Tag Archives: change management

The 4 P’s Of Contact Centre Transformation

Contact Centres. People love to hate them. The internet is full of venom and disgust at the industry. One blog I read last month suggested that “working in a Call Centre really is no different to being in a Chain Gang, albeit with mildly improved wages and less manual labour”. A recent article in The Independent said “Contact Centres have got to be the one thing we can all agree to hate”. And a BBC News poll held last year asked viewers “Are Contact Centres the sweat-shops of the 21st Century?”. Truly shocking stuff. AAEAAQAAAAAAAAFhAAAAJGI3OGVmZjExLWZhOGYtNDUyNi05NmNjLWJjODJiMTIyM2EwZA

It seems at times that our frontline Customer Service operations are generally about as popular as a bath with a boa constrictor.

It’s no surprise then to see that there are many organisations attempting to improve the way their Contact Centres work. After all, no organisation wants their customer experience to be considered to be about as pleasurable as a visit to a dentist with random arm spasms. They want solutions – and there’s plenty out there.

A simple Google search reveals a plethora of improvement models, methodologies and ideas about how to deliver significant improvements in the performance of Contact Centres. From Kaizen to Six Sigma, from fancy IT systems to training programmes, the sheer range of choices is mind blowing.

If you’re looking to improve your Contact Centre, it can be very difficult to determine the best way forward. And the worrying thing is, despite the insane number of “solutions” on the market, many customers continue to report that their experience of organisations is getting worse. What are these attempts at improvement missing?

It’s quite simple – they don’t address ALL of the key areas that influence Contact Centre performance. To fundamentally transform a Contact Centre you have to treat it systemically. In other words, deal with all the elements that make up its performance.

In this article, I would like to show you the four key areas you need to address in order to transform your frontline Customer Services operation. If you are able to improve each of these areas, you will see significant systemic transformation in your performance. And most importantly, your customer will LOVE you.

Ready? Here they are.

The 4 P’s of Contact Centre Transformation

1. PURPOSE (What We Do)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • What does our customer need that we can provide?
  • What is it that we need to do to make a positive difference to our customer’s life?
  • Why are we the best people to do that for our customer?
  • How will the customer’s life be different after dealing with us?

Why Is This Important?

It has always surprised me how many organisations struggle to articulate their purpose from the customer’s point of view. It is important to remember that your Contact Centre exists solely to serve the customer’s specific need. You have no other reason for being.

The sad reality is that many Contact Centres lose sight of their purpose and often become focused on things such as meeting arbitrary targets, managing demand and enforcing policy and procedure.

If the entire organisation clearly understands their purpose from the customer’s perspective, you become unassailable. If the focus of everything you do is based on the fulfilment of your purpose, the customer WILL notice. If it based on arbitrary factors, your customer WILL notice.

Can YOU define your purpose?

 2. PEOPLE (Who Does It)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • What do my people value?
  • What is the culture within the team?
  • Why do they behave the way they do?
  • How do they feel about their working life?
  • Where are their thinking skills at?
  • How does their behaviour affect the customer experience?

Why Is This Important?

You may well have heard the old phrase “people like to do business with people”. It may sound like a cliche, but it is absolutely true.

Unfortunately, there appears to have been a trend in recent years for organisations to focus mostly on processes and procedure while ignoring their people. The reality is that people make or break your organisation. This is especially true of Contact Centres, where the behaviour and mindsets of the people dealing with the customer are absolutely crucial.

If you want to understand why people behave the way they do within your team, look inside them. If you want to change the way people behave, again, you have to understand what’s going on inside them. Remember that people will act out their internal beliefs and values. No matter how many processes and procedures you put in place within your Contact Centre, your people will still spill elements of their self-esteem and mindset into their interactions with your customers.

How do you expect a person to focus on what’s going on for the customer when they are dealing with low self esteem? How can a person manage difficult customer behaviour when they don’t know how to control their own emotions?

And most importantly, how can a person give good customer service when they are not allowed to play to their strengths because of the policies and procedures that are in place?

How well do YOU know your people?

 3. PROCESSES (How They Do It)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • How does the work flow from the initial customer contact through the the delivery of the service?
  • What is the proportion of value demand (what we’re here for) to failure demand (things we don’t want to deal with, e.g. complaints)
  • How many people are involved in the process?
  • What is creating delays in delivering the work?
  • How much of what we do is adding value to the customer and how much is waste (unnecessary)?
  • Do our advisors have the necessary tools to deliver what the customer needs?

Why Is This Important?

All too often, we don’t scrutinise the way in which the work works within our organisations. I often hear the phrase “that’s just the way we do things around here” when I question people about why things work the way they do. Unfortunately, the customer doesn’t see it that way. If the way in which your service works is not optimised, the customer WILL notice.

What’s more, if things aren’t working well, your staff will notice. Contact Centre advisors rely on well designed business processes to deliver the best quality service for their customer. If they are hampered by inefficiency and waste, they will become less able to deliver a quality service. They will also become frustrated. This will further impact the customer experience.

How well are YOUR processes designed?

4. PERFORMANCE (How We Know We’ve Done It)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • What measures are we using to monitor performance?
  • How do our measures relate to our purpose?
  • What do our measures tell us about the customer experience?
  • Which of our measures are arbitrary from the customer’s perspective?
  • What effect are our measures having on staff performance?

Why Is This Important?

We have a tendency within our organisations to measure the wrong things. Contact Centres often operate to arbitrary targets which do not relate to the purpose from the customer’s point of view. In fact, many Contact Centre measures are designed to assess whether advisers are correctly following process and procedure.

If we measure the things that are important to the customer experience, our performance management becomes considerably more focused. Imagine a team of advisors all concentrating on delivering what the customer wants, armed with measures that clearly show them how successful they are in achieving that. This has to be better than a group of people trying to meet arbitrary targets, living in fear of retribution if they fail to achieve them – as is the case in many Contact Centres.

What measures do YOU have in place to monitor performance? Are you measuring the things that matter to the customer or are you blinded by arbitrary targets?

Summary

Consider the 4 P’s. Where is your Contact Centre at? If you understand your present state in all four of these areas, the route to transformation will be clear.

Real change comes when you understand what’s going on. Make it your job to understand and one day your customers will no longer compare their experience of your Contact Centre to non-anaesthetised ingrowing toe-nail surgery.

Let’s work together to banish those Contact Centre horror stories for good.

For a full audit of the performance of your Contact Centre, or for a general discussion about the content of this article, please contact me by emailing info@franklinhackett.co.uk.

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There’s no Silver Bullet for Organisational Change – How To Avoid Methodology Madness

In a previous existence, I spent a good portion of my career as a business analyst. And like many business analysts or change managers, I was always on the hunt for the silver bullet – the single “right” approach to making change within an organisation.

silver-bulletIt’s a bit like trying to fix my rather lovely but very temperamental Jaguar S-Type. I’m forever trying to convince myself that the next major repair will magically cure the problematic little bastard once and for all. It never does of course.

Anyway, like many of my colleagues, I always thought that there would be one approach that would sort it all out – a single methodology that once applied, would deliver the kind of improvements that would cause anyone interested in organisational change to dance around the office in delight.

So naturally, along with the organisations I worked for, I had a go with all of the popular change methodologies. Business Process Re-engineering, SPRINT, PRINCE2, Lean, Systems Thinking, Kaizen – the list goes on. And on each occasion, the various approaches delivered good results in particular areas while at the same time leaving other aspects unchanged. So the pattern would be this – try an approach, get some good results, realise that it didn’t work for certain areas and move on to the next approach. Then repeat.

Along the way, the organisation involved would experience a process similar to a failed romantic relationship. It would start with attraction – the organisation would learn of this approach, perhaps from another organisation that had tried it and become curious. That would be followed by romance – the organisation would fall in love with the exciting new approach and focus immense effort on spreading the word to employees. The approach would be tried out and often applied to any situation that would arise. Once issues began to appear, the organisation would move to the doubt stage. Questions would be asked – “is this the right approach?”. Previous users of the approach would come out of the closet and reveal that all was not rosy. Horror stories would begin to appear. Then, this would finally bring the organisation to the divorce stage. The approach would be discredited and thrown out, and the hunt for a new one would begin.

If you’ve ever attempted to make change in an organisation, you will no doubt relate to this. You may have also experienced the frustration and disenchantment that comes from the constant hunt for a single way of making change. You may still be hoping to find that elusive change method, the one, true silver bullet. Well it’s a bit like trying to push a piano up a back staircase – it can’t really be done.

So my advice is simple. Stop looking for that silver bullet.

You will never find one method that will solve all of your organisation’s problems. And the reason is that organisational problems are too complex and too varied.

Many traditional approaches to organisational change are very effective at working on specific elements of your organisation. And yet, your organisation’s culture and therefore its performance is made up of two distinct elements. The condition of these elements affects the way your organisation works.

The two elements can be described as Systems and People.

Systems and People affect your organisation as follows:

✦ Systems – The design of your organisation’s processes is a direct consequence of the way managers view the design and management of work.

✦ People – The day-to-day behaviours and experiences within your organisation are a direct result of the way people think. Their view of the world governs how they react to work situations, how they relate to colleagues, suppliers and partners and how they manage their personal development.

Your organisation’s culture is the product of the relationship between these two elements.

If you want to improve the performance of your organisation, you must address both of these elements. With this in mind, it must be true that a traditional change methodology would work well for specific portions of specific elements, but would fail to address all of them.

So what can you do differently to avoid falling into the trap of swapping approaches every 6 months?

I like to describe it in this way. You may be familiar with the ancient art of alchemy – the belief that any base element could be turned into gold by the application of a particular process. The word “alchemy” has come to be defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

Think about a typical situation within your organisation – say an area where you want to make improvement. You will find that there are multiple elements in place. These could be things such as:-

• A business process that is riddled with waste and inefficiency
• A lack of knowledge and skill within the team
• Several employees who have low self-esteem and consequently shy away from any involvement in making change
• A manager who validates his identity by imposing strict rules and restrictions on the team
• An outdated IT system that is no longer fit for purpose

Is a single “kill-all” approach such as Lean going to sort all of this out? No. Each of these elements requires specific attention and a unique approach to be changed.

Working through a business process reengineering project might sort out the waste and inefficiency in the work design but will it resolve the people issues such as the employees with low self-esteem or the dictatorial manager? Implementing a programme of training may improve knowledge and skill levels but will that be of any benefit while the work design is sub-optimal?

If you want to change this situation, you have to look at it systemically. You have to apply the most appropriate process to each of the issues – you have to change each of the base elements to really change the way things work.

It’s the same with my moody Jag. The car is an incredibly complex labyrinth of mechanical and electrical systems that all have to talk to each other and work together to deliver that special Jaguar driving experience. Fixing it involves paying attention to what is going on systemically, otherwise you can never resolve most of the problems that occur.

Damn thing.

So to conclude this blog, I want to leave you with this thought. Stop searching for a single approach to organisational change. Embrace your curiosity and identify all of the elements in the situation you are working on, then apply the most appropriate process to each of the elements to bring about the change you want. You may be surprised at just how much change you are able to make.

Oh, and no offence to Jaguar Land Rover intended. They make fabulous products and I recommend you check them out.

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John Hackett

Managing Director – Franklin-Hackett Ltd.