By Otie Hauser, &samhoud consultancy
Usual unusual: this is how &samhoud achieves breakthroughs for our customers. Usual, because we do what we say to achieve the breakthrough. We often embrace an unusual approach to attain the best result. This unusual approach is reflected both in our sessions and in how we look at performance indicators. A seemingly minor difference, but one that has a profound effect.
By way of example, I was given a wonderful assignment involving a call centre in the eastern region of the Netherlands faced with a major challenge. The long waiting times meant that customers had to wait ages before being able to actually speak to someone. An in-depth study revealed that customers, in many cases, were not being helped properly the first time round, which meant that they had to contact the call centre once more. As you can imagine, this caused an unnecessary inflow of telephone traffic.
The problem was caused, to a large extent, by the deployment of ‘inadequately trained’ staff unable to handle the huge influx of telephone traffic. Using more staff is counter-productive in such a case and merely a way of tackling symptoms. New hires received a brief training and were deployed almost immediately due to the hustle and bustle of the call centre in order to reduce waiting times. These individuals frequently stopped shortly thereafter upon realising they could not help customers during a single telephone call, which made them feel unsure of themselves. The result? Thousands of complaints each year and immense frustration internally.
Connect quality and productivity
Two performance indicators are of paramount importance to this call centre: the Average Handle Time, the time an employee requires to handle a call from a customer, and the Service Level, the speed with which the telephone is answered. The focus is also on productivity in terms of the number of calls per hour per employee. But all of these indicators say nothing about the delivered quality, which is a crucial factor. Customers will continue seeking contact repeatedly if the level of this quality is insufficient. A vicious circle in which this call centre finds itself!
The breakthrough we wanted to achieve entailed preventing the unnecessary duplicate inflow of telephone traffic. We therefore introduced the ‘Quality matrix’, a combination of two performance indicators: the quality of the service provided (the customer is assisted by an employee immediately in a skilled and knowledgeable manner) and the number of calls per hour. You could say that these are usual indicators. The unusual aspect is that we connect them together. On their own they say nothing about the total value of services, but they do acquire significance by being connected.
Plotting the quality and number of calls per hour in a matrix provides gives immense significance to these indicators and offers concrete guidelines for helping teams and individuals with their development. Each quadrant requires a different approach for development. The weekly team meeting (Week Start) uses the Quality Time matrix to shed light on the performance of the team and each individual so that they can develop and improve.
Its introduction met considerable resistance within the teams, but this quickly changed once the reason behind it had been emphasised and effective coaching and training had been provided so that the people concerned could truly develop themselves. The initial focus was directed at elevating the expertise and skills of employees to an appropriate level, which increased their self-confidence as well as the quality of calls. The volume of the unnecessary duplicate inflow of telephone calls decreased as a result, which in turn had a positive effect on the service level. As employees were now able to conduct higher quality calls with customers, the number of complaints dropped and employee confidence rose. Calls were therefore also conducted within a shorter period of time. Within half a year the number of calls per hour has also increased significantly.
Besides increased quality and productivity within the call centre, the service level has also improved. Employees are more self-confident and skilled, which has helped minimise mutual differences. This allows a better estimation of the inflow of telephone traffic and staffing levels.
Sometimes you need to approach things with a usual unusual perspective so that you can create sustainable value for employees, customers and the organisation.