Are You Handcuffing Yourself with Process?

Process can be a great thing.  It gives you a roadmap to get something from “point A” to “point B”, whether that something is a product/service/request/etc…  Generally speaking, it’s usually scalable and can be used by multiple employees and customers.  However, it can also present a road block to your employees and customers depending on whether they are allowed to deviate from procedure in special circumstances.  Where do you find the balance?
Handcuffs and Key I am a big fan of Consumerist, the blogging arm of Consumer Reports.  If you aren’t familiar with the site, the authors report both positive and negative stores regarding the actions of companies and organizations.  Usually, when I see a negative posting about a company, it’s not because the employees of the company in question wanted to wrong a customer.  In most cases, you can clearly see that a lot of the complaints in these stories are about customers having to jump through hoops and spending hours trying to get their problems resolved simply because the frontline employees (and in some cases, the supervisors and managers) cannot do what needs to be done to make the situation right.  They are required to follow established process, which isn’t always a one-size fits all solution.
Not only is this bad practice when it comes to customer service, it can create a negative perception about an organization.  I’ve personally cancelled services with companies simply because they wouldn’t make exceptions in extreme cases.  I would then recommend to my friends/family that they avoid these companies so they wouldn’t have to deal with the hassles I did.
It’s so much of a trend that Consumerist came up with what it calls the EECB, which stands for “Executive Email Carpet Bomb”.  When customers have exhausted all other avenues to resolve a problem, they can put together an email and send it to top-level executives following the tips Consumerist outlines on their site.  In the majority of cases where a complaint is escalated using the EECB, the customer’s complaint is usually solved in a satisfactory fashion.
Man Jumping Through HoopWhile it’s great that this solution does exist, it shouldn’t take the involvement of executive offices to resolve these types of complaints.  Employees need to be given enough leeway to make the executive decisions in cases that fall outside the norm.
When crafting a process or even re-examining an existing process, consider the following:

  • Can the process be duplicated by others with relative ease? (i.e. is it scalable?)
  • Is the process efficient for your employees and/or customers so they don’t have to jump through hoops?
  • Are there potential holes in the process where the ball might get dropped by one or more individuals?
  • Does the process give a desired outcome in the shortest possible timeframe?
  • Most importantly, can employees/customers move forward outside of the establish process under special circumstances?

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14 thoughts on “Are You Handcuffing Yourself with Process?

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