Business Process Management Unplugged

Let’s unplug the technology, return to basics, and talk about how business process should be used to get and keep more loyal customers.

Archive for business process management

Creating Expectations Customers Didn’t Already Have – Maybe

Recently, I’ve discovered something that I had long thought about, myself – Hilton Hotels’ Homewood Suites chain has launched a product that allows customers to select the actual room they want when they stay.  For years, we’ve been able to select our own airline seats.  And, we can select our own seats for theater and sporting events.  And, now, our hotel rooms.

Perhaps deep in the recesses of our “traveler’s” minds, we’ve always wanted to be able to select our own rooms.  After all, not every experience with a hotel is consistent if each room we get is markedly different, and perhaps detrimentally so, than the previous room.  I know this from first hand experience since many times I will stay at the same hotel in the same city and get very different room experiences each time.

But, what Homewood Suites has done is reached out and identified a customer need that, if not overt in every traveler’s mind, certainly one that may make sense – just as advanced seat selection did with most airlines beginning in the late 70s and early 80s.

In the words of Steve Towers, this is Outside-In thinking.  Homewood Suites identified a need that customers may have started to articulate and pushed forward with it.  While it remains to be seen how much this need becomes a true expectation for travelers, if it does become one, Hilton has now created a standard for meeting it that other chains are going to have to follow or even exceed.

Which now goes back to my original opener – this was something that, along with other travelers I am sure, I thought was something hotel chains should have been providing for years but went along with the status quo because, well, no one was doing it.  What’s more, I am not a hotel expert – just a mere customer with a thought about a need that, now, someone in the hotel world identified and acted upon.  Now, having my own thoughts about being able to select your own room and layout does not prove that it does not take a subject matter expert in the hotel business to conceive of a need, it does suggest that being a subject matter expert in any business does not assure that you understand what your customers really need to be successful.  While it’s one thing to know your business it’s quite another to actually reach out to your customers and ask them “what can we do to make YOU more successful?”

Perhaps Homewood Suites just surmised what would make travelers more successful.  Maybe they didn’t actually sit down with customers to find out.  But, they certainly stepped outside of their usual world, put themselves in the shoes of their customers, and discovered a need, that may be the basis of a whole new expectation for all hoteliers in the future.

Is Cost Optimization why we’re in business?

Recently, I had a discussion about business process and cost optimization.  It seems in this economic environment, companies want to use business process to 1) justify layoffs and 2) optimize costs.  And, while those two objectives may be necessary in this environment, it’s not the only use for good business process.  What’s more, it should not be the primary use for it.

I heard someone once say that if a company intends to lay people off, it should just do so.  Then, it should use business process to figure out what to do next.  We shouldn’t use business process to justify layoffs.  And, while this is a discussion onto itself, the assessment is correct.  If a company is going to lay people off, it should just lay people off.  As for cost optimization, business process can provide relief.  But, NO company is in the business of optimizing costs.  

ALL companies are in the business of optimizing revenue… through 1) understanding what their customers’ expectations for successful outcomes are and making sure that the products, services and all the work (represented by their processes) are aligned to meeting these successful outcomes.  If a company does this properly, it stands a much better chance of getting and keeping more loyal customers now, and into the future.  For it’s survival it must do this and constantly re-evaluate itself relative to its customers’ expectations for successful outcomes.

Companies can use business process to optimize costs.  While this is a good use of business process management disciplines, it is only half the story.  And, it’s the half of the story that, on its own, will not assure that a company survives.  Business Process must be used to get and keep those loyal customers who will assure and “optimize” the revenue stream for the company, now, and into the future.  This economic environment, while difficult, presents great opportunity for customer-focused organizations to plant the seed of outstanding alignment to customer expectations.  Those companies that invest in the customer today in everything they make and do have a foundation for success well into the future.