We hear a lot in the IT world about efficiency. In fact, you’d be hard pushed to find a brochure or media release that didn’t use the word at least once. It is a worthy aim; we all want to do things better, smarter, but with less effort. There’s a saying that ‘efficiency is intelligent laziness’. While I don’t see it as lazy to seek improved outcomes for equal or less effort, I see it as a necessary part of delivering more.
Efficiency is about a lot more than technology though. Even in a tech business like ours, we must look beyond our own borders for new, better methods. I learned at a business group about ‘handoffs’ – and it prompted an efficiency bootcamp that challenged the status quo. It has paid off.
Handoffs refer to situations where a task is handed to one person, who cannot finish and has to hand it on to someone else. Done wrong, handoffs can be irritating for customers. We’ve all been on phone calls where we’ve explained a problem only to be told we’ve been put through to the wrong department, or we’ll need to speak with a specialist or supervisor, only to have to tell the whole story again. Handoffs is a term often used in medical environments, where by necessity a patient may be handed from one shift to the next – and much thought must go into how this is best carried out to maximise safety and wellbeing.
Looking at handoffs is one of the easiest ways to make incremental improvements. It involves scrutinising closely some of the day-to-day processes in your business. You might find yourself questioning why a receptionist always answers calls only to handoff to the sales department every time – and the answer may be as simple as a quick menu on the phone system. After all, most customers don’t want an irrelevant chat with someone who can’t help them, and that resource may be better used elsewhere.
In our own environment, we explored how to prevent a support ticket going to a level 1 person when it is a level 2 problem, and have worked on a triaging system to identify the skill required to attend to the task and schedule it with the right person from the start. For our customers, it improves response resolution times, and puts the right person on the right job right away. Not only is the customer experience better, but we also save skilled time… and so we get better value for our employee investment.
Customer Journey Mapping: Reducing Friction
One part of our ongoing improvement has been customer journey mapping. It is natural in business to make rules and products based around the organisation’s own needs – in other words, you provide what is best for the business. If there is a disconnect between what seems on the surface best for the business and what is best for the customer, dissatisfaction will inevitably follow. Over time that harms the business.
If you look through your client’s eyes, and make the experience efficient for them, they get a better experience. Our challenge is to make that happen for them, based on the understanding that working to benefit the customer will mean we ultimately both win. As part of this process, we invited in some customers from different types of organisations, different stages of their journey, and a broad age range.
We asked what it was like to deal with us, what were the challenges, and why we became their primary choice. We wanted to know what it was like to onboard with TechPath, where we could have been better, and what that first project was like. The answers were efficiency gold. We learned where we were inflicting customer friction, and what to work on to make the experience better.
Where previously we had designed a journey of what we thought customers wanted, the answers this time were far more enlightening. There were some big surprises, and the direct feedback has prompted us to revisit the way we handle contracts and renewals. Not only did the customers say they will be happy to return for future customer journey mapping sessions, one also told us he will be introducing this process into his own organisation.
Efficiency and Effectiveness
If efficiency is doing things right, then effectiveness is doing the right things – and one without the other will limit outcomes. Handoffs focus on the former, where we know we are doing the right things and want to do them better, but customer journey mapping is an essential element of the latter. When a customer tells you that you are doing the wrong things, it pays to listen and act.