The Customer Call Center (CCC) had been engaged in some improvement projects for over a year when they called us, and although those projects yielded some good successes, the company still faced significant accountability problems with regard to handling customer complaints and working collaboratively across departments. In an effort to provide better customer service, the company developed many tools designed to help the Customer Service Reps (CSR) serve the customer. So many tools were developed that there was confusion about the tools, and as a consequence, most of them were not used effectively. The company engaged their own internal change agents from corporate headquarters and they discovered that too many metrics, stated goals and audit requirements were distracting employees from a “customer first” priority. Other challenges that surfaced were:
- Teams and functions were operating within silos
- Job role definitions within teams and across the organization were restricting the ability of the CSR’s to respond quickly and flexibly to customer issues
- CSR’s seemed to know and understand their own and team’s goals, but not organizational goals
- Managers were managing and not leading their teams, and were reinforcing the silo mentality
Management brought in a Customer Service Training program which had some positive effects, but true accountability for owning the customers’ complaint and effectively and quickly resolving those complaints was not happening.
The client had worked with IMPAQ several years back and they asked us to develop a training program for the entire call center population to address the accountability issues. The client felt that if the CSR’s were truly engaged, defined their own concepts of great customer service and then held themselves accountable to meeting those concepts, then they would achieve the improvement in customer satisfaction scores that corporate was demanding. Corporate had set a goal of customer satisfaction scores in the 8’s and higher. (Several branches of the organization including production and accounting had already been outsourced overseas and top management was looking to possibly outsource this function as well.)
The Director of Call Center wanted her leaders to demonstrate greater consistency in how they were managing employees and more professionalism. Many people had been promoted from within and were having a hard time stepping into a leadership role and away from an individual contributor role. There was also a lot of “hallway” quarterbacking and second guessing of management decisions.
Summary | Our Work Together
We began our engagement with a series of group and individual interviews and we came to the conclusion that a training solution for the general population was part of the answer, but the bigger issue was that the leadership team needed greater Shared Accountability for owning customer satisfaction and needed to provide greater focus and clarity on a few select improvement goals. (The Call Center was spinning its wheels working on too many improvement goals at once and not gaining traction on any of them.)
We facilitated Agreements for Excellence® (AFE) for the Leadership Team emphasizing cross-functional Accountability. The Team began to take ownership for the whole Call Center not just their individual departments. The team identified twenty-three Success Factors to improve performance execution and selected four of those to work on as team improvement projects for the next six months. The top four Success Factors were: 1) Solicit, understand and act on customer feedback, 2) Alignment and focus on top organizational priorities, 3) Effective hiring, and 4) Clear understanding of other team’s roles and goals. In the session, sub teams were created to develop improvement projects for all four areas and the groups met on a monthly basis to work on these projects. The team also created a Team Interaction Agreement on “Holding Ourselves and Others Accountable.”
In addition to doing their own improvement work, the Leadership Team was committed to having each and every employee attend IMPAQ’s Power of Personal Accountability® Program and we spent several hours strategizing how the leaders would roll out the program to their teams and how they would follow up with their employees once they had gone through the program. There was tremendous alignment in making sure employees knew this program was important and setting up the schedule of the program so employees could attend the program without having to worry about their daily responsibilities. The Leadership Team decided that a representative from the group would kick off and conclude each session, but that they would not attend the sessions with their employees.
The focus of the Power of Personal Accountability® Program was to help employees gain a new perspective on accountability, to develop ways to work more cross functionally to better serve the customer and to look at their own roles in providing superior customer service. The leadership team all went through a short version of the Power of Personal Accountability® Program so they could be on the same page as their employees. The Director of the Call Center did the introduction and came in for the conclusion for 10 of the 13 sessions we conducted. When she couldn’t attend the session, she assigned another member of the leadership team to fill in for her. (This was a critical factor for conveying the importance of the program to the employees.) Each session had up to 30 employees and we mixed people up so they had an opportunity to meet and work with employees from different departments. At the conclusion of each session, employees worked in sub-teams to identify strategies on how they could keep the work going and what support they needed from management to keep the work going.
Results | Anecdotal and Measurable
The Leadership Team met six months after their initial Agreements for Excellence Program to track and measure their results and to create new improvement projects. They achieved a 61% improvement in Success Factors overall; 17% of the improvements were general improvements and 44% of the improvements were significant. The group identified 25 General Improvements including:
- Improved teaming and trust between functional teams
- Much better understanding of each team’s roles
- More open dialogue on teams and across teams
- Much improved hiring process and bringing on new talent that were of a very high caliber
- More ownership by Customer Service Reps for customer satisfaction
- Better balancing of workloads on teams
The group also identified 16 Measurable Improvements including:
- Customer Satisfaction Scores consistently over 8.0 (This call center was the only region that was consistently above 8.0 in all metrics)
- Getting to an 8.6 in the metric, “getting to the right person”
- Each month, every team is doing an activity to reinforce the accountability concepts
- More shadowing and attending other team’s meetings
- Getting consistently good reviews and accolades from the sales team
The company conducted a pulse survey of the employees four months after the Power of Personal Accountability® Sessions and over half of the 225 employees responded. Some of the key results were as follows: 63% of the respondents noted that they had observed performance or attitude improvement within their teams since the session. 55% of the respondents reported that they have observed performance or attitude improvement across teams since the session. 81% of the respondents said they had taken some action steps to improve their accountability or performance since the session. And 60% of the respondents reported that they had observed their manager taking action steps to improve his/her accountability or performance since the session. 84% of the respondents reported that problems are getting resolved in a way that better improves customer service, improves quality or reduces time.