It is safe to say that in any contact center as much as 80% waste occurs in executing common business processes.
Whatever the level of waste or performance in a business, all owners certainly agree they would like to see extraneous costs in existing business processes reduced and more cash moved to the bottom line.
Companies take these wastes for granted but they affect key success factors (reliability, service, efficiency, quality) and it takes a focused plan of action to take the initiative to “do things differently”.
Here Are Your Options
- Continue to put up with this waste level and hope that you stay in business.
- Try to pass the costs onto the customer but eventually your competitor may beat you with a lower price for similar services.
- Trick yourself into believing that you are delivering a higher quality product. It is great to think that, but customers expect high quality…without paying more for it.
- Develop and implement a strategy that finds and removes these wasteful practices.
The only solution is to attack business process waste and get your contact center running more efficiently. The good news is that tools and improvement processes that can get you on the correct path can be relatively inexpensive.
Business Process Improvement looks at the relationship between reliability, service, efficiency and quality. It attacks waste in the business process from the time a customer approaches the business through every step in the process of doing business and requiring support.
You Can’t Do It Alone
If you are serious and really want to get it done, you will need outside guidance. You need someone that has the experience in implementing effective processes and has the necessary tool set and drive to get things started.
A short term contract using an experienced “suitable” consultant will force you to get started and show you how to actually achieve tangible results. So, pick a consultant that has the ability to look you square in the face and tell you what’s wrong with your existing business processes.
* Don’t allow anyone to come in and use obscure approaches that you and your associates don’t understand. Make sure the consultants have a common sense approach.
* Try to seek help from consultants that are more coach and educator than project manager. Ask what teaching skills they possess.
* Avoid large and expensive consulting groups that are financial performance oriented. They may tie you to a process and approach you can’t afford, is difficult to implement or is not specifically tailored to your business.
* Circumvent experts that are driven to asking you to spend additional capital to get the improvements. New capital and technology has its place in your business only after all other avenues have been explored. You should not be hurried into technology solutions.
* Try to avoid the “Word of the Week” solution or a set of leading edge tools that have not withstood the test of time. Go with proven consultants, techniques and tools.
Stage 1: Business Review
Whatever the business process re-engineering approach is, it should certainly involve an analysis of where your business is currently.
There are proven business process improvement techniques such as “process mapping” that help you understand the uniqueness in your business and then apply identification and measurement tools. This business review will also require that you develop a vision of what you want the business “to be”, then direct you to define improvements to narrow the gap between the “today” and “tomorrow” status of the company.
In order to properly perform a business review you must ensure that the entire staff is involved up front. Resistance to change is the biggest obstacle that prevents people from wanting to help improve… so pick a consultant who is creative at how to get the message across on “current” and “future” state.
Stage 2: Creating the Roadmap
Once you have agreed on an “as is” baseline picture and it’s been communicated to everyone, then the chosen consultant will perform a process to analyze the baseline and identify the projects needed. The consultant should be capable to manage the “fixing” of the documented business process issues. Not just a “here is what you need to do” approach.
Defining the changes or improvement projects will require a company to apply equal portions of effort toward understanding the business improvement tools and how the business should look.
Unfortunately just removing cost from business processes without a good analysis as to the value to the business can be dangerous, especially if that cost is essential to delivering quality and timely output to the customer. The key principals typically used when identifying changes to a business process should be:
*If it does not add value, try to eliminate the step or activity (if the process steps cannot be eliminated try to combine them so that the process is improved or simplified).
*Another approach is to try to minimize the time, the number of people or the transactions to get things done. The art is how to do that step within the business process while still adding value to the customer.
*Be cognizant that any changes to business processes are improving the customer experience as well as the company’s bottom line. Avoid new practices that put a burden on the customer.
As you plan to improve business processes, a view of how the business will look after the process is corrected should start to emerge. Experienced consultants have the ability to see the future impact of their efforts.
Stage 3: Benchmarking
Benchmarking is another technique to ensure that a business presses forward. This involves understanding what a world-class process looks like in comparison to your own. The best benchmarking a company can do is to compare themselves to the best competitor in their class. Most good consultants have a full database of benchmarking examples to use for comparison purposes.
Stage 4: Implementing the Plan
At the completion of this planning process you should have many worthwhile projects defined and a vision of how they will all come together to improve the business. Your likely to have more projects than you can implement all at once, but they can be organized by priority.
Stage 5: Communicate Successful Implementations
The organization will need to be managed to use its scarce resources to attack these projects in phases. Focus on a limited number of projects which should be activated to get early results. Additional projects should be implemented after high priority ones are completed.
It is extremely important to get everyone in the improvement process fully trained. There should also be update meetings that reward progress and encourage support for the next projects that are in line to be activated. Nothing motivates like success.
Stage 6: Long-term Maintenance
Sustaining the process of change will be extremely important. This maintenance program process will need to be structured into a formal ongoing process.
The staff associate placed in charge of keeping the process going should become involved as early as possible. This “Change Agent” is a key individual that the consultant can train to carry on the message after they have completed their engagement. Typically, the associate needs to be a good communicator and have the respect and support across the company as this is a true key leadership role, not a part-time endeavor. It is up to this associate to make sure the company continues to learn how to use the improvement tools and keep things moving in the future.