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Customer Experience Driven Operating Models

Outside In or Inside Out?

We’ve observed that many customer facing operations have been designed from an internal rather than a customer perspective. For example, skills and processes are broken down into specialisations and structures that make them easy to organise and manage for the company. Unfortunately, there is often a big mismatch between these structures and those that deliver effective customer experiences. These ‘inside out’ operating models often force the customer to navigate the business, increasing Customer Effort and reducing Customer Satisfaction. Furthermore, the internal organisation of skills and processes don’t match the way that customers want to work.

A customer with two products or needing two things may have to talk to two people or more and be handed off multiple times. The irony of this situation is that most businesses want customers to purchase multiple products and services but they rarely organise themselves to meet that objective.

In contrast, an ‘outside in’ operating model starts to rethink the business and process from the customers perspective. All the customer research we have seen has shown that customers want ease of access, clear resolution and to choose how and when they interact with a business. These kinds of ‘outside in’ models actively try and reduce the customer’s effort to get things done. Forward thinking companies are beginning to realise that effort reduction can mean eliminating the effort altogether. So, one feature of an ‘outside in’ driven operating model is to have a continuous improvement methodology to reduce unnecessary contacts. Other elements of the design help provide, promote, support and enhance the self service channels that customers want to use (rather than those the company wants them to use).

Customer Driven Processes

‘Outside in’ process designs are often radically different from those in traditional models. For example, in traditional contact centres, customers have to identify and authenticate themselves before any interactions can occur. This often means that interactions with no privacy or fraud risk also incur the overhead of complex identification processes. In contrast, an ‘outside in’ process evaluates when in the process the customer needs to be identified. This may mean that some interaction types have no identification or that it is moved to the time in the process when it is needed. This feels very different for the customer and feels less mechanical and invasive than the traditional privacy model.

‘Outside in’ processes also look at how immediate resolution can be achieved. Many traditional models break processes down and create work requests and hand offs in order to leverage the apparent benefits of back office specialists or low cost operations. However, customers want resolution now, so ‘outside in’ models look to bring work from the back office to the front office (we call it back to front re-engineering) so that the work is completed as the contact occurs. This has a secondary benefit because if the work is completed, contacts to chase and follow up (“where is my X?” type calls) are eliminated.

Re-Thinking Skills and Teams

In traditional models, work is often broken into narrow skills by product or process in order to reduce induction and training time. But again, this is an ‘inside out’ perspective. Once organisations create these skills and process silos, it forces the customer to navigate the company and often means they have to navigate menus, departments and structures to get work done.

In contrast, ‘outside in’ designs recognise that customers often don’t know who or what they need. These models create a layer or structure that gets to the bottom of the customers issues, resolves many simple needs and only involves a second level of expertise, where it is really required. This can produce a dramatic reduction of customer effort as there is no need for IVR menus or complex branch queuing systems. So the customer wins in two ways; they do less work and their complete relationship with the business can be recognised. Often an ‘umbrella’ model approach creates better cross selling and lead generation. When we have assisted companies with a subtle reorganisation of their service model, it has always ultimately saved workload and therefore reduced overall cost with the added benefit of reduced customer effort and higher leads or sales.

Integrated Channels

The best ‘outside in’ designs seek to integrate manned and self service channels in ways that make sense for the customer. So front line staff understand when to promote self service and how to support it. Mechanisms like email and SMS can also be effectively used to provide information to the customer quickly and reduce contact time. Mechanisms like these can be used for proactive as well as reactive contact. So in any long running process e.g. an insurance claim or transfer of business between providers, the best outcome is that the customer is kept informed of progress and can check where things have got to, without having to chase up the company.

Self service itself is also best designed from the customer perspective. ‘Outside in’ self service design is organised in the way customers want to do work. This is often different from the structures and processes internally to the business. For example, a customer may expect that if they update an address on one account or service then it will be applied to others. They don’t care that other products and services are on different systems or with different departments. Customers also expect that the organisation, including the self service, should know them and their relationships and product holdings.

The Benefits

Clearly, ‘outside in’ models are better for the customer. Customers get what they are looking for; resolution, low effort and a choice of how to interact with the organisations. Our consulting practice over a decade has shown repeatedly that ‘outside in’ operating models are not only better for the customer but also much more efficient for the organisation. We have seen ‘outside in’ process and skill design deliver efficiency gains of between 20-40%. Furthermore, organisations have succeeded in eliminating up to forty percent of their unnecessary contacts. When self service is designed and supported with the customer in mind, it results in high levels of take up, freeing up time for more valuable interactions. We’ve also repeatedly found that staff are much happier working in these kinds of models when they are empowered to deliver positive outcomes for the customer. So ‘outside in’ models of operation make sense for all concerned and deliver the holy grail of improved customer experiences.

If you would like more information on our thoughts on operating models and customer centric design, please visit our website and view our white papers in our Learning Centre. Alternatively please contact us at any of the numbers below and we would be delighted to discuss our concepts with you at a suitable time.

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