My favorite subject. I am not even kidding.
I will try to explain in the simplest possible way what ‘Process Management’ is without getting into deep academical concepts. You can be sure that I’ll try to use as few terminologies as possible.[i]
First of all, let’s clarify what process is.
The process is sequences of events and notions that are progressing, improving and unified among themselves or repeated in a certain order or time. For instance, constantly repeated works like campaign management, and product procurement are processes.
Process management is a discipline, aiming to improve a company’s, institution’s or organization’s processes.
Process management isn’t loved because it reminds people of army of consultants, reports and tiresome paperwork. One of my marketing managers I am fond of was strictly against process management. Because while marketing is “cool”, the process management is “boring”. While marketing requires “creativity”, process management requires “analysis”. It is easy to speak this smarty-pants when the money being spent isn’t yours and is in plenty.
Process management not only shows you how the repetitive tasks are (should be) going from the beginning to the end, it also offers a great reference point when it comes to checklists and key performance indicators (KPIs).
“Customer Experience Mapping”, which we have often been hearing in recently, actually reflects process management from the customers’ perspective. “Customer experience” is easier on the ear than “process management”.
I told you I’d use minimal terminology.
Hence, I will divide processes into two parts as internal and external.
- Internal processes occur within the company and employees are involved. For example, sending bulk e-mails is an internal process.
- We can describe external processes as the processes in which the customer is the focus. For instance, your site being used for purchasing things is an external process.
To manage processes, you need to map the steps that make up the processes. You can do this with pen and paper or use digital means. Whichever is more comfortable, it’s up to you. I’m a pen and paper person.
The most critical part of process management is to map the processes, and frankly, this phase requires some exercise.
Process maps and internal process example
Let’s follow through the bulk e-mail example.
- How do you send the e-mails?
- You prepare the design.
- You create the recipient list.
- You send the e-mails.
- And the end!
This is not a process map though.
In order to be able to represent the process correctly, you have to address all the steps one by one, and for every entry there must be an output.
Let’s go back to the e-mail example again. How should the process map be?
- A request to send e-mails received.
- Content and heading are created in accordance.
- The content is passed to the agency for the design.
- The design received from the agency is checked, revisions applied if necessary.
- The approved design is converted to *HTML.
- The *HTML file is attached to the e-mailing software.
- A single e-mail is sent for testing purposes.
- If no problems are found, recipients are selected, if the recipients are not loaded, a new recipient list is created (even creating the recipient list can be a separate process.)
- E-mails are being sent.
- The relevant persons or the teams are notified about the sent e-mails.
- The statistics are analyzed the next day and shared with the relevant persons or the teams.
I tried to simplify the flow as much as possible, so I didn’t dedicate a step for negative scenarios such as e-mail sending process being canceled etc.
The contents of the processes may vary depending on your company. For example, to send e-mails in a company I worked in, I had to fill in a paperwork (designed explicitly for this instance) and make formal request to relevant departments six weeks in advance. I know this sounds ludicrous to you, but these kinds of processes are what make great companies great.
If you are two people in your company and you are sending the e-mails by yourselves, whenever your company has ten employees you will hand-over this job to someone else. When your company has fifty employees, they’ll hand-over it to other people as well. Every time the work is handed over via the master-apprentice relationship, you will find yourself in a much different state than when you first started, and you’ll rip your lungs out trying to find who’s responsible for sending out wrong e-mails to wrong people.
You can also prepare a checklist to ensure the process would be free from errors after you prepared your e-mail sending process, for example:
- Is the e-mail content complete?
- Has the e-mail design been completed?
- Was the e-mail title in line with the content?
- Is the concordant recipient list created?
- Has the test e-mail been sent?
- Have the following points been checked in the test e-mail?
o Grammatical and spelling errors
o Image links
o Button links
o Social media links
o Company website links
o E-mail unsubscription link
o Company contact information
- Did we complete revisions, and did we get written confirmations from all the relevant persons before we started sending the e-mails?
- Did we share the number of total sent e-mails, number of clicks, and reading ratio data with the relevant persons three days after we sent the e-mails?
You may think, “Yes Gaye, now I know what I should pay attention to when sending e-mails and I also learned a little bit about process management. But how would these benefit me in the world of marketing?”
I’ll answer: However perfect your processes are managed, your company, your business and your customers would be managed just as good.
From the delivery process to customer information, from refund management to campaign management, if you define your processes in detail and improve them, you’ll save both money and time.
A considerable part of these laborious tasks will be rewarding you with either customer satisfaction or making you a distinctive brand.
Now let’s talk about the external processes…
Now that we have seen goings-on in a company, seen processes which included the customers but didn’t focus on them, it’s time for the external processes which the customers are in focus.
External processes are kind of similar to “Customer Experience Journey” and “Service Design” concepts. But then again, I remembered I gave you my word to employ the least amount of terminology.
When you start with external processes, you turn the camera to the customer and experience the events from their perspective. What is fundamentally done is process management and improvement still, but for online shopping, we see the effects of improvement and changes done to the external processes relevant to the customer quicker.
To map the customer processes, we first start with how the customer found us then we find out what the customer can/will experience while shopping.
- How do people find your business?
- From which page do they come to your store?
- Can they easily access the information or product they’re looking for?
- Do they need to be members to shop?
- What information do they need to provide for membership?
- What payment steps will they go through?
- What do they do if they cannot pay?
- How do they provide billing and delivery addresses?
- Do you have any loyalty programs? Do they need to be a member of this?
- What do they do when they need support or assistance?
Depending on your business model, you can further refine the questions. Important things are, you need to make the processes your customers experience more transparent and more straightforward in order to specify which stages need improvement, specify performance indicators and build the infrastructure for customer relationship management.
Above are just questions/problems for the online shopping process. I think pre-sale and after-sale stages should also be thoroughly analyzed.
On an online retailer which I won’t name I had to use (unfortunately they don’t have a competitor,) the process goes like this (assuming you braved through dozens of banners):
- You find the product you’re looking for and you add it to your shopping cart.
- When you want to pay you are required to login.
- Once you have logged in, you are redirected to the main page.
- Then you need to find a way to return to your cart again and complete the payment.
I don’t even want to imagine how many potential customers they have lost in this process. But probably their sales are doing well, unless a strong competitor enters the ring, or they start losing sales, they won’t care much.
I experienced a similar situation in a company I worked in many years ago.
Every week, number of our customers was increasing by hundreds (I changed the exact numbers, but the ratio is the same). In my analysis, I found out that we gained two hundred new customers each week, but we were losing a hundred as well. We won a lot of new customers, but we were losing a lot as well. I was in my manager’s room in no time flat and I explained the situation. They didn’t care. They said things like that can happen.
Yes, things like that can happen but the number of customers in a market is limited. For this reason,
you’ll end up losing more than you’ll gain. This fact is ignored. Because it is ‘boring’. And people don’t want to work on ‘boring’ issues that haven’t even happened yet. A few years later though, when the lost customer rate takes over the gained ones, meetings will be held, new departments will be established and “customer acquisition” studies will start.
Process management is an annoying concept for most people. And again, most people think it’s irrelevant to marketing, they think process management’s dull and gloomy frame is inconsistent with the colorful world of marketing. Things like shooting TV ads with ad agencies, trying to find catchy slogans may make marketing colorful, but marketing is not just about advertising. It isn’t attracting people to your product either. It’s converting people into customers and increasing sales. This is why you should pay attention to your processes.
Almost all the time there is a moment when “things change”. Sometimes it comes slowly, and sometimes abruptly.
If you realized you have a problem in a short time (because in some companies realizing the problem takes months or years,) and have the money, you need to go to the consulting companies. And after that, you are going to perform analysis’ which will take you days, if not weeks. You will hold meetings, consultants will speak about the same things to different people over and over. And after months, you will reach a consensus on what the problems are. You’ll prepare improvement suggestions, and you’ll present them to different people in different meetings.
‘Weighty matters’ such as process management aren’t only big company problems. It’s every company’s problem, small or big doesn’t matter. Time is our most important asset, we need to be sure what we are spending it on.
Are you not convinced yet?
According to Turkey E-commerce Ecosystem 2016 Second Quarter Report, published by Insider, 99% of website visits do not result in any purchases. I don’t think this report based the data solely on big brands. So, only one out of hundred people visiting your site is shopping. You’ll also see that conversion rates[ii]are usually at 1% to 2% when you look in the other sources.
Let’s say that you attracted a thousand people to your site? This means your advertising costs will tenfold, maybe even more. This is because there’s not a conclusive correlation between the ad money spent and visitors attracted. But in an optimistic situation, you will tenfold your sales as well. However, you can increase the number of people shopping on your site by eliminating the problems arising during shopping rather than spending money for advertisement.
Ironically, in this whole process you’ll spend less money than you do on advertising. But we are doggedly overlooking this fact. I guess this is one of the troubling things about the marketers; ads are more interesting than analytics. Marketers should remind themselves more often that they are not advertisers.
You should know all about what someone visiting your site experiences. In a more professional manner of speaking, you need to have a chart showing how your customers are interacting with your company, whether it’s a product, an online experience, a retail experience, a service or a combination of any of the above.
- From which page does the visitor come?
- What products are they looking for?
- What steps do they go through after they add items to the cart and press the ‘buy now’ button?
- Do they need to be a member to buy the product?
- What information should be provided if membership is required?
- Do they need to activate their membership?
- How do they fill out the delivery and billing information?
- What is on the payment page?
- How are they notified about the delivery process and costs?
- Is it possible to get information about refunds quickly?
- And so, on and on…
After listing all these possible scenarios, there is only one question that you should ask yourself: “WHY?”
Why should your customers fill out a membership form to make purchases from you? Why do they need to enter delivery and billing addresses separately? Why should they provide two different phone numbers? Why aren’t the text boxes on the form auto-completed? Why can’t customers get information about delivery?
All of these may be different on your site and your processes. After you list the obstacles that your customers may have to vault over, ask yourself “WHY should my customers put up with this laborious inconvenience and WHY should they shop on my site?”
Your answer to this question will determine your fate.
If you are in the e-commerce business, don’t forget that you aren’t seeing the people who visit your site face to face and you are not a physical store.
In a physical store, when a customer sees an empty place on shelves, they may ask the clerk if that product will be available again. They can try the products they want to buy, they can have a chatter with you and complete their purchase just by giving you their credit card. In case they experience a problem, you can immediately help them and charm them with your gleeful politeness.
But in e-commerce, if they can’t find the product on your site, they’ll go to another one. If they get a response for a product inquiry after two days they contacted you, if their product arrives one month late and incorrect, if they had to fill in a two-page form to make a purchase, if the e-mail they sent isn’t answered, you won’t see them the second time. The sad part is, you won’t even know what kind of a hell they had to go through.
For this very reason, process management is critical for all companies from small to big, but for e-commerce companies, it is of paramount importance.
I couldn’t imagine that a book I wrote could have such a ‘sonorous’ title in it
Or a workflow diagram…
Of course, you should not allow these processes to make you a slacker; there is a fine line between being a slacker and being a professional.
[i]I genuinely suspect that most terminology is created to generate a source of income for some. For instance, although not many remember that it was created by Kevin Roberts, people still recall the Lovemark concept. Lovemark, which bases the relationship between people and brands on mutual love and respect, made Saatchi & Saatchi snatch the $430 million JC Penney deal. Kevin Roberts was the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi in that period. It’s worth mentioning that things didn’t go really well for JC Penney afterwards.
[ii]For e-commerce, the ‘conversion rate’ is a critical data that shows how many of your visitors make a purchase. You can use the following formula to calculate this: Number of shoppers / number of visitors.