How to launch a new business service from scratch

This post is from Cherryleaf guest blogger, Derek Bishop.

Designing and building a new service always comes with risks, especially in the recession. But with more entrepreneurs and small businesses emerging, many of which providing friendly efficient customer service (due to the size of the business and amount of responsibilities), large organisations are now being forced to step up to this new competition. Some are even feeling the need to launch a whole new service in attempt to win back customers! But sometimes the processes are underestimated and messages misleading, resulting in damage to the existing customer experience. In this article, I shall be providing tips on how to build your new service from a blank piece of paper.

Launching a new proposition/service

Many organisations have built a business case to launch a new proposition or service to the marketplace and statements included in the business case will be: “Service will be our differentiator”, we will be “easy to do business with”, “service will be key” and/or “strong service proposition”.

However, what lies beneath these aspirational statements can often be very flaky indeed. If the understanding of these statements is poor, then the service which is designed and built is guaranteed to fall short of expectations whether that be management, customer, or both. The company then puts itself at huge risk from reputational damage – because, if you launch with statements about the proposition which then falls short in the customer’s eyes, you will fail to acquire new customers or quickly lose those customers that you do acquire!

Understanding customer expectations

In gaining proposition clarity, it is critical to understand the customer expectations and then define the customer journey which will support the brand and marketing proposition.

Only through this process can you be sure of translating statements into a solid set of design principles, which can be used to then progress to the next stage. Embed them into the processes, the organisation design and the training etc. This way, the marketing proposition is being carefully embedded into the actual design and build of the service delivery – whether that is online, telephone based, email or face to face.

The ultimate result is that your actual service delivery matches the proposition you go to market with. Through this process you must ensure that there is an alignment of expectations between the customer, the brand, the proposition, management expectations and actual service delivered by staff. If there are mismatches these will become very evident quickly and will cause challenges.

Use the customer journeys to help communicate the proposition to the various stakeholder groups – customers, management, and staff. As you get closer to the launch, pressures will emerge around what can be delivered in the timescales and invariably some things may come under challenges to be ‘de-scoped’ from initial launch. As these challenges arise the impact of the de-scoping should be assessed against the customer journeys, as this will clearly identify if there will be an impact on the proposition. Failure to assess and de-scope against the customer journeys means you run the risk of launching a service that doesn’t match the proposition you’ve set about promoting to the marketplace.

Developing and implementing the complete system build

Often organisations will also focus on developing and implementing the complete system build before go-live, which to me is fraught with risks – in appropriate design, poor service, and increase costs.

Rather than building a complete system solution to support your launch, implement it with the core system needs, and support these with controlled manual processes. No matter how much planning you do, when you launch customers will behave in ways that you hadn’t predicted so having manual processes allows you to adapt the process in response to customer experience and hence be ‘nimble’ with your service delivery.

Once the processes have been refined, then look for ways in which automation/systems solutions would enable better efficiency. Short term, it may cost slightly extra in staff costs, but the system build and implementation costs will be lower as you will avoid unnecessary ‘Change Requests’ which will both be costly and time consuming to implement.

Ensure you have good controls and governance in place, particularly if you have lots of manual processes and you will be changing them. This ensures that as you change, adapt and grow you remain in complete control of your operation. In these challenging times, it is critical that management are in complete control of what is happening, even in an environment of rapid change – delivering changes in a controlled manner will be much more effective and will deliver better results.

Management information

Ensure you define and build the appropriate Management Information reporting, which will enable you to make the decisions which you need to on a daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly basis.

It’s surprising how many times insufficient or inaccurate management information exists. There has been much media attention in recent times about ‘poor’ decisions taken by top executives within large corporations, but is it solely their fault? The purpose of Management Information is to guide decision making and if the information is inaccurate or incomplete, then it is highly likely that the final decisions made on this information will also be flawed. Some responsibility therefore does need to be taken by those who produce the Management Information reports in the first place and they must ensure that reports are able to deliver a true and concise picture of reality.

The current economic climate drives the need for even sharper Management Information to enable faster and better decision making.

Conclusion

As much as there will be resistance to this, you must ensure that you have contingency in your resources to enable you to respond to unexpected challenges and demands. Whilst you may have forecast and completed scenario plans on how many staff you need, it is highly likely what’s actually needed in practice will be slightly different – whether that be driven through unexpected customer demand, processes taking longer than expected, unstable systems.

Develop some ‘what if’ scenarios of the range of possible things that could happen when you launch. Having identified possible scenarios, develop some contingency plans for each scenario so that if/when one of (or a combination of) the scenarios arises, at least you have already planned your options and can get into action quicker.

In contingency planning before hand, proper consideration can be given to the customer experience without the heat of the problem hitting you here and now – this way you are more likely to sustain your customer experience.

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