This cartoon strip depicts my recent experience of trying to resolve some simple problems with a broadband and phone service provider. The organisation has been applying Lean Six Sigma (an approach that originated in manufacturing) to their services operations for over a decade and more recently agile. I haven’t named the company.
My purpose for calling
I have had problems logging into my account dashboard for months. Trying to reset the password online just didn’t work. I had been so busy, it had taken me months to get around to phoning.
The purposes for my contact are all examples of failure demand.
- ‘Help me log into my account’ and ‘do it quickly’
- ‘Help get me back into contract’ and ‘save me money’
- ‘Help rectify the issue with my bill’ and ‘do it quickly’
I picked-up the phone to ask for help
If you visit any contact centre you will find two types of demand coming-in – value demand and failure demand. Value demands are the type of contact that we want. For example, an initial request for a product or a service. Failure demand is caused when something has gone wrong for the customer. Value and failure are key levers for understanding the purpose of why customers are contacting you and a snapshot as to the effectiveness of our service designs. Understanding and exploring demand is nuanced and a sophisticated lever for reframing your services operations from the customers point of view.
Failure demand between 60-80%
My previous experience with this company involved moving from a business to a residential account. It took me 6 months, 15 calls and 9 hours of my time. Both experiences indicate failure demand is probably running at between 60-80%. It must be consuming a huge chunk of their operations budget. The sad reality is that most organisations have no visibility of value and failure demand. And if they do, they often apply the same approaches that caused it in the first place.
This is not a people problem
This is not a people problem. It has been well-known for a long time that you can take all of the people out of a service and put new people in and end-up with exactly the same performance. And this only makes sense when we understand that up to 95% of performance is down to the design of the system (see Motivation intrinsic, engagement free). And by system I mean the IT systems and forms of control such as measures, policies, procedures, rules etc. Focusing on removing or redesigning these give you a greater return.
The quality prize – a positive reinforcing loop
The prize for understanding and redesigning services to deliver against customer purpose are huge. It is a positive reinforcing loop. As customers get what they want, right first time, failure demand goes down. As failure demand goes down, capacity goes up. This means that costs go down and resource is freed to be deployed in different parts of the organisation. Customers notice the improved services and tell their friends about their positive experiences. More customers arrive as the stories of success are shared. Profits go up.
If you are a leader or manager and curious about the nature of demand in your organisation, you will need help. Whilst it is possible to do it yourself, there are many ways that organisations go about it in the wrong way. They end-up getting a false picture and deploy IT or other approaches. These invariably go wrong. Measuring levels of failure demand are temporary and not permanent measures. Workshops and traditional practices will not get you to where you need to go.
Stephen C says
Well articulated and very true ! The hidden costs are the ones that destroy the organisation and eat profit. Keep up the good work.