Transcend The Process Mindset To Excel At The Customer Experience Game

Before I launch into this post, I want you to know that once upon time I was deeply immersed in business process design and business process re-engineering. I was process mapping in the late 80s before process mapping became a huge hit and became expert at it in the 90s.

You cannot excel at the Customer Experience game with a process mindset

I say process thinking occurs at one level of consciousness. I say the process mindset fixes one’s consciousness at the functional level: the level of work. Which means that the process mindset become permeated by mechanical/activity thinking and fixated with throughput, time taken, speed, cost, and efficiency.

What happens when the process mindset has infected the organisation?  My experience is that the process mindset drives out humanity and all that goes with human beings: empathy, flexibility, creativity, adaptability, responsiveness to the unique human being, the unique situation.

What happens when you take process people and get them working on the Customer Experience?  They inevitably focus on optimising the process: throughput, speed, efficiency, and standardisation. In such an organisation quality becomes adherence to the process/script/standard.  What gets missed is that if you are playing the customer relationship-customer experience game then quality can only be measured in terms of quality of connection with the customer.

I say that if you want to excel at the game of Customer Experience then you have to transcend the process mindset.  Why? I say that there is one level of consciousness associated with the process mindset. And another, different level associated with Customer Experience. Think in terms of an elevator that stops at different floors of consciousness. On one floor is the process mindset and all that goes with it. The Customer Experience mindset is on a different floor. You cannot be at both floors at the same time.

You object, you say that they are similar.  To which I say that rugby and soccer do have similarities and yet are distinct games. And what makes for a winning combination in soccer does not make for a winning combination in rugby.

Example: from ‘Registrations’ to ‘Welcome to TelcoX’

Can you make dramatic improvements in the Customer Experience without changing the people, without doing lean to business processes, without changing the IT systems?  Yes, you can.  How? By operating from Customer Experience consciousness. Allow me to give you an example.

One of my friends, a Customer Experience professional, told me this story. His organisation was helping a telco to improve the customer’s experience at the very start of the customer journey: when the customer signs-up and has to be registered on the various systems so that he can use his mobile phone.  What was the name of the team doing this work?  Registrations.  Makes perfect sense if you come from a process mindset.  From a process mindset the job to be done is the job of registering the customer on the system.

What happens when you look at the world from a Customer Experience consciousness?  You end up renaming the team Welcome to TelcoX (I am not at liberty to name the telco).  Notice the difference?  Stop and really notice the difference in emotional tone.  Do you notice that Registrations is flat, devoid of emotion, generates a focus on the task?  Do you notice that Welcome to TelcoX generates emotion?  I bet you can even notice a difference between “Welcome to TelcoX” and “Welcome to TelcoX!”

“Welcome to TelcoX” is rich with meaning, with guidance, it orients attitude and calls forth a certain kind of behaviour whilst ruling out another class of behaviour.  Do you notice that it taps into a human stereotype of welcoming guests to our home? What do we do when we welcome guests to our home? Do we simply register them? Let them in and hand them a drink?  Or do we make sure we connect with them, show the right emotion, offer them a drink, get them a drink, introduce them to a guest they are likely to enjoy talking to, make sure they are comfortable. And then go and greet the next guest?

What else happens when you operate from this frame, the human frame of relationship?  You ask yourself what is the equivalent in the telco world of welcoming your guests and getting them to the emotional state where they are comfortable at your home or party.  This led to the folks at this telco realising that the end point of their interaction with the customer was not an account registered on the system. No, the end point was a happy customer who was up and running using his phone.  This meant bringing additional work steps in the Welcome to TelcoX team; steps that had until then been in another team; steps that had caused problems for customers and driven customers to call in and getting them addressed.

By transcending the process mindset and operating at this human-empathic-storytelling level of consciousness, customer satisfaction rose, employee engagement rose, and the telco saved money by not having to take calls from dissatisfied customers ringing up to say that they could not use their phone. And asking for help. Notice, the telco did not have to undertake a culture change programme.

Summing Up

I say that one of the biggest hurdles to excellence in the game of Customer Experience is the process mindset which is endemic in large organisation. I say that it is a big mistake to hand over the Customer Experience to folks who are gripped through and through by the process mindset. I say that if you want to excel at the game of Customer Experience then you have to involve and listen to people who excel at the human game: the people who excel at empathy and have sound business sense.

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

5 thoughts on “Transcend The Process Mindset To Excel At The Customer Experience Game”

  1. Maz,

    Like a red rag to a bull

    Process: a systematic series of actions directed to some end

    In business that end is giving a customer what they want,

    So a process mindset is a mindset that gives customers what they want (experience and all)

    I would argue that a process mindset is the building. I will accept that thinking about the customer experience is a high floor in that building and that there are a bunch of clip board monkeys in the basement.

    Those at the top floor of the building know that a process involves things, customers and employees (and probably some other things I haven’t realised yet)

    It is just levels of understanding of the process and a question of how far ranging the view is

    And yes, it was inevitable I would bite, wasn’t it?

    All part of the process



    1. Hello James

      I value you and I value what you say; my writing is deliberately provocative yet never intended to offend or belittle. So let’s have a short conversation here, we can have a longer one on the phone or face to face.

      You write “In business that end is giving a customer what they want.” I say I agree with you if you are talking at level of theory. I say that level of practice, the organisation exists to serve its masters, the Tops. That means that policies, practices, people, processes… exist to serve Tops.

      If you disagree I ask you why it is that in the arena of customer service, customer don’t want IVRs. They dislike IVRs and loathe many IVRs that are way to complicated. I am sure that if you and I put our minds to it we can find many other examples where the customer experience is sacrificed to meet management objectives centred on efficiency, cost reduction, control……

      Your metaphor of the process mindset being the building an an interesting one. It is one that I have yet to figure out and connect with.

      What I am present to is this. Imagine that you set-up a restaurant. You are the owner. You design the process for welcoming guests, seating them, taking their order….. And you train your staff. Then you go on holiday for four weeks. Is is possible that by the time you get back your restaurant is in deep trouble even though your staff followed process? I say it is. For example, you asked them to smile. Your staff did, they just did it in a mechanical/forced way. Your process instructed them to come over and ask the customers if the food was OK. They did, they just did it mechanically, they did it without heart. The customers noticed that the staff were simply going through the emotions. It all worked wonderfully but from the customer perspective they customers didn’t experience welcomed. In short, they missed the humanity, that you brought to the restaurant experience.

      What I am saying is that whilst attention to process is necessary, it is not enough. It has to be transcended. One has to transcend the functional and step into the emotional through empathic connection. It is a question of which is primary and which is secondary: the experience or the process. Do you remember the giraffe bread Sainsbury’s letter? What made it memorable, so talked about, the person following the process or the humanity that the customers services chap brought to the interaction?

      My point is not that process thinking is right or wrong. Just yesterday, my daughter sought out my help to fix the speakers on the tv. I used process logic to fix the problem. What really touched my daughter and generated a stronger connection is the way that I dealt with her request, the way that I treated her. What do I mean? I was busy. My temptation was to say “Later, I’m busy”. I didn’t because something inside me sensed that helping her out with this really mattered to her. Then I came and worked with her to address her issue. It took some time. What made the impact on her? Me responding to her needs.

      I hope that makes some sense. If not I share a final example with you. Take the process of being brought a cup of tea. The process is not complicated. You can serve that tea to me with kindness and love. You can serve that tea is if you were a robot. Do you notice the difference? No amount of process can put empathy-humanity in the encounter. The humanity, the empathic connection, is a quality of being that you bring to the encounter.

      How best to end? I am blown away by the humanity of our encounter this week. I have met many people. So why is it that you gave me a quality of listening, attention, respect, that I have rarely experienced? The process was the same: we met, we greeted each other, we walked to a coffee shop, we ordered, we found a table, we talked…. No, it was the quality of you, that you, brought to our encounter which leaves me feeling the connection that I feel for-with you.

      At your service / with my love


      1. Maz,I would argue that a process cannot exist without the people who make it happen, you cannot divorce the connection form the process. They are all part of the same thing. The way in which interactions happen.

        Of course I am right, and better than that, I am right I am right.



  2. Hi Maz,
    I’m note sure I agree with you. I think it is more to do with perspective than process. Your story about moving from ‘Registrations’ to ‘Welcome to TelcoX’ illustrates this, don’t you think?



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