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The existence of the concept and corresponding term customer process signals an attention to the customer experience and desire to optimize it that has not always existed. The customer process is nothing more or less than the steps a customer goes through to interact with an organization. It is looking at the organization from the customer’s point of view, showing no personnel or systems that the customer does not interact with. Modeling the customer process has roots in Rummler-Brache swimlane diagrams and the IBM® business process modeling LOVEM (Line of Vision Enterprise Modeling), which showed the customer at the top of the diagram.
The customer process can be modeled in several ways. In a simple version, the company can be conceived as a single entity, and the model can focus on the interactions that a customer would go through in every conceivable variation on placing an order. This would likely include researching the order by phone or on the Internet, reviewing options, placing the order, revising or inquiring about the order, receiving the order, and exchanging or returning the order. On the other hand, the various departments within the company that handle each element of these interactions can also be shown, in which case, the line of vision to the customer from each part of the organization can be more clearly seen.
Modeling the customer process provides the opportunity for several types of analysis. For one thing, it may reveal places in which the customer process could be streamlined or consolidated. It can also reveal the spots at which failure can lead to a poor customer experience. In addition, with some research, it allows for comparing and contrasting the customer’s experience with one’s own company with what the customer experience with competitors is like. It also allows for updates on systems that were originally designed to meet certain needs and may have undergone upgrades from the organization’s perspective that have never been modeled from the customer’s perspective, such as changes to an automated answering system that may route calls more or less efficiently.
The customer process model also allows organizations to build “what-if” models. Questions like, “would it be worthwhile to have dedicated account executives who stayed in touch with customers, took order on the phone, and were the first line of assistance for any problem?” could be modeled and compared to the current regime. The model can also point up problems with inadequate product descriptions that are leading to frequent customer calls, or other issues that are arising concerning the way an organization website communicates with customers.
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