Process, process, process

Let’s look today at three examples of how predefined processes are executed in Germany regardless of whether they address customer needs.

The first example shows how German companies are worsening their already low service perception by making it difficult to return a product. Customers at V-Markt, a discount department store chain, are required to deal with four store employees to return a product: (1) signature at the store entrance that the product is being brought in, (2) signature by a department manager that the product is being returned in a new condition, (3) signature by the cashier supervisor authorizing payment return, and finally (4) return of payment by the cashier. And when the customer complains about this ridiculous process, the answer is “this is how it is”.

A disregard for customer needs is reflected in the reimbursement process of private health insurance companies. The customers need to pay upfront for each doctor visit, hospital stay, or prescription and then submit claims for reimbursement to the insurance company. Is this process really customer friendly? Why can’t the health service providers submit the bills directly to the insurance company eliminating this process for the customers, like it’s typical in the

The general lack of customer service also impacts road traffic. At a recent highway construction, two lanes of a four-lane road were closed to enable the construction work. But after 6pm on a Friday when the construction workers went home for the weekend, the two lanes were still closed impacting traffic the whole weekend. In the US or Japan, on the other hand, the construction work happens between 11pm and 5am, the road is then temporarily paved and all lanes are available during the typical traffic hours. In Germany, of course, labor unions have a strong say in activities like these, but decisions makers there have the “customers are last” mindset and this is exactly my point.

In Germany, process comes first, regardless of its impact on customer satisfaction.


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