How Process Becomes Customer Experience

Last week I hit the mall to stock up on shorts and t-shirts for my growing boys and to pick up some summer sandals for myself.  I found a pair at DSW and took them for a spin around the store.  In that spin, I lost track of the original box, so I grabbed another size (so they had the price, SKU, etc.) and headed to the counter.  I explained that I lost track of the box, but that I wanted to purchase the shoes.  The next thing I know the woman behind the counter is talking into her headset putting out an APB for the box: “There is a BOX missing!  No, she doesn’t have it.  She doesn’t know where it is!” 

I chuckled a bit and said, “Is there an issue?” 

“We HAVE to find the box.  If there is an empty box, we assume shoes have been stolen,” she said in between speaking to what I am now assuming is a dragnet of shoe salesmen all hunting for a size 8 Merrill box.  “No!  A size 8.  Has someone found it?!”

“Look, I have the shoes right here.  I don’t want to buy the box.  I want to buy the shoes.”

“Yes, but we have to have the box.  That is how it works.”

That is how it works—for DSW.  But that is not how it works for me.  Needless to say, they lost a customer that day.

Process is internal.  Or at least it is designed by internal teams for internal use for internal policies.  But when that process spills over to your customer’s experience, it jumps over the divide to the external world—the world of your customer.  Bringing customers in to help design your product as you are building it is part one.  But companies cannot stop there.  Instead of focusing just on how a customer decides to purchase your product, companies must understand the experience of purchase, fulfillment and set-up.  How does your customer BUY your product?  (In the EdTech space, this one question alone sinks a surprisingly large number of start-ups).  What is that experience like?  Is she able to get it set up herself?  If not, how quickly can she get support?  Product and Process are one and the same to your customer.

Uncover and examine where your internal processes interface with your customer and check for process-barriers.  Because if you don’t find them, your customer will.  And you might just be left holding an empty box.