It’s easy to lose sight of what matters. For any business, nothing is more important than pleasing customers. Yet if you’re an owner, you know that there are many other concerns that are constantly demanding your attention. You have to meet payrolls, oversee marketing, manage government regulations and employee expectations. If you find yourself losing the forest for the trees, take a step back and examine your company’s operational business process. So what is it and how can examining it help?
If you’re wondering what an operational business process is, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business explains that it’s “…an organized set of activities or tasks that produces a specific service or product. The process of providing a haircut often has three main parts. First hair washing, then the actual cutting, and finally styling with a brush and hair dryer.”
Of course your business may be more complex. Still, by focusing on what steps are absolutely necessary in order to deliver the product or service to your customer you’ll also see places where you can trim. Remember, by examining what is also known as the core business process you’ll see the primary activities that must be done well in order to remain competitive. If you have a well-defined operational business process your company will be adaptable –– able to withstand competitive pressure from new arrivals. When tech companies talk about disruption, their target is often companies where these processes aren’t well defined. It also helps to remember that once you’ve created an operational business process you can always add elements that improve outputs but you can’t eliminate anything.
Every company is different but streamlining your operational business process can help you add value while not raising prices. Indeed, customers are the best gauge when it comes to your business. Amazon famously places them atop an inverted pyramid, making sure that every aspect of the company is customer-focused. Company-founder Jeff Bezos places himself at the bottom. Despite negative press for everything from selling counterfeit products to accidents involving van-driving subcontractors, the company continues to expand. Why? Because overall Amazon customers are very satisfied with its service.
In order to achieve an output, companies need inputs. Some input costs increase as the company grows –– like labor or material. Other inputs, like creative development may increase without correlating price increases. As you examine your operational business process, you can see what input areas are superfluous or not customer focused. Trimming some of these may improve your bottom line. Yet others that may not directly help the customer, like marketing, may be resistant to trimming. Indeed, in terms of producing a service in a way your marketing department has its own operational business process –– just the final product is not sold to the customer. However, it can still provide them with valuable information about your business. So as you make a list of various operations like customer services or marketing, make sure the ways you trim do not directly impact the customer experience. After all, no one likes calling a company and being directed to an endless phone tree that concludes with a rep who doesn’t understand your business.
Perhaps the easiest way to determine your company’s operational business process is by mapping them out with pen and paper. This exercise can help you identify unproductive or underproductive areas that need improvement. If you are starting a business, this is a vital first step. Examining your company’s operational business process can do more than refocus attention on its products or services and how they help the customer. It can deliver invaluable and new insights into a business that you thought you knew so well. And when it comes to customer-focused businesses, knowledge really is power!
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