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How central a role should BPM play in customer experience?

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How central a role should BPM play in customer experience?

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  • Good question.

    I see a development in which Design Thinking, Service Design and BPM get closer and closer.

    Customer experience as a term is a good development in customer-centric thinking. "Old" terms as Voice of Customer and CTQ's can be given more meaning. In many BPM projects I have seen that these terms being used a lot, but not leading to actual interactions/valuable insights and process adoptions.
    The customer mostly stayed some abstract notion of a person that gave some input, and got some output.

    Customer Experience, in a broader sense than just "website interaction" acknowledges that PEOPLE interact with the people and devices of your business process. And that these people are not just users or customers, but people made of flesh and blood, that have emotions during the interactions driven by the process and people's desires. And understanding these behavior, emotions, drivers (typically done in research, real dialogue, in testing), are critical input in designing the processes, and the interactions and channels.
    In the end, it's not so much the process, but the moments of truth (the interaction with the person requesting the service/product) that count. And not only the last receiving interaction, but the whole journey.

    Service Design is a strong evolving practice for this, in which a lot of lessons are currently learned. Interesting times ahead for BPM!

  • I'd have thought the question should be reversed: How central of a role should the customer experience play in BPM ?

    BPM plays a part in creating the customer experience but I don't think it necessarily has to steal the limelight, there are so many parts that make up a customer journey, process is but one piece and while it can be argued as a significant piece it's also meaningless without the rest that form the whole customer picture.

  • "How central of a role should BPM play in customer experience?" is a good question. A short answer is "in a competitive world, and for both technical and economic reasons, BPM is likely to play an increasing role in customer experience". But that short answer should be qualified by a definition of the terms "customer experience", "BPM". (And for the purposes of this discussion, I'll focus only on BPM as "technology" or "software" and only on customer experience as "customer experience system").

    With a nod to Wikipedia, let's consider customer experience as the sum of all experiences over the course of "a relationship" with a supplier, or more narrowly over "one transaction". Wikipedia lists "awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy" as individual aspects of (a B2C) customer experience. I would add as well "support". While the term "experience" includes psychological and other aspects of the customer/vendor relationship or transaction, we are interested in the technical/transactional aspects of the relationship, in other words, the aspects of the relationship that are amenable to machine mediation. And the result of this definition is that the customer experience in which we are interested here is a kind of "work", which is to say the "purposive expenditure of effort" related to changing states of objects in the real world. Each of the aspects of customer experience listed here can be defined as involving some kind of work.

    And thus we come to BPM. Because business process management software is "the" software which is concerned directly and explicitly about "work", and because as we have shown, customer experience is very much about work, therefore it's an easy step to consider a strong affinity between BPM technology and customer experience systems. Therefore, and insofar as providing the best possible customer experience likely involves using technology to facilitate the easier execution of the "work of customer relationships", then BPM technology is ideal for the job.

    Certainly ancillary technologies, especially around presentation and design, and also including back-end database technologies, are important aspects of customer experience. But none of these technologies are, like BPM, directly and explicitly about the modeling and execution of the work in question, the central work of customer experience.

    Despite the clear affinity between customer experience system requirements and the inherent capabilities of BPM technology, we still need to determine when and if BPM software technology is an appropriate choice for the job. The main alternative to BPM technology is to program the work of customer experience in code. And given the power of software frameworks, possibly enhanced with business rules engines (although rules engines can also be used in conjunction with BPM), it is absolutely possible to do everything that can be done with BPM, also in code. And in fact, this is likely how most user experience systems are delivered today. And where the "work to be done" is extremely simple, mounting a simple workflow in code can be very cost effective.

    The world is not standing still however. The context of the ebizQ question is a user experience arms race with ever higher expectations in B2C and B2B environments. The work implied by these higher expectations is becoming increasingly complex. And further, the rate of change for deployed user experience systems is also increasing. For these reasons, it increasingly makes sense that BPM technology (i.e. BPM software) would be the choice for organizations that want to deliver the richest user experiences. Such leading-edge organizations will be constantly learning and adjusting the work that they support. And because the work of user experience is abstracted out as BPM process models, along with separate database, rules and presentation layers, the organizations that have made this choice will have a clear advantage. The choice for user-experience-by-BPM-technology is a choice for flexibility, adaptability and ultimately, much lower cost-to-maintain the best possible user experience.

    The argument here that BPM is suitable for a situation involving “work” can of course be applied to almost any domain. However, the argument for the use of BPM in the specific domain of customer experience is particularly acute because of the gap between current practice and technical possibility, a gap highlighted all the more by competitive pressure. This gap is an opportunity for leadership by customer experience advocates, BPM technology champions, BPO BPM experts and especially business leaders. It’s time to “take responsibility for the work of customer experience!”

    • Ultimately it all comes down to having a clear understanding of what is "the work"... Clay Christensen offers an interesting view on how customer experience engineers might approach this challenge in this brief video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmbSpTJXozk&feature=share&list=PLCErWqo9JJMvA7dGjShAuy3m75EHAUIdR

      • Arnold, thanks for the link! (Both for this one and the original one.) The Christensen video is fascinating and worth watching -- it's very "B2C", but intriguing in that Christensen (of "Innovator's Dilemma fame of course) explicitly calls out "experience" as defined by the "work to be done".

        I don't see BPM technology as immediately "applicable to milkshake consumption" (although, with the arrival of the Internet of Things, who knows...); nevertheless the point is well taken that experience is closely connected to work. I'm intrigued with Christensen's idea that products are "hired" to do a job -- in the case at hand, i.e. milkshakes, it's "micro business process outsourcing" . . .

    • Just want to disagree that the relation between customer experience and mediated BPM events be conflated to "work." In fact some of the elements of BPM cited in the wiki ref come from BAT - or from action theory and communication theory. The transactional aspects of the customer-business relationship are not necessarily (for either); nor are they necessarily purposive activity (e.g. distraction in the attention economy). Furthermore, certain concepts - offer, proposal, transaction, fulfillment - are linguistic in nature and so again, not "work." I think symbolic interaction is a better reference for the meaning of those phenomena, the gist of which being that a lot of the meaning of the customer experience is symbolic, semiotic, situational, relational, interpersonal - in short social. Best understood, again, not as work; and best represented as social action (not as utility or value of objects).

  • By the way, coincidentally, a friend just tweeted today this original article from August, 2012, from the San Francisco-based design firm Cooper:


    Check out the "thirteen-convenient-app-based-steps-you-need-to-perform-to-enter-your-car", which is a laugh, and also laughable. At least the example highlights the whole issue of "work" . . .

  • It seems to be the the customer experience is an ongoing and key data input that impacts all BPM processes, so there needs to be a way built into the process to get that information frequently.

  • I think Theo hits the nail on the head. BPM can be exploited to make a significant contribution to customer experience (Forrester gives a nod to this idea when they talk of BPM-enabled applications as "systems of engagement"), but only if we are thinking hard about customer experience when deploying BPM-driven processes.

    Unfortunately, though, while such processes may be built by very skilled teams of process professionals and business SMEs, neither of those specialties necessarily includes expertise in customer experience. And yet, it's precisely customer experience that can dictate the success or failure of a BPM-enabled deployment.

    The implication for corporate BPM initiatives is clear: involve customer experience experts, early and often, to help ensure that your processes aren't just efficient and compliant, but that your customers (whether internal or external) are willing to use them.

  • Agree with the most of the above. Processes are part of customer experience, but have you ever seen a customer who asked you about your processes?

    No, they want that you do what you promise, they want to be treated well. They don't want to be a lead in salesforce. They want to talk to real people, not to telephone robots. If you promise to call them back, they expect to be called back. They want a website that's easy and in their own language. And that's indeed so much more then only about BPM.

    getting grip on your processes is most of the time hard enough and it contributes, but also making it an experience is another piece of cake.

    And I think it;s even possible too make a great customer experience with crappy processes.

  • First of all it depends on who is deemed the customer. Is it your colleague in another department or is it the end consumer?
    In either case you need all stakeholders to be involved in the design process. For a successful result you can't have a top-down hierarchial design led system it will fail with the 'everyday' user!

  • As ACM technolgy grows that support BPM thinking so the customer experiences will improve. Maybe at last "IT" supports "customer is king" but driven by people including the customer?

  • Maybe you've seen this:


    It's about process (getting the customer to the airport), but it is more about customer experience.

    • Emiel, thanks for sharing the video -- it's a fantastic story about an over-the-top customer experience, provided by a great story teller (no spoilers). But the addition of this aspect of "customer experience" to this ebizQ dialogue also highlights one of the challenges around discussing customer experience and technology. In order to keep the length of my own posting short (OK, "shorter" . . .) I mentioned limiting my discussion of BPM and experience to "aspects of the relationship that are amenable to machine mediation".

      But as you have correctly implied, customer experience is about much more than that which can be understood by machines -- in fact customer experience is first of all a human domain (forgive me for stating the obvious.) And this domain is very much my own domain of sales, which is why I enjoyed the video so much . . .

  • I meant to chime in the other day... my thought was simply that the question feels backward to me. Shouldn't it be:

    How central should customer experience be in your BPM?

  • This just in! By an interesting coincidence, today (Dec 17th, 2012) Forrester's Senior Analyst for EA professionals, BPM specialist Clay Richardson today posted an item on Information Management that exactly links better business process solutions with good user experience design.

    In fact Mr. Richardson suggests even starting with UX: "I am beginning to refer to this approach as 'Experience First.' Instead of putting the process model first and giving the process model highest importance, these teams put experience design first and then optimize and transform underlying business process to deliver on the desired experience"

    Interestingly, according to Richardson, this is the same approach that IBM's Phil Gilbert, of Lombardi fame, is also taking.

    • John,

      Since when is Customer Experience the same as User Experience (for a the users of a BPMS)?

      mmmm.... I only think when you are selling a BPMS.

      • Emiel,

        LOL, but you make an important point that UX and CX are not exactly the same thing -- although it's easy enough to find well-argued items that say they are, even if from different starting points.

        However, I am guilty earlier of not sufficiently distinguishing the two. In his article, Clay R. is focused on UX; the context of the ebizQ discussion started from CX.

        If in broad strokes we can see CX as a superset of UX, then it makes sense that UX is the linkage between CX and BPM.

        In English this means that an organization wants to optimize the experience of the customer through the entire relationship lifecycle, i.e. the complete "customer experience".

        And insofar as the technology user experience is a primary interface through which the customer interacts with the company (including mediated interactions via a call centre which would also be supported by software), then the "work" of those interactions is a prime opportunity for instantiation via BPM software.

        The primary customer experience outside of software would of course be the direct experience by the customer of the product itself. That product may also include technology, and in the future will likely include more and more technology.


  • Enjoy discussion, process underpins business's digital capabilities which are pillars to enforce customer experience:

    1)Integrated digital platform: in order to optimize customer experience, make digital influence on every touch point, a process-driven, responsive digital platform will improve customer life-cycle experience.

    2) Analytic Capabilities: Understand customer deeper through process/data analytics, know what customers want before they know themselves; process intelligence vs. intelligent process.

    3) Business/IT Integration: Every budget is IT budget, business's IT, customer-centric processes are designed upon outside-in EA principle; to well orchestrate application, data, process and delight customer with mature services and solutions.

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