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Customer Service World Cup


The FIFA World Cup is fantastic viewing at the moment and we have been dazzled by the efforts of the premier 32 world teams. So it got us thinking about what makes world class operating models in business and what makes them sustainable over time. We’ve been lucky enough to work with and see hundreds of different organisations both here in Australia and overseas, and we began to realise that there are some similarities between winning soccer teams and operating models that are effective and continue to grow and evolve over time. Hence, we think that great soccer teams and sustainable and effective sales and service operating models, have the following in common:

  • You need a great coach to find the players and have them operate the right way

  • You need a great game plan or operating model design

  • You need a captain or management to hold people to the game plan

  • You need inbuilt ways to react to changes with counter tactics or model adaptations through a flexible midfield

  • You need a great goalkeeper or gatekeeper to defend the model from inevitable attack

We’ll discuss each in detail, why it is important and what needs to happen to help deliver

sustained operational performance.

The Coach

Operations or Centre Manager to Find the Players and Define What the Model Looks Like

In our football analogy there is one position of great responsibility that harnesses all the talent. The coach dictates the team and the tactics. In this context the operations manager or centre manager is vital in deciding what talent is required. This paper will discuss the gatekeeper/goalkeeper role in designing the practices that create the operating model. However, it is also true that the operating model dictates the type of people required. A bit like a coach deciding on the type of overall game they want to play and then picking the players to match. However, we often see these types of decisions left to people outside the business such as the central HR teams. Nothing wrong with that, but as chief talent officer, we think the operations manager or centre manager needs to have these following key things sorted:

  • The right profiling – getting the right people in the right positions

  • Effective on boarding – the first steps are vital

  • Ensuring training is high quality and reaching outcomes

  • Active succession planning

  • Giving the captain space to execute on the field (which we’ll discuss shortly)

Profiling the type of team you want is a critical tactic. One way we like to discuss it is to get team leaders to think about their current teams. Often we have already implemented a model that streams work differently, and activities are split between high volume quick turnover tasks and far more complex tasks. Leaders will often talk about tenure as being important factor in staff selection. We simply ask “Do all escalations come from team members evenly?” Framed this way, they will admit that some team members are great at investigating and resolving complex cases and some are not, and that there is no clear correlation to tenure. In fact, some longer tenured people are happier with simpler roles. Therefore, teams need a mix of these people and recruitment should take this mix into account right from the beginning.

Effective on boarding is vital. We have seen some absolute shockers where the teams are brought in in small groups, subjected to long-winded classroom style training and then thrown into a flexible roster with little team leader contact because, being new, they get the undesirable shifts. It all creates disjointed and inaccurate servicing from an under developed team member. Great coaches on board well and nurture. We recommend shorter inductions based on less complex material, practicing the role within the first week with customer contact and having ‘model office’ post induction environments to develop and migrate staff into the teams effectively.

Our last points are a reminder to not see development finishing when the person hits the team post induction. All great coaches are thinking about ongoing training systems, having people moving in and out of the team efficiently and getting their players coached effectively. It’s a moving feast which never stops – a great manager is never quite satisfied with the performance and the way people are developing.

The Game Plan

A Holistic Operating Model That Describes How to Play

We may be pushing the analogy a little bit to say that a team’s tactics in football are like an operating model design but there are indeed many similarities. Any team needs playing instructions, a formation and a set of team rules. Early on in our consulting to operational centres, we saw that companies were good at ‘corralling’ resources to handle service queries into smaller silos. People, systems and processes were grouped together, sometimes by product line or by specialist processes. Then the operations leaders calculated the workload and FTE and the rest was management. However, we have continually found that herding and isolating resources isn’t the whole story. In football terms it is like having the defence midfield and attack isolated from one another. Most Directors of sales and service operations will describe 3 key goals for their centre:

1. Great customer outcomes and experiences

2. Optimised Budget

3. A Highly engaged workforce

To achieve these requires strategic thinking with a clear game plan. We typically recommend a short high level design programme that looks at 5 key operating model or tactical dimensions. Once these dimensions are aligned, you would be surprised how quickly the team improves across all three goals.

Practices: Creating an excellent customer experience means defining and following Best Practice Procedures for every aspect of the work. The organisation has to define what good looks like so people can follow it and be coached to it. The Best Practices form the bedrock of performance and a framework that allows continuous improvement. The football equivalent is ‘one touch’ passing where some teams learn to move the ball really quickly.

Resourcing: Recruitment, training and work allocation need to be aligned to the most effective ways to organise the work. Having practices defined, speeds training. Effective structures enable a career progression that can be reflected in recruitment and staff profiling.

Indicators and Incentives: These must be aligned to the behaviours required and to structures and practices, as well as balance productivity and quality.

Structure: Reorganising work structure around complexity rather than products or functions can make a huge difference to performance. A new operating model can have more capacity, support career structures and help deliver better resolution. It can also help free up team leader time through reduced escalation and support.

Management: Having an effective operating framework such as reporting and appropriate daily huddles and scrums. Free up team leaders time to coach and then give them the tools and techniques needed to make a difference. The result of defining performance and outcomes in the above PRISM framework will be the operating model. The game plan and how to achieve the goal should be clear to everyone.

The Captain

Team Leaders Focussed on Methods

So the Captain is the key decision maker on the field, that’s correct isn’t it? For us the operational captain is the team leader. The team leader drives the performance of the team just as the captain urges greater effort or calls for tactical changes. Often we have been to operations and asked team leaders how much of their time they spend with people? We rarely hear that it is more than 10% of time. That’s like having your captain on the sidelines for 80 minutes of the game! Crazy and ludicrous in football – but why do we accept it in customer facing operations?

We make an interesting distinction when working with team leaders in a service transformation. Try this simple exercise with your team leaders – divide a white board into two columns, Methods (which change behaviour) and Tasks (which do not directly affect performance). When we do this and ask team leaders what is taking up their day, we end up with a very lopsided picture. The task side is full of things like quality monitoring, authorising transactions, reporting, allocating work, collating data, handling escalations, processing holiday and pay data, or making rostering changes. The right side of the board normally has a few items on it; coaching, mentoring, giving feedback. The time split is normally 90/10 or 80/20 at best! We’d encourage managers to create some space in the team leader’s day to spend time on the methods that are key to their role. You want your field captain to ideally be:

  • The on field coach spending time on coaching at a level of detail that helps performance

  • Aware of performance level of each team member

  • Striving for all team members to be the best they can

  • Keeping the team sharp and on the ball

  • Making real-time tactical decisions

So, how is it possible to get these things happening? Of course the soccer coach (centre manager) can also be looking at individual performance and they have back up from physios, fitness coaches and the like. However, the final scoring on the day rests with the team leader.

When we work with team leaders in a service transformation we introduce or remodel two key behaviours: the Scrum and Real Time Management. The scrum or huddle is a highly effective 15 minute plan for the day - like a pre match team talk. Team leaders meet and organise rapidly, who is in, who is coaching and who is looking after the floor. It sounds counter intuitive, but by having a roster for team leaders to oversee the site’s activities throughout the day, frees up all the other team leaders to spend more time on their own team. A dedicated ‘site manager’ is also a focal point to approach if critical problems arise. Tactical and contingency actions can be quickly deployed from the team leader’s real time position like a captain reacting to changes from opponents. Think of it like the captain coming off the field – the arm band is swapped to the vice-captain and so on, ensuring on eld leadership is active all the time.

So, our key message here is: keep your captains time focussed where it needs to be by providing a way of structuring their day.

The Midfield

In Built Tactics for Change – A Dynamic Model to Defend Against Adaptation

In a recent client engagement, they asked us how to keep improvements going after our involvement. We asked a simple question – how do you know when things change?

This was followed by surprised looks!

Companies like that one certainly have a desire to improve but are lacking an easy continuous improvement model and an ability to track change in the business. So here is a way of developing a model easily with minimal additional effort.

To keep moving forward we recommend a mid field that can work constructively with the gatekeeper to focus on:

• Sampling demand to build a quantitative demand map

• Collecting customer verbatims on frustration and effort

• Looking out for migration and automation opportunities

• Being able to design transactions

• Reporting back to the team with new ideas and initiatives

We call this the Qualitative and Quantitative continuous improvement method. The quantitative focuses on the nature of demand. It is like the midfielders looking out for the tactics of the opposition. For the quantitative, we suggest accrediting a small number (say 2 in each team) of continuous improvement champions. Set up a basic demand tracking methodology where the champions can track the contacts they receive on a sample basis, at specific times (e.g.: one week a month) or continually. The idea of using champions is creating very valuable data without it costing a fortune to obtain and using staff that are trusted. This will give what we call a “Demand Picture” of all contacts arriving. The contact model can be mapped into, for example, a value irritant matrix or category trends. The sample can be extrapolated to represent the workload and budget of the entire service offering, giving a much better view on “What to Improve” (our original question).

Though the champions do not stop there. The reason for using team members is so that this quantitative data can be added to by their experience of servicing customers. It is said that all one has to do to find out what to improve in any organisation is to ask the frontline. However, we curiously do not see that it is operationalised very well in many organisations. This is a way of doing just that. The champions in this example were very well aware of the customer frustration about resetting passwords, accessing their accounts online and lifting limits. Now we have the champions actively providing qualitative verbatims where customer frustration or high effort was being experienced through the interaction.

So with minimal expense and a few key methodologies, developing the midfield from within the team, can create a powerful continuous improvement process. Creating insight, tracking demand, spotting opportunities and involving the frontline in the redesign could transform your team quickly. Sit back and wait for the goals to be scored!

The Goalie

Practice Model Gatekeeper - Defend the Model from Inevitable Attack

When a client asks us to transform their operation we specifically request a position to be created to help through the transformation as well as take ownership of the whole practice model. (What we mean by the practice model is an optimised team structure where the practices have been consciously created to reduce customer effort, migrate to self- service and place quick effective resolution as the prime goal of any contact.) The gatekeeper is the owner of the operating model and the defender of the model just as a goalkeeper is the last line of defence.

Unfortunately, we find that any operating model comes under constant attack. Tactical initiatives, regulatory change, system releases and evolution drives change and tries to pull any effective model apart. Therefore, we believe a goalie or gatekeeper is essential. Think of it as the global process owner who has:

  • A strong knowledge and ownership of the whole game, just as the keeper can see the whole field in front of them

  • An ability to predict future changes

  • Authority to stop unwarranted changes to the model

  • Great knowledge of the current design of processes

  • Complete oversight of the model

We advise that in a service transformation programme, the centre chooses a leader who has some detailed knowledge of the processes, an enthusiastic individual who wants to see real change and is respected. Then we design every type of interaction, email, calls, and chat etc. using client centric design concepts with that gatekeeper. Each interaction is remodelled to create optimal contact resolution. At the end of this process the team have created the service bible, a handbook of practices that essentially itemise how to conduct each interaction, how to resolve or hand off for resolution. In this way, the practices create the operational model.

Consequently, changes to the way resolution is handled are fundamental changes to the operating model.

As gatekeeper, the role is to protect the model from changes and to integrate product system or other releases into the model. They don’t resist change, but they do ensure that changes are designed the same way. This is the fundamental point of the gatekeeper. They need to be able to develop constructive links with product and marketing to design how new initiatives will be managed in a best practice environment. Too often other areas decide that separate teams will be created, certain specific practices will be adopted and so on. Then the evolution to a complicated service model will begin again. So, select your goalie and get cracking on improving your business.

Who We Are

LimeBridge Australia is a specialised consultancy firm that helps our clients deliver better sales and service interactions for their customers. We work across all types of customer interaction and have an outstanding track record in delivery of operational improvements that are better for the company and customer. We have a blue chip list of past clients who are references for our work and results.

LimeBridge Australia’s design and implementation programmes are targeted at improving the customer experience and often create capacity of more than 20%. In all prior implementations LimeBridge have delivered a better customer experience at a lower cost. The model has been used successfully across multiple industries.

  • We improve the customer experience and create 20-40% capacity within four months through operational transformation

  • We deliver benefits in all customer contact points including call centres, self service, retail and back office administration

  • We start with a targeted diagnostic of 4-6 weeks which confirms the customer benefits, the size of the prize and the changes you’ll need

  • Our point of difference is that we work with and train your people in our methods so that you can improve continuously.

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