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Improving Customer Service Using the Theory of Constraints

Initiatives to improve a customer’s experience are often focused on the sales cycle or the purchase process.  However, focusing on the dissatisfied customers who contact the call center provides excellent opportunities to turn around customers’ negative experiences.  The benefits can be substantial. In successful organizations, with well-trained reps, calls from dissatisfied customers result in an additional sale as often as 75% of the time.

This article talks about how to examine the workflow of a call center, and its goal or intent, and then apply the Theory of Constraints continuous improvement steps to that workflow.

Improvement through the application of the theory of constraints

The Theory of Constraints (TOC) is a paradigm or management theory that states that any manageable system is limited only by identifiable constraints.  Achieving goals within that system is therefore influenced by one or more of those constraints.  It’s analogous to the adage ‘a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.’ The constraint in a system is that weak link.

Examples of constraints

For instance, a constraint in a call center might be the duplication of effort.  Perhaps the operator has to type in customer information several times, or load data from separate systems.  This is a constraint that prevents the department from operating as efficiently as possible.  Optimizing this aspect of the call center will improve performance and allow the department to more easily achieve its departmental goals.

Another example of a constraint might be slow response time, once the operator presses ENTER or keys in information.  If the operator has to wait for the computer to respond, there will be empty time that they have to fill with a customer who is already displeased. 

Identify the constraint to embark on improvement

Once the weak link, or constraint, is identified in the workflow, it can be improved upon.  By applying a continuous improvement mindset to that workflow, one can improve it in a series of steps that might look like this:

  1. Define the goal or intent of the call center
  2. Determine the metrics which show success or that the goals are achievable---the Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)
  3. Identify the constraints, or weak links
  4. Choose one constraint to focus on
  5. Define measurable metrics to define improvement in this area
  6. Enlist the involvement of others to resolve
  7. Employ measures to ensure early identification of that constraint in future

Continuous improvement is the key to a successful response to a changing environment

The continuous improvement loop is defined in steps 4 – 7.  Choose one issue to focus on.  Define measurements that indicate how that issue is currently operating.  Then, enlist the assistance of others to find a better way.  Finally, employ a system to ensure that the constraint doesn’t re-appear.  Once the most severe, or highest constraint is resolved, then move on to the next one until the department’s goals are achieved.

All departments must work well together to understand the cause of the constraint, and improve the overall experience.  Early identification of a problem is an important key to keeping it all on track.

Change should be evolutionary, not revolutionary

Most cost-saving initiatives do not focus on existing, internal customer service systems.  Instead, they typically concentrate on two potential solutions: the introduction of interactive-voice-response (IVR) automated voice menus, or outsourcing customer service to centralized call centers.  However, changes don’t have to be revolutionary to be impactful.  Small, incremental changes can allow the organization to evolve gradually, experiencing improvement each step along the way.

Bridge the knowledge gap by involving AdvantageCS

How can AdvantageCS help?  With our in-depth understanding of the industry and technical knowledge, AdvantageCS may be the catalyst needed to implement a change effort towards continuous improvement at your organization. Let’s talk! 

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