This case study relates to a global Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) organisation, this high profile supplier of telecommunications (Telco) was experiencing a number of challenges with its customer service operations. This was a large scale operations delivered from a number of sites located throughout the UK.
The commercial relationship between the BPO and the Telco was complex as multiple business units of the Telco required support. Consequently, multiple lines of business were supported from three UK based sites: one in the Midlands, another in the north-east, and the third on the south-east coast of Scotland. Each site operated with approximately 400 customer service agents plus supporting staff.
Both the BPO and the Telco operated matrix organisational structures with highly dispersed supporting functions. Together these created a complex group of stakeholders spanning the entire organisational hierarchy.
Inconsistent performance had created fractious relationships between the parties such that neither party was satisfied with the performance of the business, or returns. From the BPO’s perspective, the account was unprofitable, management intensive, and posed significant risks of reputational damage. From the Telco’s perspective: the service was frequently unacceptable, failed to meet contractual minimum, and the BPO was reluctant to invest in developing performance through continuous improvement.
The Telco had expressed the desire to improve performance across a broad arrange of operational metrics all with the aim of cost reduction, or quality improvement. In forcing the BPO to accede to its demands, operations had been destabilised to the point that service level (SL), a fundamental operational metric, had degraded to 20% (against a contractual minimum of 80%).
As all available management resource became consumed by the demands of crisis management, performance against the spectrum of other operational metrics also failed creating a spiralling cycle of increasing resources and deteriorating performance.
My role involved taking ownership of the commercial relationships and overall performance. Initially recovering performance to meet contractual requirements, subsequently developing a strategy that lead to mutually acceptable, but conflicting, outcomes of service quality, cost, and profitability.
A phased approach was required to address the challenging and conflicting goals of key stakeholders: –
1 Immediate recovery of performance
2 Telco’s short to medium term goals –
3 Cost reduction
4 Increased quality
5 Sustainable operational performance improvement
6 BPO’s short to medium term goals –
7 Improved profitability
8 Improved client relationships and customer satisfaction
9 Reduced reputational risk
Having identified the objectives of the broad range of stakeholders, a number of programs were created to support each of the change phases with multiple projects within each program reflecting the diverse range of functional improvements needed.
The early challenge was to recover the fractious relationships within multiple, large, dispersed (virtual) interdependent teams sufficient to enable the cooperation required to impact failing performance. Senior management in both organisations had no tolerance of delay and there was an expectation of an immediate recovery.
Following a rapid but comprehensive audit, a number of areas were identified as needing urgent intervention:-
As progress was made in each area, we used the successes to rebuild confidence and efficacy amongst team members whilst reconciling progress against planning to increase management confidence in the change process. Progress in this phase enabled buy-in and commitment to provide the resource needed to enable the subsequent phases of the plan, each of which were considerably more significant than the tactical interventions taken to that point in time.
The initial intervention had an impact within seven days and was complete in 40 days such that contractual performance was reliable despite frequent episodes where demand exceeded forecast.
From this new baseline of confidence we deployed the strategic programs needed to achieve the conflicting goals of the respective management teams – cost reduction in one, and profit improvements in the other.
35% actual reduction in cost of service
Improved customer experience with a 50%
reduction in call time
35% increase in Right First Time (RFT) from < 60% to > 95%
A reliable and sustainable level of performance
18% actual increase in EBITDA (after a further 12% profit improvement from the loss making position prior to the initial intervention
Client relations improved to the extent that the client, a detractor, became a promoter and placed new business
Staff turnover reduced by 23%
Operations out performed the Telco’s in-house operations by a margin of 20%
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