The curious tale of “nana’s diary”

On a recent visit to a business, I came across a very strange practice.  I met a bunch of dynamic, bright and articulate people, working really hard to deliver a great service to customers.  They are well respected and very efficient at what they do, they have relatively clear processes and  a solid understanding of their industry.  But one thing really stood out – whenever they wanted to schedule a conversation with customers, they would pull out a paper diary and write in an entry “so that the person wouldn’t forget to call the customer at the agreed time”.  Even more curiously, whenever they had documents to review for the customer, they’d print them out, review the documents, use an ink stamp to add an “APPROVED” indication, then scan the documents and save them into their system.  I’m not talking about this happening back in the 1980s, this actually occurred in 2017!

It got me thinking about process, habit and the way we deliver our service to customers.  Whilst nimble little start-ups find cool and funky tools to expedite service delivery, many more established business have built whole customer journeys based on processes first created many years ago.  Despite advancement in technology, tools and customer expectations, we sometimes hang on to old “tried and tested” habits to deliver what we see as important to customers.  The old adage of “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” is probably my biggest motivator to turn old process on it’s head and start again!  It wouldn’t matter if the old method was the best way to deliver service, despite new thinking and new tools, but often, archaic and inefficient aspects of our service remain in place because we’ve not taken time out to think of a newer, better way.

Back to the story – I christened this diary “nana’s diary”, as it reminded me of my elderly grandmother’s habit of writing every little item down in her beautiful Edwardian Lady diary with a lacy trim around the edges.  Good for nana, not so good for modern business.  What if the diary got dropped in a bowl of water, or misplaced?  What if the printed back-up documents missed a page when being scanned, leading to an incomplete customer record?  Whilst this may represent an amusing example, it’s a lesson to us all.  How many of us still have unnecessary and cumbersome steps in our processes that DIRECTLY impact the customer experience?  Poor online experiences that force customer to call us to get a price on our product (because it’s best for the customer to talk to a sales person), or

I think the team took my dry sarcasm about “nana’s diary” in good faith.  It was not my intention to embarrass or ridicule, but merely to show (in a humorous light) that the team has much better tools at their finger tips to manage such tasks.  And where the tools are not fit for purpose, talking with managers to present a reasonable problem statement and a well-documented solution as to how to use technology to fix the clunky process was a very sensible approach to doing away with the printed back-ups.

Many readers may feel that this does not apply to their customer experience, embracing every aspect of modern technology and current thinking, but if you take a few moments to reflect on where your customer experience is poor, cumbersome or plain silly, you may want to re-think your customer experience,  Here’s a few of my favourites:

  • Having to call someone to reset a password
  • Signing a paper contract, rather than using an electronic signature
  • Having to wait until a business opens to speak to someone to carry out a routine task
  • Receiving security information (password, PIN, etc.) through the post
  • Receiving multiple emails when I set up a new account, rather than 1 email
  • Having to deal with different people from when I make a purchase to when I renew my contract or service
  • Having to deal with a third party, not the company I am paying to solve an issue
  • Receiving an email to tell me “more information is required” when I am trying to get something done

All of these niggles can be fixed by changing the customer experience.  Can you add more to this list?  Do you have a “nana’s diary” in your closet that you need to sort out? Let me know!

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