Is Your Process Chain Joined Up? Can You Deliver What You Sell?
In two completely different clients in two completely different sectors our consultants have seen on recent projects the same challenges. Both clients were actively seeking to improve both their offering to clients and the efficiency of the processing that supports them after the sale or contract. We saw the same issues despite very different products and very different business models and this lead us to think that this must be a common problem within many industries and businesses.
So what challenges were these customers seeing and how did we help them to resolve them? As is common in many industries, the clients are demanding ever more flexible and tailored offerings and salesmen are happy to oblige. This means that there is often a promise to deliver a product with a contract that does not conform to the more typical vanilla or standard offering of the company. The consequence of this diversion can be huge with process breaks and inefficiencies in the delivery after the sale. Without going into the detail of the customers and the products, both had a standard product offering which if sold, was largely fully automated and delivered with only light human touches and high efficiency. However, the moment that one of the sales staff promised even a slight amendment that was not part of the offering, everything from the preparation of the contract to the collection of the revenue would have process breaks, manual steps and highly time intensive servicing needs restricting growth and raising costs. Interestingly, both customers had identified the challenges in the processing but because of the process complexity, had not fully understood the real root causes in the end to end process chain. We were able to work with the customers to identify the root causes of these inefficiencies and track them back through all the process steps to the pin point the issues around the lack of standardisation in sales. Having the root cause identified, it was then possible to put in a combination of education, process changes, KPI measurements and SLAs to manage and optimise the issues, first containing them before going on the resolve them fully.
What lessons can we draw from this exercise in general for businesses?
– Standardise your product palette. Customer optionality is good but only inside a framework
– Make sure your sales staff are educated to stick within the palette and understand the issues of selling outside it
– Put in SLAs so that the sales team understands the end to end process, ideally make sure they get rewarded not on sale, but also on delivery
– Ensure you have KPIs across your whole process chain and review them regularly
– and finally review your end to end process chain using the KPIs/SLAs to identify the bottlenecks so they can be eliminated
In short: don’t sell what you can’t deliver!