One of my colleagues recently asked me to train him on SMED, because he felt this tool is as important as the 5S. It is indeed a “magic” tool because the methodology gives striking results. But it is necessary to properly choose in what case to use it. In this article I will show you how to use SMED to optimize the performance of a call center.
The Customer Contact Centers (CCC) are now essential. CCC are one of the gateways to meet the needs of both internal and external customers. Whether it’s a plane ticket, a bank transfer, or a simple request for information from a customer. Whether it’s for a question about the pay or to reset your password with the IT service , we regularly use these centres.
Series changes in Customer Contact Center
What is the performance of a CCC related to? Mainly to the working time of the resources. The famous payroll. To optimize performance, as explained in another article, there are two axes: reduce calls volume or the call duration.
Today I will be interested in the call duration and especially at the time after the call. I assume that the time spent with the client is value-added. Then the customer is no longer online. The advisor completes his notes, carries out an action for the client,… In short it is the time that must be optimized to make him available as quickly as possible for another client.
This is really a series change. The series is unitary since each client is a unique case, therefore a unique series.
The SMED is all the more relevant, as it aims to optimize a flow pulled by the customer with a unit series, which is already the case in the majority of CCC.
Observing post-call periods
Just like in the manufacturing industry, you first have to go to the field and observe. There are different methods to observe, which have all their pros and cons.
One method is to film the change of series. So you will be recording the advisor between the time he hangs up and the moment he takes a new call. You will then have the opportunity to review the change, to show it to the people involved, to gather comment on their actions, or to share it with a whole team.
Another method is to use a timer, and have the time measured by a person who usually realizes the action, or on the opposite, someone external.
Whatever the method used, it is necessary to observe several series changes. In fact, with the significant diversity of incoming calls, you want a large sample of data. Beware however not to fall into paralysis by analysis. Pareto can help target the 20% type of calls that make up 80% of the workload.
Reduce post-call processing time
You will then allocate the activities carried out in 4 categories.
1. What can be done in masked time
The fastest improvement is to realize some operations at another moment during the call.
Can the advisor complete some actions while he’s online with the client. The goal is to benefit from the time spent with the client, not to lengthen it.
2. Move some activities to another area
If you have used the Theory of Constraints, you have determined that the critical resource is the advisor. So you want him to be available as quickly as possible for another call.
Can operations be automated? For example, some letters or documents can be generated automatically by the system. Profitability is not only measured in minutes saved, but also in additional customers answered, especially if you have recruitment difficulties… Your optimization will then serve your growth.
You can also delegate these activities to another sector, The back office, which is not on the phone and can prepare the letters and documents for the customer.
3. Reduce the time of remaining activities
Everything the advisor has to keep doing can be optimized. With templates, a robust documentation system, he will spend less time working for the customer, after he hangs up.
Once again, use Pareto to determine what needs to be available quickly. If your advisor has to look for the document to be sent from a list of 350, it will take a lot of time.
Even in virtual, the 5S applies, and the most used documents must be put forward. The rest must be properly organized.
This may be the time to invest in a documentation system. With artificial intelligence, if robot-advisors can’t help your customers, they can certainly help your advisor. They understand the internal language and can translate customer requests into internal requests
4. Reduce the time of back-office activities
Even if they come last, they should not be forgotten. The back office treats exceptions or longer requests.
If you over-delegate, the back-office will grow and impact your overall performance. We need to do some improvement in this area as well.
Make sure that the value is created at each step. Are procedures up to date? Are the teams trained? How to help them, with a documentary base or templates for example to be more effective?
The SMED methodology yields very good results. In a CCC, with the diversity, care should be taken to work in priority recurring cases.