Streamline Business Processes that Impact the Customer

Make Sure the Customer’s Point of View Is the Design Center for Continuous Process Improvement

January 12, 2006

The third critical success factor originally introduced in is “Streamline the Business Processes that Impact the Customer.” It is vital that the end customer be the design center for customer-facing processes.


In this updated version of the discussion of the third critical success factor presented in, we look at the importance of streamlining business processes that impact the customer. The key steps to ensuring that your customer-facing business processes are addressing the needs and concerns of your customers are:
•    Focus on customer-impacting processes, not internal-only processes. Avoid the temp-tation to put lots of time and effort into pro-cesses that are intended to make employees more efficient, but which don’t have much customer impact.
•    Start by identifying the end customer. This is the person who actually uses your products or services.
•    Streamline the process from the end cus-tomer’s point of view.
•    Streamline the process for key stakehold-ers. Once the concerns of the end customer are addressed, make sure that the critical needs of partners, suppliers, collaborators, and others involved in the process are also being addressed.
•    Continuously improve the process based on customer feedback. Whenever appropriate, solicit feedback, listen to what’s being said, and act upon the results.
•    Give everyone involved a clear view of the process. A process is not a single moment or event; it typically takes a number of steps to be completed, often over time. Don’t hide the ongoing status as the steps are being undertaken. Let customers, employees, and stakeholders see how things are progressing.

A New Version of

In, we identified eight critical success factors for making it easy for your customers to do business with you. They sound so simple, so prosaic. Yet as we “unpack” each one, you’ll see that there are many subtleties involved in getting them right. The CSFs are:
•    Target the right customers
•    Own the customer’s total experience
•    Streamline business processes that impact the customer
•    Provide a 360-degree view of the customer relationship
•    Let customers help themselves
•    Help customers do their jobs
•    Deliver personalized service
•    Foster community

In the eight years since our best-selling book was first published in 1998, we have received almost constant requests for updates to both the concepts and the case studies presented in the book. As we approached updating the CSFs, we discovered that they really stood up to the test of time. Although we have updated some of the examples to better reflect the current state of the companies referenced (especially when there has been a significant change), the factors, themselves, remain viable and pretty much unchanged.

In this report, we present the third critical success factor, Streamline the Business Processes that Impact the Customer.


I love the convenient service American Express offers its customers over the Web. As a frequent business traveler, I have two fairly common problems. First, I need to submit my expense report as soon as I return from a trip so that my company can process payment in time for me to pay my AmEx bill. And second, although I always get and keep the receipts from the hotels and restaurants I frequent, when traveling internationally, I never know exactly what exchange rate was used to pay the bill. I could take the time to guesstimate it, based on the interest rate published in the local paper on the day of the transaction, but I usually don’t remember to check the paper. So what do I do? I log onto American Express’ Web site within a day or two of my return and enter my account number and password. There I can see every charge that’s been made to my credit card since the last bill and know the exact amount that was actually charged, in U.S. dollars. This is a great example of streamlining a business process that impacts me, the customer. By giving me the information I need to take care of business, American Express makes it easy for me to pay my bill on time.

I also really love how my Discover card categorizes my purchases and allows me to sort my statement online by category. It helps me see, at a glance, what I’m spending my money on and how my bonus points are growing.

How do you go about streamlining all the various business processes that impact your customers? How do you decide what’s important and what’s not? What are the actual steps you should be taking? I propose that you follow these guidelines:
•    Focus on customer-impacting processes, not internal processes
•    Start by identifying the end customer
•    Streamline the process from the end cus-tomer’s point of view
•    Streamline the process for key stakeholders
•    Continuously improve the process based on customer feedback
•    Give everyone involved a clear view of the process

Focus on Customer-Impacting Processes, Not Internal Processes

The 1990s was a decade of “process improvement” and “reengineering.” We watched as many of our clients invested in redesigning their internal processes, such as financial processes, document management, etc. These process redesign efforts resulted in some real cost savings. But the top line wasn’t significantly affected because these processes didn’t lure new customers, entice customers to buy more and more often, or encourage customers to recom-mend products and services to others.

In this new millennium, most organizations have realized that the critical processes to invest in are those that impact and transform your customers’ processes, not just your internal business processes. Streamlining customer-facing and customer-impacting processes will help you increase revenues and grow market share...


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