Improvement Priorities: Don’t Major on the Minors

First, get across the pool. I grew up as a competitive swimmer. When I first started as a child, I literally could not swim across the width of the pool. I began by learning how to swim. As I progressed to racing, it was amazing how a few fundamental changes could result in several seconds improvement in my times. Years went by. I got better. By the time I was in high school there were no longer any quick and easy improvements. I was trying to shave tenths of a second off my time and looking for tiny improvements I could make in every aspect of the race. I even shaved my head for the conference finals so that my hair (which was then much longer and thicker) would not create unnecessary drag through the water.

I think about this quite often as I work daily in Call Center Quality Assessment. When our group begins doing a third-party assessment for clients, I can almost guarantee that the client performs poorly in some of the nit-picky details of the call like hold etiquette and transferring callers. Transfer and Hold behaviors are usually the lowest bars on the bar chart.

It's a common reaction for clients to overreact to the results in these areas. At first glance, it appears that these behaviors are the most critical behaviors on which to improve (because they are being performed so poorly). The truth is that these are relatively minor issues in the larger picture of the customer's experience. It would be like me, as an eight-year-old novice swimmer, shaving my head to improve my time when the most important issue was that I could barely swim across the pool. There were far more important and fundamental improvements I needed to make before focusing on those little details made any sense.

For most contact centers, Holds and Transfers occur on a small fraction of phone calls and have relatively small impact on customer's satisfaction. If you've got issues in basic courtesies and resolution related behaviors (which occur on every call), you're better off investing your resources in improving performance in those behaviors. When you get to the point that you're doing the major things well, then you should turn your focus on the "minor details" that make the difference between "very good" and "excellent."

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and evoo73

  3 comments for “Improvement Priorities: Don’t Major on the Minors

  1. April 19, 2010 at 10:26 am

    This is so true in contact center technology as well. We find centers employing some of the latest technology, yet the basics of performance management are not there. Often there are displays with metrics which are all red or all green, which are usually ignored. It may be because it’s harder often to work on those broad stroke improvements. Thanks for a great article.

  2. April 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Susan. I’m glad I’m not the only one finding companies who think the purchase of pricey technology is equal to a “quality program.” If only the purchase of an expensive set of golf clubs would make me a great golfer [sigh]. It doesn’t work that way.

  3. Stevethompson4
    June 9, 2012 at 4:48 am

    i agree, you can be ahead of the game, which brings about postive feelings. And then go back and capitalize the i at the beginning of the sentence.

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