Wednesday 10 October 2018

Strategic v Tactical…. or is it fundamental?

Much of my work is undertaken in the service industry, and often in large processing centres where the work is done, customers phone in, problems are resolved, and often payment is chased.  In recent times, these have included utility companies, banks and councils.

I’ve had a few really interesting discussions over the last few months as to whether this work is tactical, or strategic.  

Undertaking my work, I’ll spend a fair bit of time talking to the Operations Director and/or the CEO about where the problems are, why this is happening, how we might fix it, and any changes to structure that may be required.  Equally, much time is required in the work, looking at the real detail of what is going on: the processes being followed (or not), keeping up with housekeeping / exception reports (or not), and tracking work load (or backlogs).

Ultimately, I think the strategic/tactical debate is just plain wrong.

If the organisation has a clear purpose (and many don’t), and the diagnosis is that many of the staff are not in a position to be able to complete their work (mostly it’s not their fault), then this isn’t tactical or strategic.  It’s fundamental.

At a utility company in 2017, I was reviewing an entire customer journey end-to-end.  The contact centre looked very busy, but they knew they had issues - they just couldn’t work it out.   My review found amongst other things:
  • high levels of customer query backlogs
  • manual billing processes where upstream errors had created very complicated situations for new CSAs to attempt to rectify
  • processing work that was being “interrupted” by customer queries.

I’ve seen this situation in many service centres, across many service areas.  It was like they were going round in circles.

One thing that is always guaranteed:
  • everyone was working hard
  • everyone wants to do a good job
  • there are lots of really good people working in these centres.

But, if you’re not careful, you can very easily get tied in a knot:
  • you answer a call, and begin to understand the customer issue
  • you complete the call, and begin to spend a little time resolving the problem
  • then the next customer calls (and you haven’t finished the last one)
  • you don’t get a chance to complete the first customer, who then calls back a week later
  • repeat

Taking time to resolve the root-cause, and also the root-cause so that it doesn’t happen to other customer too, is the way to lead the team into great customer satisfaction.

Sounds easy - when you know how.

I’ve seen whole contact centres do this - 100’s of people, going round in circles:
  • Meeting KPIs : average call time, number of calls a day, reasonable customer satisfaction etc.
  • But failing to complete the true task  - failing to meet purpose.

Just think of the cost:
  • 100’s of salaries paid for CSAs to go around in circles
  • unhappy customers stuck in these whirlpools of problems

Getting to the heart of these problems and lining up the work to avoid waste isn’t tactical or strategic - it’s fundamental.

Want to know mare - call me - 07775 595 595