be wasted on such activities, so what’s your solution?
I have in fact 2 methods or ways to ensure enforcement. They are not mutually exclusive, in fact they should be used together and used extensively. These are automation and monitoring.
Let’s tackle them one by one starting from automation. Automation (where possible) will enforce the process as it leaves no option, the step is carried out automatically without human intervention, without the risk of forgetting. So without extolling too much on the virtues of automation, how do we apply automation to processes? This is done using workflows. Workflows are drafted upon the processes and then some parts of the workflow are automated. In my previous post I gave an example of a process whereby it states that customer support are requested to send a follow up email to clients when they have not heard back from them within 10 business days. First and foremost since the example is dealing with customer support I shall be assuming that some form of ticketing system is in place and that tickets are opened either by clients or by the customer support on behalf of the client. Each customer support agent would have their own queue of tickets which the agent is supposed to monitor one by one for activity and send an email communication to any of those with no activity for over 10 business day. If any customer support agents are reading this they will probably agree that they have neither the time, nor the inclination to go through their queue made up of hundreds of tickets to filter out those without activity. Hence the best option would be to either automatically flag these tickets, or better yet, send the communication out automatically. To achieve this one must first determine the workflow. What status can our ticket have during its life cycle?
- A ticket is Opened – Status Open
- Customer support work on it – Status In progress
- Further information might be requested from the client. Status – Feedback Required
- Information is provided by the client. Status – Feedback received
- Ticket is resolved. Status – Closed
Having established this, we can now pinpoint the status which would apply to our process example. This would naturally be ‘Feedback required’. Once this has been determined, a trigger can be implemented to either flag these tickets after 10 days should there be no change in status, or automatically send out the email communication to the client.
Most of the time, the ticketing systems themselves would have functionality that would allow you to implement such a trigger. If this is not the case or perhaps the scenario is different and you do not use a ticketing system, your process is in a financial department and they use an accounting software then the 2nd solution comes into play. Monitoring.
Monitoring is a vastly underestimated area which could bring great process improvements and better customer service to a lot of companies. I feel that for a post I’ve gone well past the advised length and hence I urge you to follow this space for the next post in which I shall be talking about the benefits of monitoring, how it can be applied to processes and how it can improve your overall customer service, efficiency and also your financials.
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