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Sharing Small Wins in Lean Management at a Contact Center

white computerSometimes, little changes can make a big difference when you’re implementing lean management, or the process of improving workflow to meet customer demands. I studied lean management several years ago; back then it was TPS—or Toyota Production System. We looked for items not so much on the “how to do things better” aspect, but on the “What don’t you really need to do?” aspect.

Here are some examples of the small wins:

  • We found an agent with really good average handling time (AHT) and really good quality scores. We asked her what she thought contributed to it. She thought about it a minute and then said, “It’s the way I have the icons on my desktop arranged. I have what I use most to least on my toolbar going left to right.”
  • We did an experiment and asked a few people to try it. They liked it. The next day we asked a few more. By the end of the week, we had cut 15 seconds off AHT. Sometimes, little changes can make a big difference.

  • Another win we found was with documentation of contacts. I worked in a retail environment, and the contact center was always slammed at Christmas. Documentation, while sometimes important, always adds time to calls.

    We decided that during busy times, we would suspend documentation. We also identified cracker jack agents who had a knack for quickly and efficiently documenting, and we ended up using this select group of people, calculating their percentage of overall contacts and getting the directional “Why customers call” information we needed.

  • Another cluster of efficiencies we uncovered was with staggering schedules of breaks and shift starts. For example, if you have breaks start at 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes and 25 minutes after the hour, you aren’t starting breaks at the same time folks are starting or ending shifts. This benefit can also be utilized for staggering lunches on the half hour, at 45 minutes up the hour, and on the hour, and staggering the start of shifts at the 15- or 45-minute marks, as they avoid normal peaks in traffic patterns.
  • Another successful process improvement, but a bit more difficult one, was roll-over chat skilling. We all know the mathematical benefits of chat concurrency. Many times, chats take much longer than phone calls - sometimes so long you lose the benefit of concurrency! To maximize concurrency, have a back-up skill for chat.
  • An example: Curtis and Amanda are very skilled chat agents who thrive on multitasking. Darien is very analytic and gives excellent written answers, but really likes to handle one item at a time. We put Darien in email with a backup skill - he only gets a chat when Curtis and Amanda are full! This increases the benefit of concurrency while focusing on those who thrive on it while keeping a backup and ensuring service level.

    One last note on process improvement - any process that requires approval is a failed process. That is a hill on which I am prepared to die.

    To take my own advice on how to maintain a less is more approach, I will end this column now that the tips have run out. That’s the best way to serve you, the reader and my customer.