Attaining Customer Delight through Process Excellence

For long, it’s rightly said that acquiring a new customer is anywhere from 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one. Hence focus is always on keeping existing customers satisfied. Customer satisfaction (CSAT) can be measured using questionnaires, interviews etc. A well designed CSAT framework goes beyond operational parameters and addresses following aspects

Collaboration with Partners

It’s a fundamental fact that the users must be satisfied with the software application for its intended use. And as the saying goes, goodness of a software application is directly dependent on quality of the processes used to build it.

I will be referring to the Kano Model here to explain impact of the processes on the customer satisfaction and marching towards customer delight. I have taken liberty to adjust this model slightly in services context without diluting essence of the original model.



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  1. Threshold/Basic– These are must-to-have attributes of an application. They are largely driven by the functional requirements. Use of seasoned business analyst (BA) help in exploring holistic workflows and documentation techniques like Use Case ensure capturing of various flows. With growing use of Agile, combination of Product Owner (PO) and BA is proving to be very effective in identifying user requirements. In services context, many of the project management practices supporting a successful project, can also be treated as basic attributes. These practices include estimation, communication managements, managing risks etc. Tracking of key performance indicators like Service Level Agreements, On Time Deliveries, First Time Right etc. also fall in this category. These attributes are taken for granted by the users (no increase in satisfaction) when delivered but adversely impact satisfaction if not fulfilled. Typically customers mark satisfaction level as ‘neutral’ or ‘met expectations’ with fulfillment of these attributes. Meeting basic attributes is the start of journey towards customer satisfaction
  2. Performance– These are usually called Linear attributes. Customer is satisfied when they are fulfilled and dissatisfied when not fulfilled. This has a strong connect with non-functional requirements and further with design process. Use of FURPS+ model very well addresses these attributes. This model talks about Functionality, Usability, Reliability, Performance, Supportability etc. and certain constraints. User satisfaction heavily depends on these attributes specifically for applications with significant user interfaces, large data handling or with complex computations.  The challenge associated with performance attributes is that they need to be spoken loud and clearly and many organizations do not even know how to measure these attributes to begin with. Addressing performance attribute can be loosely linked with customer developing sense of value realization or ROI. A structured approach to create software architecture and converting it into design is essential to take a major step towards achieving customer delight.    
  3. Exciters and delighters– These attributes are not mentioned by the customers proactively. In my experience, many times customers even do not know what additional features or services they want but are delighted if provided with a purpose. Sometimes it’s also called creating a wow effect or innovation. Customers look at service providers as knowledge vault and expect them to keep suggesting improvements. Developing such relations is possible only when the earlier two attributes are demonstrated again and again. Such exciters and delighters may include solutions for process optimization, automation of complex processes, alteration of business workflows etc. In case of Application Maintenance Services, problem management over incident management is also treated as delighters by many customers. Some of the project management practices also fall in this category. Use of outcome based pricing or pay per usage, use of SAFe are classic examples of project management delighters. It is essential to note that, with time, these exciters and delighters turn into basic attributes. Use of continuous integration, test automation are no more novelty and have become implicit requirements. In essence, a service provider has to keep on innovating continuously to keep customers excited. This maps very well with Level 5 (Optimizing) of CMMI model. At this juncture, customers have developed loyalty and emotional bond with the vendor. This is definitely a point where one can expect customer delight.  With frequent and solid delighters, chances of a customer turning into an advocate for a service provider are really high. As Chip Bell said “Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you”

.Customer delight is never an accident and hence instead of individual heroism, driving it through process excellence is the assured way to attain it!

Samved Galegaonkar
Head-Quality & Efficiency, Geometric Ltd.

References:
https://hbr.org/2014/10/the-value-of-keeping-the-right-customers/
http://foldingburritos.com/kano-model/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kano_model

 

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