Happy New Year, yes it is February… believe it or not I’ve written or semi-written several New Year blog articles, but here at Unleashed we’ve had a crazy beginning to 2015 and for me personally.

Finding something to write about and be relatively quick and fluid, isn’t something that often comes naturally (quite usually when I don’t have much to rant about). So I apologise for my untimely response to the festivities of the New Year.

Sometimes I wonder about the perception of time – in many respects I feel as if I’ve got to the beginning of February from before Christmas relatively effortlessly and can’t believe how quick things have gone.

However, that’s possibly because at work, we’re really busy and lots of cool things happening – hopefully quite a few happy customers old and new and we’re working with some really fantastic new suppliers that we still haven’t had time to update the website about. Maybe these are growing pains?…

In New Year messages gone by, I’ve given each year a theme, the Year of the IT Manager for example and we’ve attempted to focus on how we can be more helpful and supportive of my former peers. This year, I want to take a different tact and talk about something that’s said a lot but rarely delivered on. Customer Experience. I don’t really want to make it a theme or a drive for this year, I just really want it to be a thing that we do.

I have two major peeves in my life (some people will probably say I have more) however the route cause tends to be ‘process’ which inevitably leads to bad ‘customer experience’.

We constantly have this debate internally given the bad experience we get from our distributors, there’s not many who I can say are good, and for that matter there’s few I can say they’re mediocre – but most are simply terrible. We used to think the hard part was getting work – it’s actually placing orders with our suppliers. The good ones will undoubtedly know who they are and where they stand with us – I’m sure I have a personal relationship with the people, yes, people who give us that great experience.

Darren, my former account manager at Dell you deserve personal praise. It is a shame that Dell’s process took you away from us last year.

And this is the thing. Businesses spend countless millions a year developing processes, optimising, re-engineering, embodying in IT – just that they can reduce cost and develop a ‘machine’ that can make customers sticky. Everyone does this type of work with the illusion that by creating rigid processes within an organisation that what they do will become part of the organisations DNA and regardless of whether you treat your staff like idiotic morons to the point they want to leave that the customer experience will be both good and consistent. Oh yeah, and they seem to think you’ll stick around as a customer.

It simply does not work like this. How infuriated do you get when dealing with a call centre or any sort of sales process where things are going swell until you ask a question that the script or process doesn’t allow for?

I’ve recently read and loved the How Google Works book – they talk about their employees as ‘Smart Creatives’. I like to think there are quite a few of them out there, I know lots of them and none of them work for Google. Smart and creative people are very good at breaking processes and asking questions outside the box. You’d never really see a smart creative person as a business process engineer. Business processes are designed by people who build businesses into monolithic machines – where all joy, power and ownership is taken away from the people who work in the process. Many business process designers are more machine than men.

So why did I like Darren at Dell so much? Because he was a person, the minute that person was taken away and I had to deal with the machine in India, I stopped dealing with Dell.

People do business with people. Smart creatives do business with other smart creatives who have already broken their company’s machine and know how to work just about every business process for the benefit of their customers. They know the short cuts, they know who to bypass and what process not to start at what point. These guys and gals should be praised – because they deliver GREAT customer experience despite the processes their business throws in the way.

Should global businesses really be spending millions on setting business process with those who are bringing them the best deals and delivering the best customer service doing what they can to work around said processes?  To me it always seems as if nobody has asked the the workforce what needs to be improved when doing a process re-engineering exercise – surely not the case?

I’ve mentioned Avnet, several times in my blogs due to the fact they know they have problems and are doing their best to change cultures from acquired organisations and have a global leader for Customer Experience, Terry Cain. Terry and I have recently had the opportunity to meet face-to-face and whilst I have many unpleasant thoughts about Avnet, I would do business with Terry.

Terry and I have a joint goal in life and that’s to solve the problem of how can you create large organisations that have all sorts of compliance, legal requirements, statutory requirements, insurance requirements etc placed on them that manages to work delivering customer excellence without the need for overbearing processes ultimately backfiring to your customer experience.

Here at Unleashed, we are small but perfectly formed.  We know that people do business with people, not process.  Whilst we are growing and we need more managerial controls are necessary and as such our processes may be developing – but like Google we take a very pragmatic view on what needs to be done when you have a lot of clever people around. I am in many respects glad I don’t have the problems as Terry at Avnet or indeed any manager of a large multinational. All going to plan though, I may have those problems (soon I hope).

But whether you’re weaving that culture into the DNA in an organisation at the start like us or doing a bit of a ‘fixer up’ post many years of trading and acquisitions like Terry as a customer you should know that the most important thing is that your supplier has a real and tangible intent for change for the benefit of customer experience. Next time you’re struggling perhaps, you should evaluate who you’re dealing with and whether it’s time to change to someone who does.