Join Jeff Toister for an in-depth discussion in this video Balancing speed and quality, part of Managing a Customer Service Team.
- Many customer service employees have two diametrically opposed goals. They're asked to maximize both speed and quality when it comes to serving customers. Call center employees try to solve problems on the first call while keeping the average length of their call as short as possible. Restaurant servers try to make every guest feel welcome while serving the needs of multiple tables. Retail employees try to spend time helping each customer while serving long lines of people who need assistance. Employees often struggle to find the right balance in these situations.
Let me give you an example. Take a moment to download the numbers game worksheet. Press pause on this video so you can print it out. Once you have it in front of you and a pen at the ready, press play once again. Okay, here's the challenge. When I say go see if you can connect all of the numbers in order starting at one and working on up. I'll give you 15 seconds to get it done and I'll even put a timer on the screen to count down from 15. Ready, go. (beeping timer) (bell ringing) So how did you do? Chances are you had to hunt a little bit for each number and I bet the beeping timer didn't help your concentration much either.
This is an example of how speed and quality struggle to work together. Think about your last visit to a restaurant or a retail store on a busy day. What happens to service quality when employees are busy and stress levels rise? You might notice a few things missing. You probably saw fewer personal connections as employees rushed around to complete their tasks. Listening skills get degraded when employees don't give each customer their full attention. Helpfulness goes out the window when there isn't any time. So what can we do to help our employees balance speed and quality? The counter intuitive solution is to focus their attention on quality.
In most cases, speed will take care of itself. Let's go back to the numbers game worksheet. One of the things that makes this exercise difficult is the numbers aren't arranged in order. What if we could rearrange the numbers so they were in order? It would be a lot easier to connect all the numbers this time. Here are some examples you can try in your work place. The numbers game is an example of improving processes. A real life example was the bell staff at a hotel. Rearranged their luggage storage room so suitcases were easier to find.
They could spend less time searching for suitcases and more time providing their guests with extra attention. Another option is to refocus on quality. A contact center realized that focusing on call time caused a lot of problems to go unresolved, which meant customers often had to call back a second time. They refocused their agents on first call resolution and callbacks quickly decreased, which means they had less volume. Strangely, the average length of their calls didn't go up. Agents were still working quickly, but they were no longer distracted by the clock so they made fewer errors.
Finally, there are times when you just need to bite the bullet and increase capacity by adding staff. A retail store increased sales and service by having enough staff on hand to give customers personalized attention. I have one last piece of advice that a successful customer service leader once shared with me. He told me that anytime he wants his employees to work faster while maintaining quality, he first does an experiment to see if it can actually be done. There have been many cases when he quickly realized that speeding things up would only cause problems.
I encourage you to try this with your team. When in doubt, focus on quality first and you'll often speed things up by providing better service with fewer errors.
- Clearly defining outstanding service for employees
- Evaluating service quality
- Identifying obstacles to outstanding service
- Aligning resources to optimize service delivery
- Calculating the cost of poor service