Building Business through Process Innovation
When business leaders want to grow a business, the first instinct is to look at launching new products or services, recruiting more customers, entering new markets, forming partnerships, making acquisitions, and so on. While these are sound business strategies that should be pursued, there is one that is often overlooked and frequently misplaced under “operations” – ease of doing business. It’s a derivative of process (or service) innovation that is completely customer-centric. Leading companies who invest in understanding what drives customers/prospects at the process level can gain a big competitive advantage...and uncover new business opportunities. For example, extending your process maps to include those of your customers/targets can create opportunities to deliver new value-added services or earn more of their business.
If growing organically is the best growth opportunity for your organization, then process or service innovation can be an effective business development strategy. Did you ever buy a product/service that took 12 convenient steps (for the seller) to complete the process? Have you ever done business with a supplier that has great service for “new” sales and poor service for “repeat” sales?
According to Ken Tencer & John Paulo Cardoso who wrote the book “Cause A Disturbance”, you are already 90% there. All it takes is the next 10% of improvements in your business to facilitate growth. Over the years in many different roles in several companies, both large & small, my experience is that ease of doing business earns loyal customers, increases referrals, and pays new business dividends. It’s no wonder why companies like Southwest Airlines continue to grow – they listen to their customers intently, fix problems quickly, and make it super easy to do business with them.
So what can you do today to grow your business? Here’s 3 strategies for starters:
1) Listen to your employees, track their suggestions, and then build an action plan. They are the ones listening to your customers all day long and supporting them, so create a project team that will implement their ideas. Finding out how you can earn more business in the context of “process” can lead to great insights.
2) Leverage technology to drive process or service innovation. We all have support systems that are rich in opportunities to make life easier for customers. Business leaders need to increase budgets to implement all the small enhancements in high impact areas that affect the customer experience.
3) Reduce steps. Ask the front line how they can reduce the number of steps in a process in one “high impact” area of your business and focus the company’s energy & resources until that area has improved. For example, if it takes 19 clicks or steps to set up a new customer in your system, ask them how to bring it down by half. Remember, your new customer is waiting.
The reality is that many small enhancements add up to big savings, happy customers, happier employees, increased productivity, and....more sales!