Improvements in a Cost-Constrained Environment
By Craig Bailey
Has the challenge been made to you to do more with less,
while simultaneously improving customer satisfaction and loyalty?
Doesn't the challenge sound like an oxymoron? In reality, it is NOT.
The objective is to ensure that the firm is around for the anticipated
economic recovery and that your long-time customers don't seek
alternative providers for your product / service (solution).
A recent performance assessment for one of our clients' customer service
functions identified a number of opportunities to become more efficient
(reduce costs) while improving the customer experience. What we'll cover
in this article is an approach to uncover your own opportunities for
improvement, as well as "low hanging fruit" found during our recent
If you are a longtime reader of our newsletter then you've heard this
before: You (manager, senior manager of ANY department) need to spend
time in your company's customer service function, on a periodic basis.
If you were to spend just one hour a month or quarter sitting with a
customer service representative taking live calls, you would walk away
with a number of actionable observations that would lead to product,
marketing, sales, service, process and/or system improvements, not to
mention the newfound appreciation you would develop for what your
customer service team goes through to represent YOUR company in the best
light possible, regardless of the obstacles and challenges they face on
a daily basis.
During any such exercise (formal assessment or casual observation),
you'll identify opportunities for improvement that range from large
scale items (bigger than a breadbox) to small. During our recent
assessment, we came up with a number of items that were characterized as
"click savers." More specifically, there were several situations where
the number of clicks that a customer service representative has to go
through to get his/her job done could be reduced.
These "click savers" could be categorized as:
Methods of system navigation
Methods of system navigation
Let's face it, every customer service department has at least one
extremely high performing rep (hopefully more), while other reps simply
muddle through. One of the factors that we've observed in "stellar" reps
is that they are technically astute and have found system-navigational
short-cuts to get their job done. A VERY simply thing that you can do is
identify these short-cuts and ensure that other representatives are
aware of them. To be clear, the stellar rep may not even realize that
his/her techniques are a short-cut. As such, an approach to identifying
these opportunities to streamline is spending time with the stellar rep
and then with a new or less than stellar rep to observe the differences
in how they navigate systems and tools. Upon identifying the streamlined
techniques for navigation, conduct a brief training session for all
While the above idea is useful, what is truly SHOCKING is observing reps
continuously performing redundant steps that they could make "go away"
on their own. This includes, for example, a rep logging in to a
web-enabled application and typing his/her username over and over again,
when he/she could have simply clicked "Remember Me," and never have to
enter the username again.
Another example is when reps open a standard Microsoft Office document
attached to an email and are prompted with a dialog box something to the
effect of "Are you sure you want to open this document? Some documents
contain viruses that may harm your computer." While users must be
careful in opening attachments, if the particular document they are
opening is a standard MS Office format (*.doc, *.xls, *.ppt, etc.), they
can simply click the option "Don't ask me about this in the future."
Ensuring that each rep has done this for standard MS Office files is
While the prior items are easily addressed within and by the customer
service organization, items in this category will likely require that
you engage your IS organization to revise system parameters and/or
list-of-values to simplify and get rid of unnecessary or convoluted
steps. A couple of examples include:
The system requires certain fields to be populated.
While it is likely that 99% of the required fields are truly
required, the reality is that there are likely fields that users
ONLY populate (with "garbage") so that they can complete the
transaction. Why not make these fields "not-required" if they are,
in fact, serving no purpose?
Lists of values containing cryptic codes requiring the
user to open a separate screen to get a definition of each of the
list of values. Why not scrub the codes to remove old / outdated
items and make those remaining more intuitively obvious?
The above items may seem "simplistic." Well, they are. However, these
are the kinds of things that are prevalent in ANY customer service
function that doesn't make a conscious effort to continuously and
meticulously review day-to-day "working" procedures. This does not mean
a review of the written procedures (although that may be important), but
active observations of how things REALLY get done.
One way to generate click saving ideas, on an ongoing basis, is to run a
"click savers" contest. That is, have customer service representatives
submit their ideas (that they're using and/or would like to see
addressed systemically) to save clicks. Nothing like creating
competition and getting the team enthusiastically focused on driving
Too frequently, management is looking for the silver bullet, or is
constantly being sold on the next whiz-bang technology. Technology is
great, but sometimes the best upgrade is making more effective use of
what you've already got!
By making things easier and more efficient for your customer service
team to get their job done, you also improve the customer experience.
The customer inquiry is handled more promptly and accurately (read "done
right the first time") and the customer service representative's
attitude will reflect this.
In closing, we hope that you found this article helpful in your quest to
eke out improvements in this cost-constrained environment. If you'd like
help in this regard, feel free to give us a call.
+ Eking out Improvements in a
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