Article Revised: March 27, 2019
Customer service, as typified by contact centers in which trained company personnel resolve requests from the public, are not always necessarily thought of as having to be well-oiled machines, but that characterization is inaccurate. There is actually a great deal of investment in software, algorithms, analytics, and integration of multiple channels in order to best match a call with staff members that are most equipped to resolve it.
Contact centers are a natural match for Lean Six Sigma (LSS) as reflected by academic studies. Lean Six Sigma in a Call Center: A Case Study, published by business academics in the UK, explores the applicability of LSS in the call-based service industry. One assumption that the study works against is that LSS is not quite that applicable to service sectors as they do not have the precision and replicability of manufacturing processes. However, it is important to note that customer service is prone to slow processes which are inherently subject to the Pareto principle – the “80-20” rule. Removing the crucial 20 percent of inefficient processes should lead to an 80 percent speedup.
Furthermore, lost calls are a significant detriment to productivity, and an inbound quantity of calls that outstrips the service ability of the call center is also a threat to efficiency. The LSS practice of root-cause analysis is naturally suited for reducing the incidence of lost calls and establishing why spikes in call volume occur in the first place. We must also keep in mind that the call center environment is very hectic – often running on a 24/7 basis. The fact that there is little downtime and bandwidth for planned maintenance can make it difficult to apply LSS in the sector, but if LSS principles can be successfully installed this can lead to streamlining of operations and a decrease in employee turnover, two factors that can improve both work morale and efficiency.