Lipstick Doesn’t Look Good on Pigs

By January 31, 2024Archive, Latest, Viewpoints
It’s just not the right shade for the occasion

By Deborah Kops

The global services industry adores shiny new toys. Every few years, the industry gloms onto something fashionable and pretty under the belief that if we have one of those, our GBS organization will be most admired. Remember analytics driving GBS value? That was circa 2011-2013. RPA anyone? Following close on the heels of analytics. Process mining? The 2016 era drug of choice. And then, perhaps with COVID pushing us to recreate the way our enterprises work, we pivoted to service experience as the new kid on the block. Don’t take it from me; according to SSON Analytics, over 60% of respondents to a recent poll say that they intend to focus on customer experience over the next few years.

The buzz around experience, almost as if it is a revelation, is somewhat of a headscratcher to me. Fundamentally, what is GBS all about—deliver whatever scope it’s been able to grab with excellence and get stakeholders to adopt and hopefully embrace new ways of working. Yet I see GBS organizations of all shapes and sizes focus on the latter as an afterthought, thinking buying a slick workflow technology is a way to get friction out of a service construct that frankly needs to be completely transformed through digitization. But leaving that aside, if accessing services and solutions is a headache, changing the experience for something the business doesn’t value or need is not worth doing and won’t stick. If a platform is built on suboptimal processes, how can it possibly deliver a seamless experience? And if the GBS team is not communicating a brand promise every day in every way, how can the implementation of a platform possibly solve world peace? You get the lipstick-on-a-pig analogy.

There’s a lot of podium time and tire-kicking devoted to the concept of service experience, usually as an umbrella term for the implementation of an easy-to-navigate workflow platform rather than the transformational, value-adding initiative it should be, moving to digital GBS. And GBS folk who hear the buzz are looking for best practices, use cases, sample business cases and gratis consulting from system integrators in the GBS know. With luck, better service experience has been successfully implemented by HR or IT, and there’s an approach to design and implementation that has been road tested to build on. But GBS is really a different animal; aggregating disparate processes and functions, metrics and underlying data, and juggling the needs of disparate customers is not for the faint of heart. There are preconditions for success that don’t allow for shortcuts. And, when the rules aren’t followed, no one—from the GBS team who provides service, the CXO who funds, to the customer who expects a certain experience—is happy.

Why doesn’t investment in service experience play out for many GBS organizations?

  1. “I want one of those, too” Someone presented a compelling use case at a conference, so GBS leaders, afraid of being caught out as not au courant or best-in-class, embark on buying a platform service experience without doing the ideation, planning, resourcing, alignment, and enablement that is a very heavy lift. We like to say no two enterprises and their GBS work the same way, yet we think that implementing service experience can be achieved with a cooky-cutter approach
  2. Underlying process is broken Like my lipstick-on-a-pig analogy? Designing and implementing a slick portal that orchestrates suboptimal processes is not only a waste of time, but it can also further denigrate the experience by frustrating the user. If underlying processes are not seamless and frictionless, no investment in experience engineering will cover it up
  3. Lack of linkage to change, stakeholder or business relationship management, and brand It’s a very holy trinity, and likely should be aligned programmatically if not organizationally. Service experience is not static; it will constantly evolve as business needs and GBS organizations’ mandate changes. A new experience without comprehensive change management is likely to fail. An approach to business relationship management that is not aligned with experience is suboptimal. And ultimately, experience is the creator of brand in the eyes of the stakeholder. If these are not approached as one, confusion will be the order of the day
  4. Selling an Amazon-like experience No. Nada, unless there’s a plan to fully digitize GBS operations. GBS is not selling shoes and paper clips that are easy to consume with exceptions few and policies uncomplicated. GBS does not and very likely will not have the funding to set up an all-singing, all-dancing consumer experience. So why set a bar that will never be reached, setting expectations that are entirely unreasonable?
  5. Wrong success measures For many GBS organizations, “put up and shut up” is the primary goal of an investment of experience, targeting no noise out of a transaction manifested by Tier 1 resolution. But experience is a driver of so many of our metrics. For example, a better experience can reduce the number of change requests. A good experience is the best insurance around the proliferation of shadow organizations. Experience is vanguard when it comes to growing GBS scope. Sure, turn-around time, first-call resolution, and the like are important metrics, but experience drives almost every aspect of GBS performance
  6. Prioritizing the wrong use cases It may seem sensible to hit the messy, complicated use case first in order to stop the noise, but other factors should be taken into account. Attacking which process renders a quick win that is a good proof of concept? Where are you likely to get the right resources? Which stakeholder will sing your praises from the rooftops when you take friction out of their delivery? The right starting point has strategic program implications
  7. No-impact reporting Friends, appointing a manager well-versed in implementing a platform to drive the change that experience represents reporting in the bowels of the GBS organization is a non-starter. If experience implementation and management isn’t a top-of-the-house initiative, it will be seen as a tool, not a brand, and not a new way of working. And senior GBS leaders won’t take it seriously
  8. Low patience Ok, we all know Rome wasn’t built in a day, but when it comes to improvement in service experience, GBS organizations often have unrealistic expectations. It takes time to move the dial on C-sat, and even more work to scale and keep the numbers within a reasonable range. Any GBS organization that expects that a sudden focus on service experience is a one-time Hail Mary pass is sadly mistaken
  9. Lack of training We’d like to think new ways of working can be made intuitive, but there are so many significant exceptions to the norm in GBS operations—such as regulation, localization, and unplanned events—that workflow will become complicated. Assuming that both the GBS team and users can easily figure it is a trap
  10. Not investing in easy-to-use, comprehensive, up-to-date knowledge repositories The first principle of experience is to avoid interaction by providing all the answers in an accessible, easy-to-navigate, topical repository (in English or the language of record if you please). Yet it’s a slog for most GBS operations to interrogate, model, align, record, update, and communicate how-tos. So they don’t. The result—too many transactions, frustrated users, overstretched GBS team

So, I’ve properly chastised the GBS industry for running to the next big thing. What’s the best antidote to service experience disappointment (besides making sure your processes are shipshape and Bristol fashion)? If you read my last year’s treatise Service Experience: The Next Value Driver for Global Business Services – A Getting Started Guide, some of this may sound familiar. Here’s a quick list:

  1. Determine your brand, then align experience tenets So many GBS organizations haven’t a clue as to what their stakeholders actually think of them, nor do they know what their brand promise is. It’s not a logo or a tagline; rather, it’s service experience that is ultimately the manifestation of a GBS brand. If one of the tenets is responsiveness, how is it made real through a process and a tool? If alignment with the business is critical, how does GBS cater for both exceptions and high-value interactions? If going above and beyond is a brand hallmark, should there be a level of human intervention at certain points in the workflow? Building a brand from the bottom up—rather than starting with a logo first—is imperative
  2. Decide what you want your stakeholder to feel Is the output a frictionless transaction? An efficient escalation? Collaborative solutioning? Not all experiences should evoke the same reaction. Step back and shape experience not on metrics, but perception. Should stakeholders believe they are heard? That their time is valued? That they are important? Experience can be engineered if the GBS team takes the time
  3. Build a coalition of the willing. Don’t try to boil the ocean What’s the burning platform for a better service experience? Will IT and other functions buy into it, giving GBS some tailwinds? Have enterprise functions already started on a service experience journey providing coattails to align with? Are there stakeholders who can easily grasp the benefits and sign up for partnership? Forgo a big bang approach (but follow a roadmap), and thoughtfully work your way through implementation
  4. Create and ladder use cases that provide a return Make sure your underlying processes are not only ready for experience prime time, but that by staging implementation GBS can create a ladder of benefits that create an ROI…and ultimately momentum for investment and change. Don’t forget the previous point—select partners who see the big picture and will work collaboratively with you
  5. Invest in the team Successful service experience implementation is both a high art and an exact science. Getting the right talent in place with a pan-GBS mandate for change is critical. And, at the same time, delivering a sustainable, programmatic experience means everyone on the GBS team must get onboard. Help your team to understand not only the imperative for GBS sustainability, but also the reality—today, service experience depends on both technology and human intervention. The trick is to know what and when

GBS service experience is a heavy lift. Making superficial or cosmetic changes—for example, the way a stakeholder interacts with GBS—in a futile effort to disguise its fundamental process failings—is a waste of time and money and can ultimately create more harm than good. Don’t put lipstick on a pig.