• 10:02:58 pm on August 13, 2009 | 3
    Tags: , ,

    Simon and Garfunkel sang “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”. Isn’t that how most contact centers run their operations? By service managers using a set of pigeon-holed metrics to manage their business to – like average hold times, number of emails processed per agent, and in some cases customer satisfaction ratings on their service.
    Being a good manager is a craft that is learnt through practice and experience, and some contact centers are very successful as serving their customers well at a cost that makes sense to the business. However, I believe that managers can practice their craft more effectively if they are guided by the best logic and evidence.
    No contact center that I have been in uses a process akin to the scientific method to optimize their service experience. This would involve designing an end-to-end service process, testing it on customers, measuring the outcome, changing the service process, re-testing and re-measuring. The optimal service is then derived by hard data to guide decisions. That is Evidence Based Service.
    Why don’t contact centers use the universally accepted scientific method to tune their offerings? Mainly, because it’s hard. First, there are few companies that have extended the rigor of business process management to customer service. That is, most agents hunt and peck through back end data and knowledge sources to try to find the information that they need to solve a customer’s issue with no real consistency of process. And secondly, our customer service tools are un-integrated, don’t work together cohesively, and are so hard wired to one another that it takes  a ton of energy to change the way that they work together.
    There are now tools and technologies on the market that allow you to make your IT wiring easier – think SOA, webservices, cloud computing. There are also many BPM vendors moving into the customer service space that allow you to change service processes easily and quickly.
    Whatever solution you do use, wouldn’t it be a very interesting exercise to extend the rigor of test and measurement to customer service? Your service offering could then be data driven instead of being based on strategic snake oil or outdated management philosophies.



  • Haim Toeg 3:24 pm on August 14, 2009 | # | Reply

    Kate – I think this is an interesting and intriguing post. I agree fully with the first part, that metrics used for customer service are usually static and reflect top-down objectives without much thought to the organization’s operation, efficiency and effectiveness. A lot of it is due to mental laziness and lack of introspection, as you say, it is hard intellectually but also managerially – having evolving metrics and objectives and the need to promote and explain them to employees, managers and other stake holders is an on-going communications challenge. It requires strong-minded people and rigor and discipline not commonly found among the ranks of service and support management.

    To your last point regarding the role of technology in this transformation, technology is a necessary component, no doubt, but the key to success is having people, managers and employees, jointly engaged towards the common goal. Having excellent process engineering and flexibility, and only then building or enhancing the technology layer in support of the people and processes.

  • kate leggett 9:22 pm on August 14, 2009 | # | Reply

    Agreed – Tools are just the enabler. What is the key is for service managers and employees to have the discipline to test and measure the effect of changing service processes. This rigor is what is missing right now.

  • Lars Gustavsson 11:56 pm on August 17, 2009 | # | Reply

    I have to agree with Haim.
    Change our tools and how they are integrated in Customer support – and we would save a few seconds or minutes per call.
    Make support teams stable (not pulling people from support for every project issue, and stop using customer support as a holding pattern for people that are between projects) – and we can make serious changes in ways of working -> turnaround times and whatever metrics you want.

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