September 26, 2008

Treating the Root Cause and Enterprise Architecture

All too often, when there are issues in our organizations, we treat the symptoms instead of the problems. Just like this is bad medicine in treating illness and healing patients, so too it is ineffective in architecting our organizations.

The Wall Street Journal, 22 September 2008, has an article entitled “Making the Most of Customer Complaints.”

The quick-fix problem resolution:

"Companies have customer service sort out the immediate problem, offer an apology or some compensation, then assume all is well. This approach does nothing to address the underlying problem, practically guaranteeing similar failures and complaints.”

This “has enormous impact on customer satisfaction, repeat business, and ultimately profits and growth.”

The three actors and their conflicting approaches:

The customer—“can be left feeling their problem was not addressed seriously, even when they’ve received some form of compensation.” Customers are fairness-minded; they want to know why the problem occurred and that it will not happen again.

The service rep—“can start seeing complaining customers as the enemy, even though they point out flaws that need fixing.” Customer service reps are yelled at and abused by frustrated and angry customers who hold the service reps responsible for failures that are out of their control.

The managers—“can feel pressure to limit flows of critical customer comments, even though acting on the information will improve efficiency and profits.” Managers need to learn from failures and reengineer the processes to correct problems, but instead they fear reporting negative customer satisfaction and shun reporting these. In essence, they are taught to just make the problem go away!

The result:

“Fewer than 8% of the 60 organizations” in the wall Street Journal study did well integrating these actors and their perspectives to resolve problems at their root cause.

The focus unfortunately is on short term results instead of architecting long term success.

“Our experience with managers interested in improving service recovery indicates that most hope for a quick fix…but quick fixes only treat the symptoms of underlying problems. Real resolutions should involve closer integration among the three stakeholders, such as gathering more information from customers and sharing it throughout the company, and adopting new structures and practices that make it easier to spot problems and fix them.

There is an important enterprise architecture lesson here:

While executive management often want to achieve a quick turnaround and show results ASAP, and getting the low hanging fruit is often quite tempting, it is not often going to lead to substantive improvement in our organizations without a commitment and plan to address root cause.

Sure, in architecting the organization, we need to start somewhere, show progress, and continuously build on initial success (i.e. it’s an evolutionary process). However, there must be a long term plan/architecture that deals with genuine, deep-seated organizational issues, improves our underlying processes and their technology enablement, and leads to fundamental growth and enterprise maturation. A quick fix just will not do!


No comments: