Customer experience is one of the critical components of business strategy, as it lays the foundation for overall digital strategy in an organization. This topic has great relevance to customers but also critical during current period when organizations are planning changes to their business operations. Now with current business disruptions more and more organizations are realizing on what is needed for customers or internal stakeholders and how best to achieve the same. In my current blog I would like to give an overview of some Product Safety Stewardship (PSS) pain points and what is overall PSS customer experience looks like when using the digital experience.
When an organization strategically develops an innovative yet somewhat manual business process to carry out a task, puts the customer experience to the back seat. It implements excellent work processes to validate the information or derive the information but fails to adequately address the digital experience to provide the customer delight. Not only this; many organizations use external agencies to manage the regulatory requirements or even contacting their customers for hazard communication or chemical control laws or SDS Authoring, which adds to this complexity. To top up these things most of the times, the tracking of communications is by email which gets buried in the piles of email communications or at times even it belongs to central mail box which very few notice to act up on. What if, customers are given a platform to centrally login and do the communication. Though such type of network tools is there for years companies have failed to take advantage of the things and often instruct teams to use legacy tools or systems. Even when they needed to communicate and talk to internal departments the overall experience is also not too streamlined and we hear the stories of how few play the game of pass the parcel with customers.
We hear lot of customer challenges and even business complaints stating that there is no single view of enterprise operations as the functions are split among multiple disparate systems. Which is truly the main driver for any transformation project like simplification, standardization or even centralization. Besides this, business need to challenge the way a process is carried out today and assess the customer experience. May be for a company offering different products or services the overall user experience for an outside customer is different but similar tools can be adopted for achieving overall experience even for internal customers. So, challenging the current practices, which often advocate stating “we have always done this way” is required for digital strategy. An head on approach is needed to adopting an enterprise platform providing the digital experience and suggesting future path forward experience schemas.
There are many examples of how an organizations money has been spent on projects which are later dumped owing to inherent pitfalls in user experience. Initially such projects are sponsored with the view stating those are excellent ways of achieving the business objective, without realizing that analysts failed to debate, understand is it is the best way to do it or is there an alternative means of achieving and how to realize the same. Let me highlight couple of examples of pitfalls on data to improve customer experience, which I have noticed during my interaction in SAP community network discussions.
First one is an example of Vendor SDS import and processing framework which has been designed by a major organization. The scenario compiles all the incoming emails and processes them for getting into the system. Over time it has become such a big manual platform that company needed to abandon that process altogether. When initially it was designed it was some sort of “wow” feeling but many failed to realize the extra baggage it is going to give to process the same as days progress. It needs complete E2E scenario evaluation to understand the customer experience. Say for example to overcome above process an AI driven Vendor SDS data extraction and loading automatically to ERP environment is provided as part of digitalization. But if it fails to extract right fields from the vendor SDS and users needed to spend extra effort of manual work of validating the content. Then such solution will also become a failure. The business designing the solution needs to look not only from the experience the solution is going to provide but also overall customer experience.
Similarly, in another experience a customer used to have a very well-crafted business process of understanding the regulatory check status for all raw materials or products for REACH or other chemical regulations as a typical traffic light status. It was designed to read and provide an easy view of the traffic light status of the chemicals and displaying compliance status. It was a white elephant to maintain and needed a mammoth interpretation effort in analyzing whenever there is a need to introduce a change. It needed herculean effort in interpreting the data accuracy and system output coming out of the program. There used to be dedicated programmer and business user who is expert in that code. It used to churn multiple input conditions to give out traffic light and for a customer to validate the outcome it takes lot of time. The user experience for such tool operation might be ‘Wow” but it was not the right design, is there an alternate approach to handling such requirement. How best to match the customer experience with business ease and system abilities.
In another scenario, a customer wanted to connect an SDS authoring system, which as not an ERP environment, to ERP system. The user requirement was automatic population of the chemical data from manual system to ERP environment via interface. For a system integrator it is a technical challenge, for a business analyst it is a business requirement and finally for user it is ease of doing work. As days progressed the system started introducing wrong information as there was no change controls available for the manual system and it was too heavy for the organization to work with the manual approach and has to abandon the tool. Like above scenario it was also a great thought when initially it was envisaged, but what users failed to realize is the overall user experience as future state scenario.
You can extend above scenarios to visualize the customer experience faced by Product Safety stewards when needed to compile product information to meet regulatory requirements. They might need to browse through chunks of product metrics and identify the impacted products or associated substances lists and make necessary adjustments. Take for example the scenarios of SCIP database or even Poison Centre Notification programs, besides many other regulations which impacts organizations on a day to day basis.
Now that we have seen scenarios of how data integrators fail to make notice the challenges when solely concentrating on the user experience of immediate solution without considering alternative approaches to achieve the result. There are many examples of scenarios where user experience was short sighted without due consideration to alternative approaches. One needs to validate the amount of the data which is needed for each process, how that is derived and what is the overall conversion rate of that for user experience. Did your IT Operations or Business analysts any time of the year carry out surveys internally to business seeking their overall experience with current systems and what is their satisfaction rate and what is that which is going very well and what is that they want it be changed ? Do your Six Sigma projects track customer experience as a metric in assessing the transformation efficiency?
The topic of embracing overall customer experience culture within the business strategy is important to achieve customer delight, which will take time to reach as many companies have learned that those need to change in the way they are operating today. It is evident that day to day operations continuity is important, but we cannot ignore key customer experiences as well. It needs a considerable change in the strategy of system integrators or even software vendors, who at times give age old processes with a rebranding suggesting a customer experience. It needs a fundamental shift in the user experience delivered as an overall software strategy to how best it fits into the overall company goals. Start engaging your key product stewards to understand where are their pain points, what is that they do not like in the current process, tracking the overall journey in a typical role is a best way to map the requirements. It needs setting up of necessary environment with right set of tools, systems, and processes. That is, you can start simplifying the processes, centralization from multiple legacy and home-grown applications and adopt a standardized approach to move them to a central system. Once the central system is available with right set of tools it will work as a central stage where each product steward will play his part in aligning to the overall framework to achieve user experience. It is customer intelligence which companies needs now. We not only see customer challenges, even customer positives which carry a halo effect on our response, we need to work on such cases to better understand the scenario. Some of the learnings which can be practiced include,
- Understand the cost of failure of product stewardship projects
- Clarity on what we want to provide to customers
- Identifying in customer experience where value is either created or destroyed
- Track key measures which we should follow to evaluate experience
- Inculcate the sense of responsibility among employees on the need for customer experience
- Prepare employees that it’s an ongoing activity to improve customer experience
To conclude as highlighted by Colin Shaw and John Jvens in their book on Building Great Customer Experiences (2004) that the customer experiences will be the next Tsunami, with current conditions it is what differentiates companies and helps boosting the business value. Take a moment to ponder what is that which is going great in your current set up and what is that which needs change ? How is the overall Customer Journey Map looks like for your Hazcom team while introducing a new product ? What is their experience while authoring or shipping for the first time to a new country ? or how much effort and money goes into carrying out communications on Hazcom matters ? Similarly how it looks like for your external customers while receiving information? Please keep in mind that the Customer Experience for external partners is not analyzed at a functional level and it needs a slight change while mapping customer journey maps.
In my upcoming blogs I would like to detail out on how to ask right set of questions to your product stewardship stakeholders and synthesize diverse information which is already available within your organization to create Customer Journey Maps (CJM) to identify what to develop and how to integrate technologies in some more detail – basis of building Customer Intelligence !.
Some of my previous blogs on User Experience – https://sapehstrainer.com/conversational-bots-for-emergency-hazard-communication-sds-section-1-helpline/