"By measuring, we get data to analyse - a requirement for improvement."
The improvement cycle part 3 of 3 – measure, analyse, improve
June 3, 2020
In this second half of the operations improvement cycle, we will describe how to create real improvements, that bring value to customers. The key is relevant measuring and drawing the right conclusions from the data.
If you haven’t already read the first two articles in this series about the operations improvement cycle, we recommend starting there.
By measuring, we get data to analyse which is a requirement for improvement. Without data you risk spending time inefficiently. Measurements are about getting the right input for analysis and they provide a map that lets us move in the direction we want. Without a map we’re not control.
To improve efficiency, you first need to know what employees are doing, and anyone who sets up rules for measurements needs to understand how they work and what the processes look like. If you try to improve efficiency without really understanding how the work is performed, it can result in employees experiencing stress and customers having a lower quality of service. Good efficiency comes from identifying inefficient workflows and unnecessary tasks.
Three tips for effective measurement:
- Set the metric based on what you want to achieve. What is the desired result?
- Ensure that the measurement goals do not lead to any undesirable consequences. A goal of shortening talk times can lead to more calls.
- Reevaluate regularly and update the metrics over time – they should reflect the current need for development.
Analysis is about identifying how you can make life easier and better for the customer. Using the collected data, you can identify problems and find their root cause.
During analysis you need to ask the right questions as well as ask many questions. Drill deep and look at the process or challenge from new angles. Don’t look at how the process should work, but how it actually works in everyday life. At this stage, it may be effective to take the help of a person who can provide an outside perspective.
It’s a common oversight to update and replace technology without also updating work methods and processes. For people who work in operations every day, this can be difficult to see.
An important part of the analysis is to identify unnecessary questions to customer service. For example, if many customers call every month and have invoice questions, it’s a good idea to dig deeper into why.
– An electricity company received a lot of billing questions and it turned out that it was the homeowners who called and asked why they had been charged an “apartment fee”. In this case, the answer was that it was rather a “facility fee” and by simply updating the wording on the invoice these conversations ended, says Bernhard Ödin, who works as a business developer.
Bernhard also emphasizes that organizations that need to comply with laws and regulations are at risk. They tend to be unnecessarily complicated in their customer communication. Many also use internal or technical terms that are not clear or relevant to the target group.
– Naturally, it’s important for organization to act in line with regulations, but it’s likely not a good idea to make that the responsibility of your customer. Misunderstandings and ambiguity always lead to more contacts.
Tips for smart analysis:
- Ask “why” x 5
- Be curious about how things look and work in practice
- Look at which issues reoccur, which ones require the most time and explore why
- Which employees need backing? See them as individuals, rather than a uniform group
- Use new technology to your benefit
Now we have finally arrived at the fun step. It might be tempting to throw yourself into this right away, but now we are properly prepared for it. In this section we look into some specific examples that we see are relevant to many of our customers.
Many times, it’s useful to restructure from traditional classroom lectures to smaller, web-based education. This way, employees can adjust the pace and go back and repeat to suit their needs.
Maybe a library of tutorials can make it easier for staff in everyday life and make it easier for them to solve more issues on their own?
Adjust workflows to technology
Update workflows to benefit from new technology. Possibilities are constantly moving forward. It’s about finding the best balance between people, technology and process.
– I visited a customer who had recently replaced their ticket management system. In the new system, the service technicians received an automatic notification when a new ticket was logged, but the customer service staff continued to alert the technician through a phone call. This type of inefficient workflows are more common than you might expect, says Bernhard.
Challenge current ways of work
For those who work in operations from day to day, it can be difficult to spot changes with potential to boost efficiency in workflows. That’s why it can be extremely useful to invite someone from outside or from another part of the business to offer a different perspective.
– When switching to a platform like Telia ACE, there are often opportunities to digitize analogue flows. An organization whose customers previously filled out a form on paper, sent it by post to be scanned and OCR’ed, saved a lot of time by moving the form to the web, says Bernhard.
As new functionalities are constantly being added, it is smart to explore the possibilities that exist right now. When the company with the paper form, described above, implemented the scanning solution, it was probably the smartest solution available at that time.
Tips for good improvement:
- Base your work on making it better for the customer
- Make improvements based on verified data and skilled analysis
- Think tailor-made rather than “one size fits all” when it comes to education
As always, feel free to contact us to explore possibilities together. We can assist with everything from specific operational advice to more comprehensive efforts. Start by giving us a call to discuss your situation and challenges, or if you have a specific question, we can set up a 90-minute workshop that will result in a productive plan forward.
In a hurry? This post in 5 seconds!
- Establish measurements based on what you want to achieve and make sure they don’t introduce any unwanted drivers
- Focus on how things work in practice, not theoretical models
- Base improvement efforts on making life easier for the customer