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The people factor: Process optimisation and the challenge of human behaviour

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Jan Kühn, Director at INOVO.

When tackling process optimisation, the goal is to get everyone working more productively and efficiently according to your business requirements/purpose. In the contact centre environment, that applies to goals linked to selling, collecting or servicing customers more effectively.

A good place to start is to examine the processes that guide interactions across touch points. This will help you determine where the pain points are and what needs to be optimized to enhance efficiency, productivity and CX.

When the staff become part of the furniture
A common problem that exists is that there can be habitual practices within contact centres, some of which result in negative aspects creeping into practices/processes over time. In an in-house call centre, for instance, you may have staff who have been employed for years. As a result, the focus within the company might lack immediacy compared to an outsourced setup where agents are measured on the last month’s performance, and where high standards always need to be maintained. If staff almost become part of the furniture, it could be a pain point that leads to a lack of strategic thinking about what’s happening on a daily basis in terms of activities and results. A mind shift is necessary from management all the way through to agents – a mind shift that teaches each team member to go back to basics and be critical of their performance. Undoing these behavioural patterns often takes time; requiring more of a revolution than a gentle evolution.

People and their role in process optimisation
The desired outcomes of process optimisation rely on this principle: if your productivity or efficiency is X, it can be uplifted by Y, based on a number of measurable principles that will indicate ROI. This is done through changing processes and implementing solutions, but the behaviour of all tiers of employees must follow the plan too. With the right behaviour, you should deliver the desired results, but if the behaviour is lagging then you will be disappointed in the outcome.

There’s also resistance to change. More often than not, people tend to revert back to what they know. For example, you may play golf and go for coaching to improve your swing. After one bad game, you might inadvertently default to your old swing because it’s familiar and comfortable. Those “bad swings” in processes could cause a hitch that can lead to process inefficiency and consequently a lack of productivity. Bear in mind, that activities or processes in which people are involved are potentially the biggest cost centre; which means that any process enhancements will result in cost savings too.

An open line
Another factor to consider is effective communication between management and contact centre agents. No department should operate in a silo and everyone should follow the redesigned processes with the original intent and desired objectives in mind. One could even argue that developing this ongoing communication is a process enhancement on its own.

To find a solution that works, it’s also important to build measurement capacity into every touch point to remove any potential doubts from the equation. This must then be measured consistently over a period of time – not just after the initial project is complete, but also later to determine whether the desired level has been maintained or if there has been any progress subsequent to this.

Ultimately though, by managing the activities that achieve the results, you’ll find that optimised processes yield the desired outcomes. Proven success will not only positively reinforce the behaviour of those directly involved in the processes, but also achieve the management buy-in needed to consistently maintain these processes and take your business to the next level.

By Jan Kühn who is a director of INOVO, a leading contact centre business services provider

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