How to identify problems and reveal opportunities in your operations

How to identify problems and reveal service improvement opportunities in your operations

There are a variety of indicators that help to identify problems within your operations. By taking time to assess the current position and ask the right questions, valuable feedback can be obtained that provides the basis for initiating change and creating service improvement.

This article focuses on five common problem areas:

High or rising customer complaints metrics

Customer complaints are a valuable and very rich source of information about how your operations are performing. So listen carefully to what your customers are saying and look out for trends that could help to identify emerging problems.

  • Do you have a root cause analysis framework to methodically analyse problems?
  • Does this framework incorporate information from your risk and/or quality reports?
  • Taking a holistic approach to root cause analysis will identify the most meaningful trends.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

Bill Gates
Upset woman having unpleasant conversation on a phone

Poor or declining net promoter score

Just like your level of customer complaints, your net promoter score is a direct reflection of how well you are satisfying your customers' needs. Any decline in your net promoter score can provide an early warning that all is not well within your operations.

NPS scores are meant to demonstrate that your operation is performing well in the simplest form, but they tell you nothing about individual areas.

Scores are often based on an overall rating rather than broken down into different operating sectors, which can give a misleading representation of operational performance.

In order to maintain high levels of customer service, managers and process owners need to dig deeper, to understand which areas of the operations are performing well, and more importantly which aren’t, rather than relying on an overall indication of operational performance often derived from NPS, which can be inaccurate.

Reduction in new business volumes

A decline in new business volumes may be the result of products that have failed to keep pace with the competition. But it’s also possible that poor customer experience within the acquisition process is damaging sales.

If your products appear competitive but you’re not winning your usual share of new business, take a closer look at your onboarding process from a customer perspective. Identify from a customer viewpoint how easy you are to deal with and how well you are actually managing business activities internally.

Poor retention

Just like new business volumes, poor retention or high customer attrition can also be a result of product design and or market conditions, but it's also an early indicator of poor customer service. So when attrition rises, it’s important to understand precisely why your customers are leaving you. The answer is often discovered in upstream task activity, resulting in slow, poor service which creates negative sentiment in your customer base. Experience shows that the understanding of retention and focused actions on how to improve it is significantly undervalued by the operational function.

“Change is not a threat, it’s an opportunity. Survival is not the goal, transformative success is.”

Seth Godin
Businessman looking at arrows pointed in different directions

High or rising cost base

Changing market conditions or an evolving regulatory framework can drive up your cost base in the short term, but have you got actions underway to deliver sustainable reductions over the medium to long term? Identifying and eliminating work in operation is the most sustainable way of positively impacting unit costs.

In addition to these “metrics”, you may also be hearing white noise from sales and marketing who say they’re happy with the products but they’re struggling to hit their targets. Or you may find that audit and compliance are raising concerns about sales or claims handling procedures. So the first step to identifying potential problems within your operations is to take a look at the operation holistically.

If key performance indicators are a direct result of systemic issues within your operations, you can then identify the causal links and highlight the root cause of the problem. If this points towards operations, then the following question must be asked – what have you done to invest in this function in the last 24 months?

Your operations may be working hard but are they working smart?

The above covers the five most common areas and are not meant to provide an exhaustive list. Nevertheless, carrying out an initial review represents the first step in uncovering hidden opportunities for service improvement and achieving greater service efficiencies.

 

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