3 Keys to Operational Success: Closing the Experience Gap

October 24, 2019 Joe Shearer

Chances are good you've seen operational inefficiencies in action before: workers carrying out tiresome, inefficient methods for completing their tasks. Maybe they hand-write logging forms, then enter them into the computer. Or maybe extra layers of approval are required from people who are ill-equipped to do so.

Suggest making a change, and everyone scoffs. "But this is the way we've always done it," they invariably reply. "It's worked fine so far."

People sitting around a table and looking at a female presenter and white board in an office

Let's just say it: "This is the way we've always done it" is the enemy of a productive business. 
Operational inefficiencies drag down the user experience—for employees and customers alike. When done correctly, a solid operational framework keeps the wheels turning, ensures your CRM investment is doing the job it's meant to do, and more. 

Shifting the culture that regards expensive technology as an annoyance to something your employees value as a sleek engine of operational success is not a simple transition, but it can be done.

Better customer experience is connected to increased brand loyalty, stronger customer engagement, and opportunities for future partnership and growth. And when it comes to purchasing and implementing a new piece of CRM, all of that’s tied to the four pillars of success, topics we cover in a four-part blog series: 

Appirio Four Pillars of CRM Success

Stagnation and inefficiency will drag down an organization like a stone. Having unified, effective processes and tools in place is vital to keeping operational efficiency at its peak. This post focuses on what you can do to reduce misalignments, eliminate roadblocks and bottlenecks, and enable speed to market with reliability and quality. 

ICYMI: Operational inefficiency is bad

When your workplace is bogged down by operational inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and poor business practices, clinging to old, familiar habits doesn't make much sense, does it? You won't get far with that kind of approach when you could be doing it so much better. 

When your main goal is closing the customer experience gap, you need to be armed with the most up-to-date tools. Creating a seamless customer experience between channels and devices is key in a successful experience. The inability to keep those channels communicating effectively in a way that delights consumers creates a gap in the CX, which works against your sales strategies. 

Optimizing efficiency means your CX is that much stronger. In other words, don't allow "the way we have always done it" to hold you back when you're trying to make operational improvements. 

Let's take a look at the Acme Auto-Marketing company, which produces the best CRM software on the market. That software might be the best, but that doesn't mean you can set it and forget it. . . unless you don't mind integration problems. Forcing your workers to fight with those issues creates inefficiencies (or leads to a lack of user adoption). The resulting workarounds might create additional, more time-consuming work, which in turn cause delays, incorrect fulfillment, or other issues.

Ultimately, operational success begins and ends with your customers. Are you serving them the best way you can? Truly? Or can you bypass some of the workplace clutter that is stymying your profits and holding you back from peak performance?
Agility and responsiveness are key. Keeping processes optimized and your employees trained on best practices enables you to provide the best service for your customers. 

Simplify operations

In general, ensuring processes as simple as possible is the best practice: 

Eliminate complex problems whenever possible: This is the hallmark of operational agility. Preventing key process steps from bogging down, whether through a needlessly complex software or hardware issue or having an effective, user-friendly way to patch software inefficiencies, is paramount in this step.

Streamline operations: You might get a new tool that interfaces with multiple platforms or have fewer people own similar pieces of the same process—either can keep processes moving. When your tools can communicate with each other, and your employees can quickly address an issue or fill a gap, this makes everything work together in a more harmonious way. The easier it is to get up and running, and stay that way, the easier it is to remain seamless with your CX. 

Set clear operational measures and metrics: Set benchmarks for what a positive outcome is. After all, it's difficult to judge whether you're doing a good job if you don't know what a good job is. When you're looking to reduce wasteful practices and streamline operational efficiency, the line between setting challenging goals and unreasonable expectations is razor-thin. Focus on the right KPIs to keep your eye on the ball and off of distractors that won't move the needle.

Optimize delivery

A lopsided, ineffective delivery system on the back end will invariably carry over to the CX. Keeping bottlenecks open and misalignments readjusted quickly keeps the CX ship sailing smoothly:

Target bottlenecks—places where production is regularly stymied: Maybe it's a troublesome, user-unfriendly piece of software, or training gaps among your employees that prevent them from finishing tasks at an appropriate rate. Whatever the case, find them, eliminate them, and replace them with a more standardized, effective tool or procedure. 
Address issues with inferior production planning that causes misalignments: Is the office laid out poorly, forcing employees to travel long distances to complete tasks? Maybe employees cannot complete business-critical tasks because they’re busy with others. Correcting poor production practices can put operational efficiencies back into motion and get you where you need to go. 

Monitor and manage

Once you establish efficient processes, without proper management and ongoing monitoring you're not likely to maintain a successful model for long. Your goal isn't to set up new practices: It's to keep them. Preventing employees from falling back into old, unhealthy business habits is now your top goal.

How do you do this? 

Have supervisors spend more time "on the floor”: Doing so can enable them to provide better support to employees and target opportunities for improvement. Well-meaning employees looking to get the job done quickly can circumvent processes they see as problematic, which could lead to problems down the line. 

Keep employees accountable: Encourage everyone to follow best practices, which can be an integral part of the process in preventing those pesky customer experience gaps from opening up.

Apply these three steps to create a culture of continuous improvement, and you’ll soon start to see improvements in productivity, cost containment, employee morale, and profitability — and be well on your way to operational success.

Want to know more about operational efficiency and Appirio's four-pillar approach to long-term value? Let's talk.

About the Author

Joe Shearer

Joe is a Content Writer at Appirio. A 20-year veteran of the writing and editing game, he has produced high-performing content for a variety of brands.

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