CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT IS at the core of any high-performing company. It involves meticulous analysis of why certain teams or functions are not operating at an optimum level and designing new processes to address the reasons.
But, arguably, it is the next step that sets the most successful companies apart from all the rest: sustaining the change post-implementation.
Change management is the art of getting your teams on the bus. Without buy-in from your people, there will be, at best, limited and most likely, short-term improvement.
When they are open to change, willing to learn, and can trust the manager, then improvements can begin.
Some months ago, we were tasked with helping one of our customer experience teams to reach its full potential.
We believed this team could be achieving higher figures in terms of the measurement of how likely a customer is to recommend a company to a friend or colleague. Despite several new initiatives, the scores were not improving.
After some analysis and a lot of conversations, we could see what was going wrong and how we needed to go about fixing it.
The agents on this team had already tried so many initiatives to improve the score, with little success, that they were understandably wary of yet another one.
We needed to convince their managers to stop everything and allow for a pause before the next step. We had to be the bad guys in the room, but the data doesn’t lie and by making a clear case for a new approach, we won their support.
By empathising with the team and acknowledging that previous initiatives had not borne fruit, a sense of trust was created. That trust was solidified by showing that we had put an end to all the initiatives implemented in the previous months.
We were then able to use that trust to secure buy-in for the concept of one final, overarching improvement plan that, this time, would succeed.
Crucially, we provided data-based context for and reasons behind the plan, rather than just telling them to follow it.
Assume no one is listening in training
Good training is critical to the success of any new process. While all trainees may be physically present, not all will be mentally, for any number of reasons. Therefore, it is critical to have short tests or quizzes at the end of each session.
Anyone that fails the test repeats the training. By being clear about this structure from the very start, we ensured a greater level of attention and heightened sense of ownership from the team.
Focus on the ‘early adopters’
In any room, you can only expect a small number of people to fully buy into your plan at the outset. Find them, work with them, and set them up for success. It is imperative that their results are fed back to the rest of the team – nothing persuades more than results!
On my project, once 10% of the team started to increase their score by applying the new process, hearts and minds were won and everybody got on board. Within two months, the average score across the entire team grew from 44 to a record high of 55 and it has not dropped since.
When results are improving, it is critical that they are made as visible as possible, as regularly as possible. This fuels the team’s fire. To make this as easy a process as possible for the manager, automate the reporting.
Build the change into onboarding of new recruits
As performance grows, so do teams. The success we had with boosting the score for our partner led to an even bigger partnership and the expansion of our customer experience team. So, early on, we embedded the new process into our onboarding.
With the recent recruits following the new way of doing things without knowing any different, the embedding and longevity of the process was guaranteed. This significantly improves the chances of getting to the “promised land” at the end of every continuous improvement – business as usual.
Find the right person to own the change
One small point that I haven’t mentioned yet – the team we were working with throughout this whole process were 7,000 miles away!
Voxpro – powered by TELUS International has customer service centres of excellence in three continents. My team and I are based at our headquarters in Cork and the team we worked with are based in the Philippines.
While technology allowed for clear communication between both places, it was essential that I appointed an ‘owner’ for the change very early on.
The person appointed to a role like this must have a crystal-clear understanding of what is expected of them, apportion the right amount of time for the task, and get reports out on a daily basis. And when something isn’t done, they must be clear about why it was not done. Finding an owner that matched these requirements ensured that the remote nature of my project had little or no negative impact on its delivery.
The ability to design new systems and processes is a highly valuable skill, but the ability to motivate and influence the humans in charge of them is critical. Voxpro has built a culture of continuous improvement by constantly striving to outperform our own targets and those of our partners.
We are experts in processes, but our focus on our people underpins every improvement we make. A simple, human-focused change management strategy can achieve incredible things – even from 7,000 miles away.
Kieran McCarthy is head of quality at Voxpro – powered by TELUS International