Good Sense Not that Common

Common Sense

As a change management consultant and business owner who makes his living by helping organizations to develop and implement effective business processes and practices, sometimes I wonder whether the processes and practices become an impediment to good sense and good decisions.

Let me explain by sharing two recent customer service experiences which caused me to think about the role of processes and practices in business.

Recently, our organization made a deposit (cheques) through an automated teller machine. While all cheques were payable to us, one identified the payee as slightly different -used our trade name- instead of our registered name on file with our bank (a very slight variation). Despite this variation, the payer did also indicate our office address on the cheque – also on file with our bank. Well, the employee(s) examining the transaction for processing decided to reverse the cheque from our account, as the cheque was not “properly endorsed”.

At a recent shopping experience at my local grocery store, our brand of butter was not available in the form we like. This happens often that it is only available in block form instead of in a tub. Interestingly enough, the same product, in the form we like, is consistently available at a competitor located in the same neighbourhood. While at the checkout, I explained this to the employee serving me and asked why they don’t carry the product in the other form I prefer. She said “I don’t know anything about that. You will have to talk to someone in customer service”. The customer service counter was only 10 feet away from the checkout register, so I spoke to the employee at the customer service counter, making the same enquiry. I also clearly explained that their competitor does carry the product in the form we like and that we go to their competitor for this purpose (even though it is less convenient) and we usually buy more than that one product. At first the employee answered “I don’t know why” missing the point about customer enquiries. Finally, she made a call to another employee and received the explanation “That is how our plan-o-gram is set up by head office and we can’t change it because we only have so much shelf space”. My response was,” well this is not an issue with you competitor, so I guess I will keep going to your competitor for the product”.

In the first instance, did the bank employee(s) act within the letter of their internal process? Probably so! Did (s) he exercise good judgement and consider the consequences for the client? Likely not! In the second instance did the grocery store employee provide an explanation that accurately reflected the store process? Yes? Did she consider the service opportunity that my enquiry presented, or the consequences? No.

Business processes and practices are in place to help employees make good judgements. When processes and practices do not support employees to make good judgements, or even worse – eliminate or replace good judgement – they act to disengage employees from customers.

This is a very critical issue for all businesses today. Most organizations connect with their customers through a variety of service delivery channels. It is easy for processes and practices to become so routine and internally focused that they act to dis-empower employees and disconnect them from their customers’ needs. This can impact customer loyalty and business brand.

We have all heard the old adage “The system is the solution”. But when systems (processes) act to remove or replace employee judgement – the “system” may create an unintended solution!

This got me thinking – do our own processes and systems support us to exercise good decisions for our customers and our business brand? Do the processes we help our clients design and implement support their employees to exercise good judgement for their customers and their brand?
These questions are now part of our internal practices and processes when implementing change for ourselves and our customers!

Stephen Doiron
President, Change Management Professionals Inc.

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