A Process Based View of Customer Experience

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A recent article in HBR informed readers on the “truth” about customer experience[i]. The authors argued that it’s not enough for organizations to excel at key touch points with customers – instead organizations need to understand and skillfully manage the entire customer journey.  While this is true – and might be a new revelation for some readers – it should come as no surprise to those of us who have practiced a customer focused, process based view of business.

A process based view of customer experience is much more than just creating a roadmap of a customer journey; it also involves shaping what the organization measures and manages.  Let’s consider how a process based view of customer experience can benefit service providers such as phone, internet, cable, and utility companies.  The customers of such service providers have a set of very simple needs; including,

  • Value for money
  • Service installed when promised, and first time right
  • Quality service on an ongoing basis
  • Prompt restoration of service in the event of service disruption
  • Accurate, timely and user friendly invoices
  • Prompt, first time right handling of inquiries/complaints

A process based view of customer experience understandably begins with measuring the organization’s performance on each of the above six performance criteria. It’s not enough to monitor these performance criteria at the departmental level; instead these metrics should be featured on the first page of the leadership team’s scorecard. Next, a model of the value creating end-to-end processes for installation, provision, restoration, billing, and responding to inquires/complaints is needed. Each of these models needs to capture what is done, by whom, and how (using which information systems) to create value. Then, as the major points of opportunity are most often related to non value added hand-offs across functional departments, thoughtful organizations will examine how to create accountability for the performance of each of these end-to-end processes. – either through the development of service level agreements (SLAs) between functions/departments or by appointing process owners with oversight on the entire end-to-end process.

In theory – this is not too hard – in practice, most organizations struggle with taking a process based view of customer experience.  Power and authority continue to reside with the heads of major departments and this is something they are reluctant to surrender.  The process based view of customer experience is not likely to flourish unless the CEO is passionate on this perspective.  

My research with a large, regional electric utility illustrates some of the challenges in this respect.  While this company closely monitored its performance in restoring service to customers after a service disruption, the senior leadership team’s scorecard did not have the other needed metrics on installation, billing, and inquiry/complaint handling.  Upon further examination, the focus on measuring performance in restoring service was arguably just as much related to satisfying regulators and some anxiety around the scrutiny of the media than it was related to a deep concern around the quality of the customer experience.  Also, it was found that the company used to measure on time first time right installation performance, however it stopped doing this partly because performance levels were embarrassing around peak periods such as the beginning of each university semester.  Nor did this company have models that captured what is done, by whom, and how (using which information systems) for each of the key end-to-end processes. There were models in place of course, but these models were created on an ad hoc basis in a linear format and without adequate attention to cross functional interactions.  The fundamental issue is often the mental model of the leadership team. It is problematic when the leadership team views the business from the inside out – instead of the outside-in – or customer’s point of view. The difference between these two perspectives is illustrated in table 1 below.

Inside Out View

Outside In View

Design the network

Install service

Build it

Provide service

Operate it

Invoice for service

Bill for it

Restore service (when needed)

Maintain it

Resolve inquiries/complaints

Restore it (when needed)


Resolve inquiries/complaints


The mental model of leadership team matters enormously as it influences what is measured and managed.  A process based view of customer experience does not only help organizations understand the entire customer journey, it also is needed for root cause identification and sustainable improvement to the customer experience.  Forming cross functional teams and launching projects to address problems as they arise is useful – but not enough. Deploying BPMS to automate activities and improve collaboration can help, but ultimately what’s needed is a new way of measuring and managing performance.

[i] Rawson, Alex, Ewan Duncan, and Conor Jones, “The Truth About Customer Experience”, Harvard Business Review, September 2013



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