Workflow Low IQ/High IQ: the Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly

Normally, I wouldn’t name companies. Today, however, is a different story. Several factors have led me want to rant & rave a bit. Firstly, this once mighty economy is in a recession. Secondly, last month, 65,000 net jobs were lost. Thirdly, American colleges are enrolling 75% fewer computer sciences students and foreign students are racing back to their home countries having received a wonderful education in engineering or some such domain because our government won’t let them stay as productive members of our workforce. Fourthly, I have had a series of experiences in the past two hours that bring to life the consequences and underpinnings of the first 3 points in this paragraph.

Low IQ – High IQ

Let me clarify: low workflow IQ means that an organization has workflow issues. They are suffering from low productivity, low efficiency, low quality, high error rates, a high rate of redundancies in work, little to no value-add in their activities, long process time, low employee and customer satisfaction, etc. A high workflow IQ essentially indicates an organization experiencing the opposite results.

The Good – Companies with Very High Workflow IQ

  1. Netflicks. Totally dependable and absolutely consistent in their process. As a customer, I am thrilled. They are a marvel.
  2. Jajah.This alternative to greedy phone companies is a joy. So easy to use and totally reliable. I emailed customer service a question very late at night as I was trying to reach someone in India and received a reply within seconds explaining exactly and simply the solution. I have saved hundreds of dollars using these guys.
  3. Lexus. Their service center is heads and shoulders above anything in the industry. I love them. Quick, clean, professional, thorough, honest. Everything flows there.

The Really Bad & Ugly – Companies with Really Low Workflow IQ

  1. Wells Fargo. One of the largest banks in the country with very sophisticated systems. Sure. In one visit to the bank, 2 tellers and a loan officer each plugged my account number in and pulled up 3 different accounts belonging to 3 different people. Human error? Whatever. One of those people had a $100,000 line of credit and the loan officer asked me how much I wanted to withdraw!
  2. Petsmart. Fish food normally stocked and available on their website isn’t stocked. The “fish guy” hasn’t any idea what kind of fish I am referring to nor the brand of food. I show him the brand and he walks away to get the “guy in charge” who tells me that in the 4 months he’s been there, he’s never heard of the brand (6 other products from same brand sit squarely on shelf in front of us). I ask him if he can order it for me and he explains I will need to go home and place an order online. I will. With the distributor in Japan.
  3. Time Warner. This behemoth digital media company takes the cake. My DVR machine breaks down, I take it in to a local Southern California outlet (because they won’t pick it up) where I join 18 people standing in line. One staff member walks away from his station and returns 30 minutes later to watch the TV hanging in the corner. The other, a tireless young woman, runs back and forth across the store to slow printers and the stock room deep in the back, retrieving various boxes for customers. Another fellow tries to answer the questions of a mostly Spanish-speaking customer for a full 45 minutes. How a store in this particular Southern California city with a population mix of 51% Hispanics doesn’t have a single bi-lingual staff member is appalling and beyond me. How they can send an employee running to a store room in the back to fetch boxes everybody needs is mind-numbing. How they can ask 3 staff members to share one slow printer several yards away from every workstation is mind-blowing.

Complain, complain, complain

I know it sounds like I am complaining. I am. I am not telling you this from the standpoint of a consultant or a manager. I am sharing from the perspective a customer. When businesses adapt to the business 2.0 and web 2.0 environment and adopt workflow optimization methods, their customers sing their praises and they succeed. When companies bury their heads in the sand and plead ignorance, they irritate customers and lose business.

What to do?

Wonder what it’s like to do business with you?

  1. Play “undercover customer” for a day
  2. Ask your customers for feedback and act on it
  3. Hire competent people and train them properly
  4. Examine your workflow and remove waste
  5. Reduce quality concerns (at least 10 of the 18 people standing in line at Time Warner were returning a “box” of one kind or another. Issues with suppliers?)
  6. Stop whining about losing business and the rise of global competitors and do something about it. Compete for customers again.

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