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In our experience, when looking to make improvements most businesses focus their attention internally, rather than ensuring they’re providing true customer-driven service excellence. By purely looking inwards they fail to fully understand the consumer’s experience, which in most cases is the greatest source of customer dissatisfaction. That’s where Lean can make a real difference.

Lean aware companies actively listen to the voice of the customer. Once these customers have had their say, they can then focus on addressing their needs by analysing processes, eliminating waste and improving quality. This two-way interaction is essential for long-term service excellence.

The principles of Lean Consumption

In Lean Solutions, James Womack and Dan Jones introduced the concept of Lean Consumption.

Their proposition is that in order to truly deliver customer-driven service excellence and thereby build customer loyalty, businesses need to aim to truly improve the customer experience of the transaction, as well as provide an excellent product or service.

Developed with specific customer-facing environments in mind, there are six key Lean Consumption principles.

  1. Solve the customer’s problems completely by ensuring that all goods and services work and work together
  2.  Don’t waste the customer’s time
  3. Provide exactly what the customer wants
  4. Provide what’s wanted, exactly where it is wanted
  5. Provide what’s wanted, where it is wanted, exactly when it’s wanted
  6. Continually aggregate solutions

These principles reinforce the high-level view that efficiency gains come as a result of improved effectiveness.

The real customer journey

To adopt Lean Consumption, first put yourself in the customers’ shoes. Walk through a typical transaction with your business trying to appreciate all the actions and experiences that the customer has to go through in order to receive your product or service. From the simplest steps to the biggest hoops.

Take the following example (diagram below.). The traditional approach to improvement would primarily concentrate on the purple box. This focuses on reducing costs and reducing the seven-day lead-time. However, when viewed from the customer’s perspective they have very little concern for the internal fulfilment process. In fact, the seven-day delay is just a small part of the overall inconvenience experienced trying to apply for the product.

It’s clear that the elements the customer interfaces with most, and that often cause frustration, are typically influenced or controlled by departments outside of operations such as market communications and contact centres.

The primary focus should therefore be to eliminate the waste on the consumer side of the transaction, leading to immediate improvements in the customer experience. Ironically, experience has shown that a concerted effort to improve the customer’s experience in transacting with your business actually results in cost savings internally as both efficiency and effectiveness are improved.  

Applying the principles

In order to achieve customer-driven service excellence it’s necessary to first map the customer transaction. Lean Consumption mapping has been developed specifically for this purpose. It looks at the two corresponding sides, producer and consumer, of each element of the transaction and classifies each part as value added, non-value added (waste) or essential non-value added.

From this information it’s possible to use the following seven service wastes to identify specific improvement opportunities:

  • Delay
  • Duplication
  • Unnecessary movement
  • Unclear communication
  • Incorrect inventory
  • Opportunity lost
  • Errors

Example Lean Consumption map with typical levels of waste

InBrief_10_What is customer-driven service excellence


It’s clear that great customer experience should lie at the heart of every business. By adopting Lean Consumption and viewing your customer experience from the consumer’s perspective it’s possible to eliminate waste, refine process and improve quality. You will be delivering customer-driven service excellence and, as a result, generating greater customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Reference: James Womack & Dan Jones (2007) Lean Solutions: How Companies and Customers Can Create Value and Wealth Together, London: Simon & Schuster.




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