What Contact Centres, Operational Excellence, & the Rainforest Have in Common

Have you got your best David Attenborough voice on?

OK good – now you can begin to read this article…

The Rainforest

The Amazon rainforest is a delicate ecosystem sprawled across approximately 40% of the South American continent.

Home to a diverse range of insects, animals, and plant life, these life forms exist together in a delicate balance, each adapted to, and reliant upon, the others. When one is affected, all are affected. For example, if one plant species becomes extinct, those animals that rely on it for food or shelter must move, adapt, or face the same fate. This also applies to any animals that themselves rely on the first animals, and so the cycle can be seen.

The rainforest’s overarching ecosystem consists of hundreds of smaller ecosystems, including canopies, understories, and forest floors. Once again, where one is affected, all are affected. A true natural wonder, it is the most biodiverse tropical rainforest on the planet. But its future is threatened by deforestation and other man-made pressures…

The Contact Centre

Ok.

You can stop with the David Attenborough voice now.

As you probably gathered from that little bit of natural education, the Amazon rainforest is an intricate place. It consists of many levels. And everything within it is inseparably intertwined.

Which makes it much like the modern day contact centre.

The Contact Centre Ecosystem

As one of the most sophisticated units in any business, contact centres are comparable to the rainforest.

Like the Amazon, with its canopies, understories, and forest floors, the contact centre ecosystem consists of several smaller ecosystems. These ecosystems are each intertwined, and are each equally crucial to the centre’s overall success.

The smaller ecosystems contained in the overarching contact centre ecosystem include (or should include):

  • A customer experience strategy
  • An employee engagement strategy
  • Effective workforce management processes
  • A learning and development pathway
  • Knowledge management processes
  • Ongoing data analysis
  • Regular quality monitoring
  • Strong people leadership frameworks
  • Fit for purpose tools, systems, and processes
  • Support frameworks for managing change, performance, etc.
  • A continuous improvement methodology

Just as the Amazon’s individual ecosystems are home to their own unique group of fauna and flora, each of the smaller contact centre ecosystems can be further broken down into micro activities or components. For example, successful workforce management is achieved through forecasting, planning, real time management, and more.

The rainforest’s delicate balance depends on each of its interdependent parts. Similarly, for your contact centre to flourish, every element in the overall ecosystem must be nurtured and managed. Only then can you achieve true operational excellence.

Operational Excellence in Your “Rainforest”

When your contact centre achieves operational excellence, every element in its ecosystem performs optimally and contributes to the centre’s overall success.

By definition, operational excellence in your contact centre can only occur when every smaller ecosystem operates in harmony with its counterparts. If one area is out of balance, the integrity of the entire contact centre ecosystem is adversely affected. For example, if your workforce management runs smoothly, but your team underperforms when it comes to quality, then your overall customer satisfaction results – a key outcome of operational excellence – will suffer.

That is why operational excellence in the contact centre depends on nurturing every element of the unit’s ecosystem, not just one.

Nurturing Operational Excellence

As you’ve probably guessed already, you nurture operational excellence by focussing on all areas of your operation, not just one, and continuously looking for ways to develop and improve each of these areas.

It’s also important to remember that each area of your contact centre must operate in harmony with the others. This is about ensuring that your goals and plans for each area align and do not conflict with one another.

For example, you want happy employees and you also want to make system changes to improve efficiency, but you don’t consult with your employees about the system changes or communicate the impacts effectively, so chances are they won’t be happy. In this scenario, your goal for employee engagement will be at odds with your strategy for improving efficiency.

Top tips for nurturing operational excellence across your contact centre include:

  • Share responsibility for achieving goals across the different ecosystems – for example, give workforce management people KPIs and performance targets that include employee engagement results
  • Perform regular “health checks” across the contact centre ecosystem, ask for feedback from every team and role in the centre, and use this feedback to identify areas for improvement
  • Involve staff from all areas in change initiatives, even if those changes focus on a function other than their own; this helps identify wider impacts and reinforce the idea that everyone is responsible for the “bigger picture”
  • Set a KPI to implement at least one change/improvement per month or per quarter, and encourage feedback and suggestions from across the entire business; remember to reward and celebrate the ideas you implement
  • Foster relationships with outside departments that your contact centre relies on, for example, HR, L&D, and IT, as they will also impact upon your ecosystem; their impact is more likely to be positive if they understand and are included
  • A Floating Yardstick

Of course, as technology, customer demands, and market forces change, what constitutes operational excellence in your contact centre will change too.

Because of this, it’s important to keep in mind that striving for operational excellence is a continuous process, not a once off. The yardstick is always moving, and you must move with it. That’s why a continuous improvement culture is so important for your contact centre.

That said, don’t let the floating yardstick put you off. Operational excellence is an achievable goal.

An Achievable Goal

As I observed before, the contact centre is a sophisticated business unit. But if you nurture it like Mother Nature has nurtured the Amazon for centuries, then you’ll be well on your way to achieving operational excellence. This might not happen overnight (the rainforest has developed over many of our lifetimes), but with planning, commitment, and the right strategies, it’s definitely an achievable goal.

Your Say

What have you done to foster operational excellence in your contact centre? What challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them? I’d love to hear your story, so share your thoughts in the comments below!

Need an Outside Perspective?

I’ve developed an assessment framework based on many years experience delivering operational excellence initiatives in contact centres. For a free operational excellence assessment simply contact me via LinkedIn or email me to book in an obligation free session.