There is one thing commonly observed among many companies, big or small, is the non-existence of documented process map even for its primary operations. Nobody will disagree on the importance of a understanding a process, before taking up a job. However, in reality there is hardly a flow chart that exists reflecting the step-by-step execution of a job. The consequence of not having a documented process map costs a lot for an organization, in terms of loss of productivity, non-standardised operation, confusion, errors in production/transaction and fire fighting leading to chaos in many cases.
Recently I came across a firm to work on various measures to improve its customer service operations. The Customer Experience team, as it’s called, is fairly big team with nearly 100 plus associates, dealing with a huge half a million applications/calls/emails, put together, per month. As seen in most companies, here too, the performance of the customer service operation entirely relies on the years of experience and expertise of few individuals who guide a large mass of employees with an average experience of less than 3 years. The company in general and the team in particular, gives the perception of doing a good job, until the point where the number of client escalations go up in alarming proportions thereby creating an urgency for a thorough study and recommend measures that could improve the situation.
As a first step, it was to look at the “as-is” process, right from the receipt until the resolution of a complaint or an inquiry or a service request. As observed with many organizations , in this case too there was no documented process map describing the step-by-step procedure of resolution. There is a written procedure hidden in the ISO manual, which hardly gives enough clarity. The procedure neither matches with the steps followed by the associates, nor is the procedure ever referred to, nor ever updated.
I then undertook the task of developing the process map was taken up based on the interaction with a good number of associates, at different experience levels to capture the process happening on-the-ground. Swim lane map was best suited for the situation. It was indeed a great challenge to arrive at a standard process, since the actual practice varied from person to person. However, once the non-uniformity in the operation was exposed, it was easy to arrive at a standardised process based on consensus,. This clarity didn’t take long to bring down the error and the resulting chaos. Interestingly, this exercise by itself left a motivational effect on the entire team, demonstrating the smooth flow of information, the chain of engagement of various stakeholders, the clarity on upstream/downstream operations. The documented process map was included as a part of the induction training of new employees and also was displayed at the team’s workplace.
This demonstrates the importance of a documented process map in an organization.