Archive for the ‘process’ Category

Process again

How process execution is important in Germany, regardless of implications on customer satisfaction, is evidenced by the following examples.  

During a recent taxi ride from the airport home, I asked the taxi driver to take a particular route, which is shorter than the typical one that most taxi drivers take and has usually less traffic. The taxi driver wasn’t pleased with me giving him directions since this apparently didn’t fit with his process. He not only mumbled something unintelligible, but also threw in a nasty comment after dropping me off. When I tried to confront him, he drove away. This shows how deeply embedded the process execution is, where a taxi driver doesn’t realize the impact of his customer unfriendliness on his business.  

This wasn’t unfortunately the only bad experience with unacceptable taxi service. On another occasion the taxi driver was driving so fast through the city that he scared some pedestrians. When I asked him to slow down, he started to argue that it’s not my business how he drives. Although I was able to convince him otherwise and he then drove me home at appropriate speed, he too threw in a nasty comment after dropping me off. 

Another example comes from Edeka, a grocery store chain. Unlike most other stores, Edeka had a policy to require additional proof of identification when paying with electronic cash for purchases over 100 Euros. The cashier had to write down the ID info on the store receipt, which didn’t only slow down the checkout process for the paying customer, but also for all other customers waiting in line. Now the store has a special card reader for purchases over 100 Euros. However, there is only one special card reader to be shared among five checkout stands and one that requires special activation by the supervisor. You can imagine the impact on the checkout time. Edeka simply doesn’t get it.

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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
US?

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.