Making Processes Visible to Customers

As customers, we all like transparency.  Nothing is more frustrating that to get caught in a process you don't understand, waiting for, you aren't sure what to happen, and hoping it will turn out OK.  In two cases, recently, I've been pleased to see that organization's recognized this and made their processes explicit.

One was Domino's Pizza.  I went on-line to order a pizza.  After creating an order and paying, I arrived at a screen that showed a cute flow diagram.  Above the diagram was the pizza maker.  Below was a set of six arrows:  From Receive Order, and Making Pizza, to Delivering Pizza.  As I sat and watched, one segment after another light up, and, magically, as the last segment lit up, the doorbell rang.  Now I understand that I am a process analyst and get more of a kick out of charts like this than many will — but everyone I've talked to at least likes the idea that they “know what's going on.”

A better example involves Herman Miller and CEVA Freight Management (Whose motto is “Making Business Flow”).  I recently ordered a new office chair.  They sent me an email confirming my order, and a reference number that let me access their logistics operations.  There I found a flow plan that showed a series of five arrows.   They read:  In Transit from Shipper, On Hand at Origin, In Transit, Out for Delivery, Delivered.  Given a snow storm in the midWest of the US, the delivery has been slowed, but I have watched my chair leave the plant, move to Oakland, and have had a call setting up the delivery — all carefully noted on the tracking site whenever I sign on to check.

I've talked, in other contexts, about outsourcing things to your customers — everything from getting them to pump gas and assemble furniture to letting them check out their own groceries.  Here's another way to outsource.  You don't maintain a call center to tell people where their product is, you let them check a process model that shows them where their product is.

To work, of course, you need to have a clear, well designed overview of your process and some way to monitor the flow of specific items through the process.  But given that, putting your process on-line is a nice way to improve customer satisfaction.



  1. Andy Beaulieu says

    I like the Domino’s website and have also used it as an example with a client who has a grant-making process.

    But seriously, isn’t the Domino’s thing just a gimmick? Unless someone is clicking a button or scanning a barcode at each step of the process, the model is probably just representational – at least for the cooking process. Maybe they actually put in a realistic estimate of the delivery time, based on distance (mapquest), and click that to kick in once the pizza goes out the door. Maybe.

    But, it is a cool website, and if I remember ciorrectly it there’s an audio component for the sounds of pizza-making – hopefully not based on what teenagers actually say to each other while they are preparing your dinner.

    • Andy, I suspect the Domino’s site is, as you say, a gimmick, although it seems to be well timed, since my pizza’s usually arrive soon after the flow plan suggests they are being delivered. Still, as a customer, it gives me an overview of what is going to happen, some idea of where my pizza might be in the process and allows me to anticipate when its about to arrive. It makes the whole process a little more concrete and a little more personal than the competitors who just take my order by phone and say: “It’s be there in about 45 minutes.” Like you say, its a cool website.

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