Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Information Overload – June 2018 – May I Help?

Shirley R Cowcher

Good service shouldn’t take forever

I recently attended a shop where I required some assistance.  I had been given a credit by a manufacturer for a faulty coffee maker and needed to attend the retailers, where I had bought the machine, for them to issue a credit note.  The manufacturer had provided excellent customer service following up with telephone conversations on several occasions over a period of a week.  Some of the communications had even been on a Saturday afternoon, which was a pleasant surprise to me.
Things changed, however, when it came to my experience with the retailer.  I attended the shop and armed with a credit number I explained that the manufacturer had told me I could call in and be given a credit note to the value of the product that had failed.  Firstly, the lady I dealt with kept looking for paperwork that didn’t seem to exist, even though I knew I had personally handed the item and the invoice to a member of staff 5 days earlier.  She then said that she would need to speak to someone else as she couldn’t find any paperwork for a broken vacuum cleaner.  I proceeded to explain to her that the item I had returned was a faulty coffee maker.  Eventually, she found the paperwork that she needed and indicated that I had to go to the coffee maker department of the store and await someone to assist me in processing the credit claim.
As I waited the gentleman who was to assist me was stopped by shoppers on more than one occasion before he could get to me.  I waited and wondered whether there was an issue with insufficient staff.  When he did commence processing my credit claim he was required to key in to the sales system a large amount of information which was on the original invoice I had been issued.  He even had to go to the physical item and find the serial number (good job they still had it).  Once that process was complete he then walked me back to the counter where I had first commenced my enquiry and had me queue to wait for the original sales person to then go into the system pull up the information he had entered, print off several copies of that information and then write out a gift card to the value of the credit.
Even while I was waiting for the gift card to be written, the assistant was interrupted to assist another sales person who had a query about the use of credit cards.  My sales assistant was at least conscious of the time I had been waiting and asked if the person could wait until she had completed my transaction.  The whole process took more than 30 minutes and, as you can imagine, had me somewhat frustrated at the time taken to complete a relatively simple task.
The people who assisted me at the retail store were very helpful and, in some cases, apologetic at the time it had taken to process my request.  I can’t say that the service they provided was bad, however, I left the shop feeling dissatisfied at the overall level of service afforded me.

Systems and processes are factors

I believe that my experience shows that people who know how to do their job, are pleasant and efficient may be tarnished with the brush of providing bad service because the organisation has failed to provide systems and processes that support them.
In the field of information management, as technology is adopted to improve efficiencies, it is essential that all processes are reviewed so that it is not just a case of automating the manual process.  It is critical to consider the process in terms of business process reengineering, digital transformation and client satisfaction.  For example:
  • Is there a way that the process could be completed without personal intervention or minimal intervention?  An online search could be completed and the answer provided. An online form could be completed to commence the process.
  • Is it essential to the service that the process involves some personal interaction between the client and the service provider?  A delivery of physical files or a wet signature may be required.
  • Are the clients expecting personal service or are they happy with self-service and interaction with a computer? Be aware of client expectations and whether they can be managed or changed.
  • Is the time taken to provide the service important? Be aware of service and critical response requirements.
  • Are the clients capable of interacting with the technology being considered? Allow for capability and identify training needs.

It is possible to have a system that appears to deliver the specified outcomes but if the users/clients don’t feel that it is meeting their needs then the system has failed.  That means that you are not providing the service that is required by the users. Remember, if a system is difficult to use and not intuitive to the user then alternative methods of working will be applied by the user and you will find that the information is not being captured or if it is captured the users may require a lot of help to find it later.

Service with a smile

While we move towards the digital transition of, and artificial intelligence being applied to, information and records management, remember, that if you work in the field then you are there to provide a service.  The service you provide could be in a range of functions such as:
  • Developing strategy and policy for the organisation.
  • Establishing processes and procedures.
  • Educating and training people in the organisation.
  • Developing tools and technologies to support information and records management.
  • Monitoring and quality control over the processes, systems and information.
Try to apply the concept of service with a smile to everything you do.  Whether that is in a face-to-face situation or in developing processes, systems and technology that will be used by others.  Think about how receiving, storing, accessing and managing information should be a natural part of any business task and not the sole purpose.  If the systems and processes you have designed are not used then you have failed to provide an efficient, effective and user friendly service.  Develop your systems and processes with the end user in mind and you can be sure that users will be more than happy to meet your requirements – and they won’t even know they are doing it.  Now that’s a win –win.