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Boosting Quality and Innovation

By Brad Cleveland

 

Today’s economy requires that organizations innovate, to find new ways to improve service delivery

Every customer interaction your organization handles provides implicit and/or direct insight into processes, products, policies, services, customers and the external environment. You have the opportunity to play a central role in building a stronger organization with better services and products across the board – but it’s a role that must be earned.

Making significant quality and service improvements requires leadership and management know-how throughout the organization, coupled with a focused set of never-ending improvement activities that follow a disciplined problem-solving approach. It means working smarter, consistently making improvements to processes and services, and applying these principles across the broader organization. And it means ensuring that your quality efforts don’t smother innovation – or vice versa.

I believe the following list captures the principles that are most essential to this effort. (The points here were inspired by the work of industry pioneer Gordon MacPherson, Jr. and the late quality Dr. W. Edwards Deming.)

  • First and foremost, develop a global view of your organization’s mission and principles. Clarify the “big picture” in terms the organization’s major goals and direction, and identify how the contact center supports overall objectives. Take steps to ensure that every person understands the “why” behind what they are doing. This is an essential part of developing a strong culture.

Innovation Index Rankings

1. United States: 5.77

2. Switzerland: 5.74

3. Finland: 5.67

4. Japan: 5.64

5. Israel: 5.57

6. Sweden: 5.53

7. Germany: 5.46

8. South Korea: 5.36

9. Taiwan: 5.24

10. Denmark: 5.11

 

Source: The Economist, Pocket World in Figures 2009

  • Ensure that the contact center’s performance optimizes the good of the organization, and not just of individual projects or departments. Continuously step back from quality improvement efforts to ensure that larger business goals are supported and furthered.
  • Fully train your people to do their jobs. This is non-negotiable, and comes before everything else. This responsibility cannot become victim to busyness and shifting priorities. As a part of this effort, analyze and understand every facet of your own role and responsibilities. And do the same for every position in the contact center (and the broader organization).
  • Avoid making decisions based on assumptions – insist on having and using accurate and timely data whenever possible. Use statistical and analytical methods to support and help improve the performance of individuals, the contact center and the organization. Recognize that everybody’s “best efforts” or just trying harder isn’t enough. Look for problems and innovation opportunities in processes – processes almost always offer the most leverage for sustainable improvement.
  • Remember that those who know processes and customers best are your agents and supervisors – those closest to the work. Actively seek their ideas and input, and create an atmosphere of trust and open communication. Allow, even encourage, failure of the right kind,that rooted in experimentation, suggestions, innovative thinking.
  • Use performance measurements, monitoring and coaching as a means of learning and improvement at the process level (as well as for individuals). And when developing the individuals on your team, encourage maximum personal development of the whole person (e.g., in terms of thinking, analysis, understanding the organization’s overall objectives, etc.). This is just as important as job-specific training.
  • As a general rule, don’t wait to make sweeping changes all at once. Instead, as possible, make smaller improvements regularly and continuously. Strive for and expect never-ending improvements. Build this perspective into the culture.

Many of these points could form the framework for a traditional quality management program. And yet, they are timeless and more important than ever in this season of rapid change.

Seek out and adopt principles that are truly useful. Inculcate them into your culture, and instill them into your plans and thinking.

This post was originally published by ICMI, www.icmi.com

Copyright 2015, Brad Cleveland.