The Myth of One Dimensional Change for Service and Sales Improvement


Many companies may be harming their results with a single dimension solution. A ‘multi-dimensional‘ approach may provide dramatic improvements in both productivity and the customer experience.

Those who promote and sell single dimension solutions will claim that the one they have is the answer. But of course these single dimensional answers rarely produce miraculous results.

We’ll explore how a number of organisations have obtained dramatic improvements in both productivity and the customer experience using a ‘multi-dimensional’ approach.

The Single Solution Myth

It should be pretty obvious that those who promote and sell single dimension solutions will claim that the one they have is the answer. It’s hard for them to say anything else. If you are a company promoting ‘six sigma’ or ‘call quality software’ or ‘coaching programs’ or ‘customer feedback solutions’ or ‘lean’ you are going to claim that this particular solution alone is the miracle cure that organisations are looking for. But of course these single dimensional answers rarely produce miraculous results.

Most of these solutions can help, but form only one piece of a complex puzzle that drives service or sales performance. Time and again we have seen single dimensions solutions produce single dimension, single digit and temporary results.

We’ll show that in some cases, focus on a single solution can even produce negative results. Instead we’ll explore how a number of organisations have obtained dramatic improvements in both productivity and the customer experience using a ‘multi- dimensional’ approach and in the process re-designing some of the single solution ideas that they had implemented.

Unintended Consequences

Unfortunately these one idea solutions can have unintended consequence which, far from producing improvements, actually cause negative results. Two case studies show the problems that can occur:

Example 1: Sales focus ad nauseam

This company is one of many to adopt US style sales focus methodologies. These methods teach both sales and service staff techniques in how to sell and aim to create a sales culture. Often these solutions deliver some short term results.

However it is the price of those sales both in time and customer impact that these single dimensions solutions don’t measure. Unfortunately the new sales behaviours quickly wear off.

Results

The results in one company were bad for the customer and the company. Firstly, the customer suffered because of misdirected sales attempts at inappropriate times. So staff would attempt cross sales even though the reasons for the customer contact had not been addressed.

In other situations staff wouldn’t spot an obvious lead like a customer moving house and needing home and contents insurance.

The poor consequences for the company were wasted time on many contacts but also staff resorting to ‘down selling’ to achieve the poorly defined targets. The company offered multi product discounts and staff offered these discounts to get customers interested in cross sales. But, staff never tried the cross sell without the discount or to sell non price dimensions like convenience. So a single dimension focus, again delivered poor results: lower product margins, long handle times and dreadful customer experiences.

Example 2: Routing mania

A financial services company recently implemented a sophisticated skill based routing system with advanced metrics on everything. Teams were trained in narrow product sets as the routing solution could isolate these. The solution promised benefits of skill specialisation, quicker training and easier induction.

Results

Within months the environment was one of fractured and complex skill sets and routing created and managed by a centralised workforce planning team. Staff didn’t know from day to day which skills they would be using. During the day staff would suddenly take different types of calls as they were switched by the workforce team to fill roster gaps. The customer experience also suffered as transfer rates rose to above 30% with high rates of “multiple transfers” and low rates of resolution.

Staff engagement and service results plummeted. Trainers and managers lost control of the skilling of staff and couldn’t measure productivity or quality. Later this company adopted a completely different multi-dimensional solution and obtained dramatic improvements in both productivity and customer satisfaction.

Why do Companies resort to a Narrow Approach?

As so many companies have adopted disciplined approach to change and investment they have sometimes fed the one dimensional re. Evolution, multiple concurrent projects and an investment process that demands a separate business case for each change, result in a sort of Darwinian fight for resources. So the scope of business cases is often made too narrow.

On the other side of the fence, the vendors of products and solutions don’t want the business case undermined by investments in other dimensions of change or to admit what may be needed. Few vendors stick around to measure the long term impacts or to see the way behaviour “morphs” in manners they had not expected.

Nor do vendors want to admit that behaviour change, whatever the solutions, takes time to achieve.

One company, for example, implemented its CRM software three times before it achieved the hoped for usage levels. In the first two implementations, as the cost of the technology grew, the training, incentives and change management programs were cut back and the change became more one dimensional and in our view, less effective as a result.

Results of Multi-Dimensional Solutions

A number of companies have obtained more impressive and lasting results with multidimensional solutions. Two success stories illustrate this:

Case 1 : Putting the Customer Back into CRM

A major bank reduced workload by over 20% by rethinking how their roles and processes worked and without any additional technology. Their solution was multi- dimensional because it looked at processes, who performed them (the structure), measures and rewards, how staff were trained and what team leaders did to manage them. As well as major productivity gains this company increased customer satisfaction by increasing rates of resolution and reducing holds and unnecessary transfers.

The key to the multi-dimensional solution was taking out their product and process silos and re-aligning their staff according to the complexity of work. But that alone would not have worked without other solution dimensions such as :

  • Re-thinking how processes worked and using Lean techniques to remove unnecessary steps

  • What role choices and career progression they could offer staff; what measurements would be effective; and what reporting was needed to make performance visible

  • How team leaders would use their time to manage behaviour within the model

The multi-dimensional approach meant that previous ‘single’ dimension solutions were reapplied in a different way. For example quality management processes were restructured to drive the behaviours needed in the new model.

The process was surprisingly fast. By using experts in this multi-dimensional process, the company had a pilot solution in place in three months and deployed it rapidly thereafter.

Case 2 : Isolate the ugly

A Health Insurance company had tried a range of solutions to solve the problem of the complexity of work facing service staff. It had tried knowledge management software, complex skill models to simplify the work, and different types of help desks to support front line staff. But all these solutions had disappointed.

It seemed that the only way to get good at the job was to be there for two years and yet with high staff attrition, few staff stuck it out that long. There was both a productivity and customer cost to the complexity: over 10% of calls were placed on hold and tied up two staff and there were many long duration calls that failed to get resolution.

The multi-dimensional answer focused on the structure that would be more effective and processes and measures that aligned to the structure. The new structure had inexperienced agents take every call. But they were given processes to help them sort simple from complex and the complex calls were handled by the experienced staff.

Measurements, quality and incentives were aligned to the new model and a whole new induction and training program was created.

The results were dramatic. The service workload fell 30% and the number of unresolved calls was slashed. Customers were rarely put on hold and the volume of long duration calls halved. Customer satisfaction surveys showed that they were happier and staff absenteeism and attrition fell.

Again technology solutions were adapted and re-used rather than seen as the answer.

The Multi-Dimensional Answer

These case studies share a common framework. They have looked at their operations through a five dimensional framework which we at Limebridge Australia call PRISM. It includes the following:

Process

Well documented best practice procedures on interaction flow, customer management, interaction principles, hand offs and resolution

Resourcing

How people are recruited, trained and organised within the service model should be connected to the types of services being carried out and should define the structure of the operating model.

Indicators and Incentives

These must be re-aligned to any changes in the other four dimensions. So as practices change, roles change and management processes change, the measurement set must be re-aligned. These solutions have also often simplified the measurements to provide a clearer point of focus at each level.

Structure

The processes and resource mix need an aligned work structure. Often this means tiering the work by complexity across products and processes rather than breaking it into complex skills that are hard to manage.

Management

To operate in an operating model with new dimensions, team leaders and line management need to be shown how to manage in the new way. This means freeing up their time from administrative tasks and giving them the mechanisms to focus on the behaviours needed to make an operating model effective.

The results, as the case studies illustrate, have been dramatic and the companies who have used it have finally got the productivity and effectiveness benefits that they had hoped for from previous single dimensions solutions. So before you jump to a single dimensions solution have another think.

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