The management of an IT outsourcing company was facing a number of operational challenges in its call centre. When this started affecting the overall performance and the bottom line, a decision was taken to proactively resolve the challenges.
Uncovering the Challenges
As a first step, a complete business review of the operations was conducted. It pinpointed issues with missed SLAs, lack of understanding of the SLA concept, mishandling customer queries, poor training, misaligned staffing levels to incoming call levels, unclear functional hierarchy, lack of active management, wrong KPIs and a low staff morale. The existing procedures were simply not designed to cope with the size increase that the organisation has been through recently. A new approach to call centre management was needed. The board decided that the key to ensuring sustainable improvement was internal process ownership. They asked our consultants to lead and facilitate the delivery of an improvement programme focused around employee engagementand and operational excellence.
Employee Driven Improvement Approach
The project started with a selection of an internal cross functional project team. They would be in charge of the development and implementation of a new operational model. The team was taken through a 3 day intensive training program aimed to give them the required operational redesign skills. As a first step after the training, a number of old cultural assumptions had to be abolished, the main one being that the employees did not need supervisors. Secondly, a new Management System was developed based on a weekly core business cycle, a daily operational cycle and a 2 hourly active management cycle. The development itself was done through various workshops with the call centre staff. This ensured that there was a broad understanding of the required changes, as well as a clear ownership of the model by all employees. An additional benefit of this approach was the consensus for a new organisational structure which clearly defined responsibilities and the need for more active management. As the model was developed by all the staff, each operational team was then made responsible for part of the implementation. At the same time a problem/ resolution system was introduced to capture all the issues faced by the different teams so that these can be resolved.
As the operational model elements were developed, a new staffing model was also developed by the project team. It was taking into account both the incoming call volumes throughout the day and seasonality with a contingency plan for unexpected events.
To top it all, a new set of operational KPIs were developed. These were based on the three operational business cycles to give a better picture of the actual performance throughout the day, after the day has finished and at the end of the week. This allowed a better control of the SLA performance of the centre.
Employee Driven Implementation
The implementation started through a series of communication session with all staff and a selection of implementation champions. The champions were then trained to implement the new operational model from inside of the process thus ensuring the best possible ownership. Once the project team was certain that all centre staff and specifically team leaders, supervisors and managers understood the process, the model went live. Even though everyone understood what was expected from them the implementation team remained on standby for a period of 5 days to deal with any problems. During the initial 2 weeks, the continuous improvement part of the new operational model identified a large amount of performance obstacles. As they were surfacing, they were prioritised and actions were taken to remove them completely thus ensuring more efficient operations.
The main phase of the project finished 17 weeks after it started. It delivered some fantastic benefits:
- 85% decrease in missed SLAs
- 10% staff level reduction
- Improved operational control
- More work satisfaction
However, the main benefit was a changed culture that would now ensure that obstacle were dealt with on the spot.
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