Call Center Improvement: How Your Call Center Can Be Your Best – Early Warning System; Your Canary™ in Your Coal Mine

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Before the advent of modern solutions to detect harmful gases, workers used small birds like canaries when they explored or excavated deep mines. Because canaries are more sensitive to the danger of asphyxiation, the miners knew that they were safe as long as the birds still lived. In much the same fashion, you can use data mined from your organization’s call center as your own “canary.” This allows your call center to function as an early warning system and let you know when there’s a problem to address.

It’s no longer sufficient to simply meet or even exceed your customers’ expectations. When you’re facing tough competition or

Call Center Improvement: Canaries are known as an early warning sign.

Call Center Improvement: Canaries are known as an early warning sign.

significant waste, you need to learn ways to delight your customers with the products and services you offer. That’s where your call center comes in. One of the easiest ways to add value is to reduce your waste and variation in performance.

Before we explore the call center, however, let’s look at the definitions for three commonly used “but often ambiguous” terms: waste, opportunity and added value. Waste can be defined as “resources or efforts beyond the minimum required to satisfy a customer’s perceived value.” Opportunity, on the other hand, can be defined as any value-generating activity that’s not currently being employed. Finally, what do we consider “added value?” Here it’s important to understand that the customer determines the value; that means that adding value involves any activity performed for which your customer is willing to pay. That can apply to service after the sale or just a better designed product.

Waste is commonly found in call centers, especially when your employees are provided incomplete or poorly organized

information. Any time spent in looking up answers or waiting for responses from others is waste. Waste is also found in mistakes in information given. Any work that needs to be fixed on redone detracts from the service your call center employees are able to offer. The same can be said for communication breakdowns and misunderstandings between employees and management.

Now let’s talk about how to implement your “canary in the coal mine” system. To begin, you’ll need to evaluate your inbound and outbound call statistics, taking special note of several key factors. Can you predict the spikes in your inbound call volume? Is there one or more particular issues that receive more calls than others? Has your inbound call volume dropped sharply? The answers to these questions will give you a good place to start looking for opportunities to eliminate waste and variation. Your outbound call statistics should also be monitored, looking for calls that are not related to closing a sale, converting trial customers or courtesy follow-up calls.

Finally, it’s important to understand that most inbound call center calls are out of the control of the call center itself. Tracking the reasons behind these calls will likely identify areas of service or issues with your products that you can address to further eradicate waste and variation. Whether you choose to implement a process improvement system or just improve upon the one already in place, your call center holds the information you need to effectively create operational excellence throughout your organization.

If you’d like more details on this subject join us for a free 55 minute webinar May 30, 2013.

Find out how to mine your call center for gold.

Register here.

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Connect with us in LinkedIn:

Ron Crabtree, CPIM, CIRM, CSCP, MLSSBB

Kim Crabtree, President of MetaOps WBENC Certified