Thursday, May 8, 2008

Measuring Customer Response for Process Improvement

In a rapidly changing competitive environment, the importance of information gathering and analysis cannot be underestimated as famously quoted “You Cannot Manage That Which You Cannot Measure”.

The best source of information in any industry are the customers and the employees in the customer service department, especially those who are receiving customer complaints via UAN number or helpline email, can be the source of some very valuable information that is required for effective process management and improvement. The information received can uncover issues which may not even be on the executive agenda.

It is important to plan this initiative as carrying out this initiative on ad hoc basis can lead to undesirable outcomes including unexpected process variations, low staff morale, etc. It is also important to define broad categories or areas that you want to concentrate on. Mostly technical complaints are received via UAN number or emails so your need to take this factor into account.

For an ISP, typical technical categories will include:
  • Connection Setup Problem
  • Internet Speed Problem
  • Disconnection Problem

In addition to technical categories, the general categories can include:
  • Accessibility Problem
  • Support Staff Behavior Problem
Once the categories are defined, the next step is to collect data based on the categories defined above. The customer service representative can perform this data categorization. If a software solution is not available, a simple excel sheet can be used.

Once the data is categorized the next step is to do the data analysis. The most suitable technique might be to use Pareto chart to identify major problem areas as it is not feasible to resolve all the problems at the same time. There are software programs available that can draw a Pareto chart based on the available information (As a sample I have shown the extract from MINITAB).

Now at this point in time you will have an idea about the areas you need to focus on for improvements. It is important to realize that one should look at this information in totality (e.g. if you have 1,000,000 subscribers then receiving around 80 internet speed complaints is not a major issue as opposed to having 200 corporate customers out which 80 of them are complaining about the internet speed).

In case of corporate customers (which are an important source for maintaining cash flow), one needs to be proactive so a regular survey should be conducted to listen from those customer which, despite having problems, are not willing to tell them to their service providers.

By doing such activities, it will be much easier to justify the need for improvement projects as it directly relates to the main source of revenue i.e. the customers.