Customer Service Operations: Productivity Quick Hits

Client Project

  • The Client wanted to examine the efficiency of their centralized customer service ("CS") operations to achieve greater economies of scale, improved customer service and greater ROI on ongoing IT investments.

  • Specific core business functions were examined. Specific emphasis was placed on case implementation processes for core products in the Mid/Large Market and National Accounts.
Business Challenges
  • The CS Group had largely operated status quo for a considerable number of years.

  • Heavy dependence on legacy systems added constraints to initiating improvements.

  • "Small wins" were needed to demonstrate success, break down inertia and gain improvement momentum.

  • New management team was not heavily experienced in detailed operating procedures.
Specific Recommendations and Outcomes
  • Current state assessment revealed a significant number of process issues that could be addressed and corrected in the short term without requiring major commitment of resources to the effort.

  • PPI's analyses segmented the opportunities in order to overcome the aforementioned challenges.

  • Opportunities for immediate ("quick win") or short-term process improvement existed in every process area that was reviewed.

  • Over 376 opportunities were identified. Of these, 111 could be acted upon internally with no involvement from IT or the Sales organization.

  • Approximately 150 were considered likely to have a positive impact on sales.

  • About 130 were "quick wins" that could be implemented immediately.

A sampling of "Quick Win" recommendations included:

Issue Recommendation/Action Result
Account Manager inconsistency with educating the customer on what the Account Manager role entails. Account Manager to fully communicate role and responsibilities to customer. Improved customer centricity and relationships.
Most complex case implementations are not quality checked. Conduct random quality checks for Tier 1 and form a small quality team for specific high value functions. Dedicated Quality Team created - improved effectiveness.
Inability of management to understand degree of customer "neediness" and the true cost of providing the customer service expected. Track Account Managers time by activity and client. Implemented an email tracking system to measure customer requests. Improved customer support and increased efficiency. Gained more knowledge about the cost of doing business.
Manual and redundant data entry into two supporting systems. Eliminate the less valuable system. Reduced processing & support costs.
Account Manager lacks visibility into when other related operating functions would complete work. Eliminate the less valuable system. Develop an issues workflow tool and establish common metrics around resolving and escalating customer issues. Consistency and best practices in supporting customers.
Weak underwriting metrics reduces efficiency and success, e.g. multiple quotes, revisions and off-cycle renewals are not measured or tracked. Track and measure where and when quote iterations occur during the process to provide visibility into trends, factors, and patterns that result in sales; track and measure off cycle renewal requests. Improved productivity and decision-making.
The Account Managers spend ~ 40% of their time servicing defect-related emails & phone calls. Investigate root causes of Acct. Mgr. work on defects to reduce time spent on handing defects. Increased productivity by >40% by correcting processes & improving operational controls.
Sales experts handle all aspects of RFP responses, including non-value tasks. Restructure the RFP response process so skill sets are better aligned with specialized resources. RFP process broken down into specialized functions and assigned accordingly. Sales & productivity increased.

  • As a result of these actions, significant improvements have been noted in process effectiveness and efficiency, and in the ability of staff and management to obtain necessary information in a timely way.

  • Management reaction and buy-in continues to be strong, e.g.
    • "With our new Quality Assurance team we ensure that implementations and plan changes are done accurately and right the first time."
    • "We are following the process we used with PPI on new case implementations and we are now streamlining the process for Plan Changes."
    • "We implemented this [a recommendation to improve information availability in the contracts process] immediately and it has made a difference. Not only is our team gaining knowledge and experience regarding legal, but we have reduced the number of requests we have from our Institutional Contracts partners so that they only have to address the biggest issues."
    • Re: Metrics: "Now it is very clear to see our progress on case implementations - we have made the process much more transparent so AM's and Management need not worry about cases slipping the cracks."
    • We can see more clearly where our time is spent, especially on upfront customer facing processes. Our Plan Master and Contracts cycle times have dropped by over 60%."

  • Productivity benefits resulting from the implementation of these quick win recommendations also included:
    • Simplification of the CS business (reduce complexity).
    • Increased quality.
    • Enhanced decision-making.
    • Less resistance to change.
    • Identification of departmental champions.