What I mean by that is, when you are contemplating a new product or service and the process to support it, who or what do you focus on? What is most important to you? Is it your client? Do you focus on whether it will be profitable? Or is it your employees? As you are reviewing most processes, ultimately your client should be the primary focus, and when you are doing that well, your profits will show it.
We take a client centric approach when working with a team of employees to evaluate a process within their organization, which is called a Discovery Event. I want to share some insight into the findings we often discover during these events, hoping to trigger some ideas for you and your team as you consider new products and services as well as when you are working on your internal procedures and processes.
We often find the processes we evaluate within a financial institution are employee centered, meaning the process has been developed over the years to accommodate what works best within that organization. Internally, it may make sense to move a paper account application from point A to D and then back to B. However, when employees step back and look at the experience through their clients’ perspective, it may make much more sense to automate the process; so instead of starting with paper, they start the process with an electronic application. Clients can then prepare it in the comfort of their own home when they have the time, rather than conforming to the financial institution’s schedule and locations. Once the form is electronic, multiple areas of the organization could be working on the process at once, which can increase efficiency. This should result in a faster turnaround for both the client and the institution’s employees. Instead of missing that deal because employees were too busy focusing on paper and outdated processes rather than the client, the door has opened to more opportunities.
A common complaint we hear from management is that a process takes so long to complete― think of the opening of a new client account, booking a mortgage loan, or processing accounts payables. Ultimately, this affects both your client and your organization. If you look closely at each step within that process, how many times are errors found or someone needs to go from process step D back to step B to ensure all critical fields are completed and are accurate? Not only does this make the process less efficient, it typically causes morale issues as well because employees are critical of others within the process who they do not feel are performing their tasks fully. That doesn’t even consider potential audit and regulatory issues if those critical fields are not properly obtained and edited. This, once again, would ultimately affect your client when their loan approval is delayed or they are not able to open their new account during their lunch hour. When you focus on the client’s experience, your bottom line will show results as well as help to keep your employees productive.
How many times is an edit completed in a process? Are you over-documenting or saving documents that are not necessary? We recently discovered in a process review that during a new client setup on the core processing system, it was being reviewed five times. The sad thing is, when we discussed this with the fifth reviewer, they were still finding errors. When tasks are being performed multiple times within a process, we encourage you to discuss this with the team members to determine why that is the case. Oftentimes multiple reviews are being performed due to something that occurred years ago, such as an error or a loss to the financial institution or a scanned document being unrecoverable. So in order to prevent that from occurring again, another edit, review, or scan is added to the process. Ideally you should determine the root cause of the issue and resolve that so additional process steps are not necessary. Holding each employee accountable for their actions within a process will ensure accurate information that can make the process and your employees that much more efficient.
With any process, communication is critical―whether that is by use of marketing materials for your clients, checklists/process steps and training for your employees, or the use of technology to keep everyone abreast of where a loan is in the process. We recently were evaluating a process and found this area to be a major concern. Key individuals within a department were not able to communicate, and it affected the department as well as the entire organization, ultimately affecting the clients. You need to continually work with your employees to encourage open communication to ensure the highest level of service is in place for both your internal clients (employees) as well as your external clients. By talking with your employees as well as your clients, you can find out directly from the source what is working and what is not. What is most important to them? If you talk with your clients, you can determine whether the new product you are developing will truly be of interest to them or might it be more attractive with a tweak or two. What drives each of your employees? For some, it is simply asking them for their thoughts; it isn’t always all about money. Encouraging open communication throughout your organization, including with your clients, will help to expand awareness on all levels.
The next time you are struggling with a process within your organization that seems to be broken, consider using some of the ideas above to help your employees look at the process from your client’s point of view, think “client centric.” If you have questions as you are working on a project like this, feel free to contact me, and I would be happy to talk ideas through with you.