Companies Need Customer-Centric Business Process Engineering

Almost every organization has an IT-related goal of making systems and processes more customer centric, but few companies “get there”. Some of these failures can be traced directly to errors in business process engineering and quality assurance. What steps can IT take to improve performance in these areas?

The clearest answer to this question is to engage the customer directly.

I was a customer recently with a company that was planning to roll out a new software, but wanted to do a beta test with customers first.

The purpose of the beta was to test product technology – but also the company’s customer-facing operations.

In other words:

  • Was the product easy to use and intuitive for customers?
  • If customers encounter a problem, how responsive is the company’s helpline?
  • Do customers like the product?
  • Were the problems resolved quickly?

The scope of this beta test impressed me – and it reminded me of the shortcomings of many IT QA processes when it comes to ensuring ease of use for customers.

In fact, this reminded me of this online banking system that my office staff launched a few years ago.

We wanted to include our customers in beta testing, so we recruited customers to participate in the beta test. As customers contacted errors, the IT software was fixed. Once we felt the program had reached a level of maturity that was ready for production, we cut it out.

But that’s what we are he did not do DO: We failed customer support testing of the product and didn’t focus on usability.

After the production was interrupted, there were many calls coming in from frustrated customers. We did not anticipate the volume of calls, so our times to solve the problem were not always timely.

There was also a second flaw in our tests: we failed to model and guarantee the ease of use and ergonomics of the system.

When we went back to evaluate the help desk calls we received, we found that almost none of the calls had anything to do with software bugs. It was related to usability.

This was what impressed me as a customer in the last beta test of the product I participated in. The company testing the product created a 360-degree view of the product’s functionality that included the customer experience (eg, usability and time to solve problems).

More companies can adopt this approach if they take these three steps:

1. Designed for ease of use

I have a friend who is a scientist, and she designs cockpits for commercial aircraft. Focused on making devices easy to use and intuitive for pilots.

This is in stark contrast to IT, where the design focuses on functionality and features, but not so much on usability.

2. Recruit external clients for beta testing applications

Oftentimes, the IT department uses a quality assurance team to test applications. QA runs through a checklist of the application’s functionality and features to ensure that all of them are working. There is also an integration test to verify the ease with which the new application interfaces with other systems with which it interacts.

Although end users may participate in some application testing, the step where actual customers test the beta application rarely occurs.

One better attack plan would be to engage volunteer customers in a test run of a new application—and solicit their input.

3. Refine the quality assurance process to include end-customer testing and work environment

Early in my IT career, I was called upon to find out why clients wouldn’t use a modern application. The problem was the complexity of the application. It was difficult to use. We cut two-thirds of the drill screens, and soon every client used them.

This application has been gathering dust on the shelf for over two years. All of this could have been avoided if the original developers and QA staff had engaged with customers in the first place, testing ergonomics and usability.

Brief Comments

Almost every company aims to become more customer centric.

Over the past five years, the IT strategy to become more customer centric has been to collect all customer data from disparate system silos across the company so that the unified customer data repository can be accessed by employees who have given them a 360-degree view of the customer’s end-to-end interactions with company.

Analytics like this are valuable – but at some point, the customer experience has to start with making it easier for customers to do business and interact with the company.

This means that QA’ing applications for ergonomics and ease of use delight customers and make them want to continue doing business with you.

Related content:

The pivotal role of information technology in customer service

Did your business define customer experience correctly?

Reinventing the customer experience, one process at a time

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