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How to address decision making challenges – ownership


I was settling down to write some more on the issue of how to deal with various kinds of decision making problem when I remembered that I, and my friends at Big Sky Thinking, had dealt with this before. Check out this post on decision making traps and this one on whether or not experts do better than software (they don’t). Anyway, this eliminated a number of ideas for today’s post <sigh>.

Ownership of decisions, however, is another very real challenge. Who owns the decision to refund a fee or to accept a return without a receipt? Who owns the decision to make an expensive offer to retain this customer but not that one? Most organizations have some idea who they think should own these decisions. However, in many cases, the person who actually owns the decision is:

  • The person who delivers it (customer service representative, store clerk)
  • The person who programmed the system or website
  • Someone who works for a partner or channel organization who happens to be the interface to the customer
  • The marketing team that sent out the mailer or designed the print ad that includes the details of an offer

You get the picture – if you are not careful, decisions can be made by unexpected people. Let’s take a concrete example. The personal assistant to one of your most valuable customers calls your call center to complain about a fee. Who do you want deciding whether to refund the fee (and potentially keep the customer) or not? Do you want it to be the brand new call center representative who started today? Perhaps the outsourced contract developer who built the refund module? Maybe the overstretched supervisor for the call center who is having a bad day?

Actually, of course, you don’t want any of these people to make the decision. You want to manage the decision so that the value of the customer, their retention risk and more is considered and so that the person who REALLY made the decision was the person who works on how to handle the best customers. Only taking control of decisions, being explicit about how they are made and using automation to deliver the decision in every channel, every time is really going to work. Enterprise Decision Management, in other words.