Process Integration: Making the Changes to Benefit Your Customers and Your Business

Many elements of the Experience Management (XM) Operating Framework contribute to gaining insights on ways to improve the customer experience. One of the methods of taking action on those insights is through Process Integration.

Process integration can take place in many shapes and forms. It can address direct problems that customers have told you about. It can help solve behind-the-scenes challenges that prevent efficient and effective customer service.

Whether a routine issue that can be fixed immediately or a complex concern that requires intricate planning and execution, the integration of processes, data, and people can be a valuable and essential part of the solution.

Process integration can apply no matter the business or industry. Here are just two of many examples:

For a retail outlet, the processes and protocols include everything from when a customer walks into the store, picks a product off the shelf, goes through the checkout process, and walks back to their car.

In the healthcare world, the elements include entering the facility, checking in, undergoing a procedure, recovery, follow-up, and more.

The opportunities for process integration are many. The consequences of failing to do so can be most costly to your business and its bottom line.

Getting started

There is no single strategy for beginning to implement process integration. Among the key aspects:

  • Identify gaps or breakdowns – where you might be losing customers or their experience is less than ideal
  • Clearly set expectations about what you want/expect to occur
  • Recognize challenges in meeting those expectations
  • Develop your plan for integrating new processes or protocols as a solution

Another popular model incorporates the PDCA acronym:

  • Plan: Recognize an opportunity and design a change
  • Do: Test the plan through a small study
  • Check: Review the test, analyze the results, and identify new insights
  • Act: Incorporate what you learned to finalize the plan

A complementary tactic to help ensure you are working to solve the correct challenges is using the five whys approach. Asking “why” five different times is intended to get to the root cause of a problem. It is important in process integration to avoid making change simply for the sake of change.

There are other factors to consider in facilitating success in your process integration efforts. Focus on what you can control – not wasting time on what is out of your direct domain. Separate the urgent (what must be addressed immediately) from the non-urgent (and whether that is a want or a true need).

In addition, strive to operate at the speed that will be responsive and result in ultimate success. Don’t move too fast and make mistakes that will only compound the original problem.

Real-world examples

Let’s return to the healthcare world and share some practical aspects of process integration. One is a basic practice that has taken place in every hospital in the country for many years. The other is a more recent technological advance that provides many patient and provider benefits.

One of the many responsibilities of nurses is to make sure the proper medical supplies are available in each room. In emergencies, it can be a matter of life and death. Supplies are traditionally kept in one control room within the hospital with additional rooms or units available on each floor. The process change of nurses placing empty supply bins or baskets in a central location for refilling can avoid later challenges of securing those supplies from different locations.

Separately, while the electronic medical record has been around for some time, it continues to evolve in use and effectiveness. Among the process enhancements are utilizing it to allow patients to communicate (often through nurses) with their providers and allowing patient access while within the hospital so they can better understand treatment that is taking place and what steps remain on the road to discharge.

Getting the team on board

As with other adjustments to normal procedures, employee buy-in is critical. A two-pronged approach is showing how the process integration will impact and benefit both the employees and the customers. Most, if not all, process changes will not create additional work but make existing tasks more efficient. In other words, any short-term learning curves will be offset by long-term benefits.

If you are asking a frontline employee to greet every person who walks into a store, be sure to communicate with them how that will improve the customer experience. Share the data that has been gathered through XM research and analysis, and the value that this small step will bring in total customer spend or satisfaction.

A common objection among employees resistant to change is that similar efforts have been previously implemented without success. Ask them why goals were not achieved during prior attempts. Engage them from the beginning and make them part of the process. Turn the biggest resistors into active participants and advocates for working with others.

On the technology side of the equation, various numbers back up the need for process integration and automation. One study finds that 64% of workers spend at least 30 minutes a day switching between apps, adding up to 130 hours a year in lost productivity. And when data is contained within silos, it becomes difficult to extract insights. Nearly 60% of organizations agree that their customer and account data is in too many places to make sense of it.

In the fast-moving business world of today, “wasteful time” and “data silos” simply cannot be tolerated. Use process integration to make the necessary changes while keeping the end game in mind – this is all about the customers and enhancing their experiences.

About the Author

Nicole Richendollar

Nicole’s vast experience leading patient experience strategy in a large, complex health system elevating the voices of patients, caregivers, and providers gives her a unique perspective as she guides her clients in designing human-centered experiences. She earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Mount Carmel College of Nursing and her master’s degree in healthcare administration from Franklin University, and is certified in Six Sigma.
Read more about Nicole