I recently worked with a member to determine optimal service organizational structures and staff counts. I began my research with our new benchmarking data for 2009, attempting to find relationships between center staff size and various productivity and quality metrics.
The most concerning relationship I found was a strong correlation between larger staff size and a higher average number of contacts to resolve issues.
While this was a quick-hit analysis, and not an intensive deep-dive, I believe it highlights one of the most difficult challenges larger centers face: decreased individual ownership of issues, leading to unnecessary repeat contacts.
While we don’t have a comprehensive model to understand why this relationship exists, my hypothesis is that larger operations, foster a “just a number” mentality among staff. The outcome: reps believe if they don’t give 100% one day (but still passably handle calls, meet QA requirements, etc.) they’re doing their job, especially as it pertains to the thousands of customers who have issues.
I know you’re asking, “Brad, are you suggesting we get smaller?” Let’s be realistic here – that’s not going to happen. But, I do think you should be asking, “How do I make my center feel smaller?”Here are a couple ideas our best practitioners have shared on this front:
1) Co-locate more senior reps with your frontline. Physically bringing your tier 2/escalation staff into your frontline team – either on a permanent or rotating basis, increases knowledge sharing as more senior staff can coach frontline reps in real-time. It will save you an escalation now, and allow the senior staff to teach the frontline new skills so they can fully resolve issues on their own in the future.
2) Design co-located team spaces for maximum collaboration. The actual design of team spaces is a great way to increase knowledge-sharing. Data shows the probability of communication between two people exponentially decreases as the distance between them increases from 0 to just 100 meters – so we’ve seen companies create spaces for teams where each team member sits together with a center ‘huddle’ table for impromptu problem-solving sessions.
3) Create a team incentive program. Even with the right structure in place, you can’t always expect the knowledge to just flow on its own. Establishing a program around rewarding teams for resolving issues and sharing knowledge creates a more collaborative team culture – and helps team members hold each other accountable for owning issues.
The key learning here is to not lose sight of your reps as individuals, regardless of your center’s size. There may be a correlation between center size and number of contacts to resolve, but with these strategies, there doesn’t have to be. What have you done to establish/maintain that “small center feel” in your organization?
CCC Members interested in reading further on this topic, I recommend viewing the case profile, Multi-tiered Support Clusters which demonstrates how NetApp, a B2B storage and data management provider, used principled incentives and co-location to increase team knowledge sharing and improve issue resolution.