Category Archives: The 95 Method and Contact Centers

The Real Core Competency to Drive Performance

Good service costs lessI still hear a lot about core competency and outsourcing what you are not competent at in your government and business.  There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to such thinking, but what is often missed is the end-to-end system.

Bill recently purchased a music mixer for his band .  Bill had not used a mixer before, but felt that he could learn from friends and YouTube videos.  He purchased a mixer from a distributor of the product manufacturer.  He had difficulty in following the instructions provided with the mixer for set up.  He went to get some help from the outsourced contact center and upon calling the contact center he discovered that they knew less than him.  In fact, Bill frustrated with the support returned the mixer believing there was something wrong with the unit.  He agreed to return the mixer for a replacement unit.  Bill enlisted the help of friends to follow the instructions and discovered that the instructions for set-up were incomplete, but the unit itself was fine.

I have listened to similar stories in every industry.  Product manufacturer outsources there service to a “competent” service provider.  Only to discover that they can pick up the phone and smile and run cool reports, but the ability provide knowledge and end-to-end service is lacking.

There are costs associated with the “core competency” thinking when it is rooted the functional separation of work.  Returns, lost sales (present and future) and the opportunity to help customers and get direct feedback on the end-to-end service.

The manufacturer and the service company have to work as one system because that is the way customers see it.  You lose business quickly with the power of social media when the manufacturer and the service provider blame each other.  Quite frankly, customers don’t care about the service provider contract and the blame game . . . they want their problems solved and to receive good service support for the products and services they buy.  If you can’t deliver end-to-end service you may find customers going elsewhere.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it –  our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.”  You will understand the customer view of your organization and take inventory of the assumptions, beliefs and perspectives that drive performance.  Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist.  His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer.  The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience while improving culture and management effectiveness.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CallCenterIQReach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Beliefs and Assumptions – How Damaging?

 

All too often, I hear the use of statistics like the clip from Anchorman (above).  People don’t quote percentages too often, but they do say things similar to, “most of our customers like . . .” or “that happens . . . all the time.”  The problem is what follows.  I have witnessed multi-million dollar IT and management decisions based on nothing more than a claim.  I am often assured that the claim came from a “good source.”

I do not believe that organizations do enough to challenge the beliefs and assumptions where decisions are made.  The skeptics often succumb to the hierarchy – meaning if the source of the belief or assumption is up the chain of command it can’t be questioned.

It’s funny to me that people get challenged on things like their expenses, but not on operational decisions of much greater magnitude.  Some degree of due diligence would seem to be appropriate.

Conversely, it seems silly to me that those conducting a due diligence will quote ROI numbers for new lines or IT.  Then, proceed to roll-out a large project without even a small scale pilot.

You see all projects and decisions are based in assumptions and beliefs.  Some we pick up from other people, companies, articles, etc. and others from internal sources of “authority.”  Assumptions and beliefs make up our world as we know it.  We just need to be aware of what they are and test them against reality.  You never get a full answer, but you do gain knowledge when you test things first.

The question is, “What are the beliefs and assumptions that went into your last strategic plan, project plan or decision?”  You should have a list of what they were when you made the decision or even better make the list AS you deliberate the next plan or project.  Test it on a small scale and then make a decision.  This is scientific method.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it –  our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.”  You will understand the customer view of your organization and take inventory of the assumptions, beliefs and perspectives that drive performance.  Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist.  His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer.  The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience while improving culture and management effectiveness.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.comReach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Telecomm Still a Nightmare for Customers

I really don’t enjoy writing these blog posts on bad customer experiences, because the experience is real for me or someone else.  It would be a wonderful world if a customer could walk in and get the service expected or their problem solved.  This would be end of story.  However, this isn’t the world customers live in.

I was doing a podcast this past Monday with David Houle, a futurist and one question I asked him was, “Is the end of caveat emptor or ‘buyer beware’ at hand.”  His response was that companies that live without trust with customers were basically dinosaurs that aren’t surviving today’s environment, never mind tomorrows.

That same day I started working with my current carrier Sprint to get 4 new phones for the family.  I stopped into a Sprint-owned retail store to begin the exchange.  I read online that you could get a discounted price on new Apple phones.  Iwas informed by the Sprint agent that that price was only good for “new” customers.  I informed the agent of my displeasure and that moving to a new carrier now was an easier decision.

I went home and thought I would give Sprint one last chance by trying Twitter and Sprint’s @customercare, here is the exchange:

No end to the discussion.  As my last question has not been answered as of January 2, 2014.  Needless to say, I was disappointed in Sprint’s response.  I am not a fly-by-night customer as I have been a customer of Sprint for more than 20 years, but new customers are their focus.

The story does not end here.

I went to Verizon on December 30th to give them my business and was given a plan from one of the agents that fit my needs.  It was a bit more expensive, but I was a motivated buyer.  Anything to find an organization that appreciates my business.  The Verizon agent gave me a quote  and I told him I would collect the phones I had and bring them in the following day.  The agent informed me the “trade-in” value of the old phones was only good through December 31st.

The next day I stopped in at the store with phones in hand to complete the purchase.  I was informed by the Verizon agent that the agent that helped me the day before was not in and because he was paid on commission, he would have to send me to a non-commissioned agent.  After a 20-minute wait, I was passed to the non-commissioned agent.

The non-commissioned agent and I worked through 40 minutes of paperwork and checking that the phones I wanted were in stock.  We started the exchange and I was met with a fraud stoppage from the credit department.  Apparently, by buying 4 phones I tripped some fraud audit.  The agent said that my order was to be put on hold until I cleared the fraud audit and that could take up to 72 hours.  The non-commissioned agent called me January 1 (yesterday) to give me the number that was needed to clear the audit.  The saga continues . . . I will update.

I would like to think that David Houle was right and that companies had designed services that build trust.  However, my experience has been that caveat emptor is alive and well.  The consumer has to fight for themselves as commissioned sales people and having to do things on your own (as a customer) to progress an order are not user-friendly experiences.

Both Sprint and Verizon profess world-class customer service, but neither delivers on a consistent basis.  As most service organizations, they can not see themselves from a customer viewpoint.  They can only see the result of what they have designed and there is a lot of waste they are missing.  The waste is innate in the design they have chosen and will remain until they take a customer’s viewpoint.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it –  our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.”  Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist.  His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer.  The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience.  Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for CustomermanagementIQ.com. Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt or LinkedIn atwww.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The Perfect Medicine for Outsourced and Shared Service Success?

I ran across the “Sourcing Sage” and his creative cartoons about outsourcing.  I found the cartoons to be entertaining but not-so-much the sage advice.  His wisdom is that in order to outsource/share services an organization needs to do the following:

  1. Process Documentation
  2. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
  3. Training Curriculum
  4. Knowledge Base
  5. Product Documentation
  6. Organizational Optimization
  7. Workstation Standardization
  8. Systems Inventory
  9. Metrics
  10. Costs

Nothing new or creative but does “re-emphasize” what most big IT firms will tell you.  Unfortunately, most of this stuff guarantees nothing when sharing services and/or outsourcing.  In fact, most of it is waste.  However, in the industry this is best practice.  A fool and his money are soon parted.

And it happens all too often . . .

Standardization leads to failure demand as these manufacturing factories can not absorb variety found in service.  The result is a colossal waste of organizational dollars.  All the documentation in the world is not going to fix an already broken work design, it just adds to the costs.

For more on outsourcing and shared services click the one that interests you.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Divided Responsibility – Still Haunting Service Organizations

You would see it more often in manufacturing, but divided responsibility plaques service organizations too.  Typically, in manufacturing it would be seen in quality control efforts where management would declare high-quality products.  The management paradox is that more inspection predictably led to higher error rates.  When two or more individuals inspect the same product to “inspect quality in” it means no one is responsible.

When action items are delved out amongst participants of a meeting, often you will find two (or more) individuals being given the same task to “share” the workload.  Nothing fundamentally wrong with that except someone has to take ownership with the other(s) supporting.  Clarity in ownership is important to avoid finger-pointing or sub-standard action.

President Harry Truman with

President Harry Truman with "The Buck Stops Here" sign on his desk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To me, this divided responsibility is reflected in work designs where tasks are broken into so many pieces that no one can have a chance to know if they are doing a good job.  This is because the actual outcome is buried multiple levels beyond the first step.  Customers get frustrated as they have to figure out who does bear responsibility.  This often ends in escalations to management that unfortunately take a lot of time to “get up to speed” to resolve a customer issue.  “The buck stops here” is the famous phrase from Harry Truman that I hear from management in service organizations.  Finding the right answer for a customer is the problem.

Clear lines of communication in the design of the work and responsibility of tasks.  Keep the work together if at all possible, but make one person the owner.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Myths, Legends and Finding Ways to Get Me off the Phone

My AT&T package (phone, internet, wireless and TV) has been under-performing for the past few months.  They replaced the modem which apparently they do quite often as the UPS store in my area indicated they got 6 – 10 a day through their store.  Solved part of my problem – phone works – but didn’t fix the frozen TV or the internet problems.

I was saved by a technician that came out and found several problems that when finished made everything clear and (so far) working very well.  That’s the way things go when you get a tech, things seem to work.  The troubleshooters on the phone will tell you tall tales when management uses AHT and other contact center measures that predictably drive wrong behavior.

One contact center call to AT&T for a problem with my remote was especially egregious.  I was told that the Sony TV I have had a known conflict.  The tech told me that this was not true and that he isn’t sure why I was given such misinformation.  He went on to share that the contact centers agents didn’t know how to troubleshoot and wished that management would actually see and understand the issues.

But why stop myths and legends when we can have BS?

More often than not, customers want something very simple . . . their problem solved.  Unfortunately, companies are too focused on saving money than resolving a customer’s problem.  The management paradox is that not solving my problem causes failure demand and adds to costs – as I have to keep calling back in to get my problem solved.

Sad, but true AT&T.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Does Your System Make Workers Accountable?

I know what you are thinking . . . “my organization makes workers accountable with measures, performance reviews and inspection.”  Well, we aren’t talking the same lingo.

Rarely do you find measures in service organizations that matter to customers.  Usually the measures are all about reducing costs and meeting budget.  Let me tell you a secret . . . customers could care less about these measures.  And one counter-intuitive truth we have discovered is that measures that customers don’t care about lead to increased costs or a best a scorecard.  W. Edwards Deming referenced these lagging measures as useless to improving costs and service – “it is like driving a car looking out the rear view mirror.”  Customer measures lay out the road ahead.

Performance reviews make workers slaves to the system.  The game is to be compliant, not innovative.  It promotes a culture of brown-nosing and popularity contests, leaving most workers disenchanted.  They do make people accountable – to their boss.  The hierarchy is there to prevent accountability to customers, workers must bow to the next one up on the totem pole.

This thinking breeds inspection for compliance to measures that don’t matter to customers.  Most in inspection and compliance roles add little or no value from a customer perspective and too often creates animosity amongst workers.  Also, I find that workers are stuck in work designs that are sub-optimal and compliance means that we are perpetuating poor thinking and design.

So, what makes workers accountable?

Work that is challenging and designed to improve service is the short answer.  The long answer is that a worker that can see the impact to customer has a better chance of being accountable than a functionally separated one that your piece of work if blind to the one before or after.  This means that better designed work promotes accountability and it doesn’t require compliance.  Most workers willingly are accountable when they embrace a work design that makes them relevant and has ties to customer needs.

The bottom line is that accountability is attributable to the design and management of work.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The Customer Strikes Back – Are You Ready?

I recently read an article by Doc Searls in the Wall Street Journal called, “The Customer as a God.”  Customers have long catered to service organizations by being treated in a  herd mentality – meaning the customer has to adjust to to the service organization.  However, the future holds a very different environment.

Doc Searls references it as Vendor Relationship Management. The Customer is King!

This is yet another strike to economy of scale thinking .  Mass marketing soon will give way to individual marketing and economies of flow.  This future means that service organizations will need to absorb great variety in customer demands.  Standardization will not only cost more through failure demand, but will now not give what customers crave services fit for them in a customized manner.

Wow!  Redesigning our thinking about the design and management of work is now more important than ever.  Not only does it cost less, but it delivers service in a truly personal manner.

Are you ready for the future?

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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Complaint Line Con

You can find almost anything on the internet these days.  I found a piece by A Current Affair on Australian TV that talks about how hard it is to voice a complaint in today’s IVR infected and functionally separated  organizations.  The piece highlights how fast sales lines are picked up and how slowly complaint lines are handled . . . if at all.

You have to love an voice recognition system that does not recognize “complaint” as something that should be routed.  Of course, I believe that the world would be a better place without IVRs in general.  Its not old-fashioned to have a human answer the phone, it’s just good business.

It doesn’t surprise me that sales lines are answered so quickly and most other inquiries are slow to be answered or even resolved.  With many organizations – private or public – running failure demand upwards of 4 – 9 out of 10 calls means that these organizations are frustrating or even chasing away customers.

Imagine what it would be like in reduced costs to organizations if it could be designed out with different and better thinking . . .

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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The 67 Year Thinking Problem

If it wasn’t bad enough that SPC charts disappeared from the Hawthorne Plant after WWII as management adopted a mass-production mindset, 67 years after Japan kicked our collective behinds we still think the same about management.  Worse, we have even fallen deeper into insignificance in the US.  Short-term thinking driven by the financial markets and management with an attention span of the TV generation struggle to compete and innovate.

Buying and selling companies for profit and mergers for economy of scale.  Except profit comes from satisfying customers in new and different ways  . . . and mergers have not achieved the scale needed to increase profit as this comes from economies of flow.  The scale fantasy continues to drive the wrong behavior.

With great embarrassment, the US still tries to copy Japan.  How do you catch a competitor by copying?  It always keeps you behind.  Finding out what matters to customers leads to innovation that is emergent from what you learn.

Instead of thinking for ourselves, we embrace “gurus” that study Japan and have never actually applied the hypothesis.  Because if they had they would discover the truth through application.

The clock is still ticking . . .

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Read his articles at Quality Digest and his column for CustomermanagementIQ.com.  Learn more about the The 95 Method for service organizations.  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbittor LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/trippbabbitt.

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