Service organizations are more aware than ever of the cost of replacing an unhappy customer. We’ve all seen the statistics, an unhappy customer will, on average, tell 10 others about their unsatisfactory experience. In today’s competitive environment, it’s more important than ever to work continuously on making the customer experience exceptional. Introducing concepts like Quality Management, Theory of Constraints, Lean, and Six Sigma into a service environment can bring dramatic improvements in how organizations perform.
I’d like to talk about three of the most common tools in this blog.
1. Time and information mapping (aka Value Stream Mapping) can help uncover hidden wastes in a process that create delays and add cost. Let’s consider a common activity like proposal creation. Identifying delays due to missing or inaccurate specifications, a support service that’s needed but requires time to propose, or internal approvals for someone on vacation are examples of delays that mapping should discover. Getting the right information, at the right time, to the right people is at the root of what mapping is all about.
2. Visual Workplace is a Lean tool that can help a multi-step process. Simple systems like color-coded files placed in slots allow for at-a-glance identification of both the kind of work and the backlog within a workspace. Visual Workplace for associates performing similar operations allows a supervisor or manager to walk through and gauge the volume of work in a department. That visual assessment can quickly alert a supervisor who needs to make decisions about resource allocation or the need for extra hours.
3. Standardized work instruction is very helpful in a service setting. Best practice identification, documentation and training can be applied to all kinds of service-related activities. Project follow-up, email management, customer service inquiries, and phone technique are all examples of activities that can be standardized. That standardization isn’t meant to take personal touch away, but instead to ensure the best possible outcome has been identified and that the customer experience is exceptional.
Introducing Continuous Improvement (CI) into service areas isn’t always easy, and missteps can occur, but rarely because the tools were ineffective. The two most common reasons CI initiatives fail in any setting are scope creep and lack of management support. With that support and the commitment to the process, great things are possible. The ability to successfully implement CI into a service organization can mean the difference between a satisfied customer, or 10 people hearing about a bad experience.