What Kanban can do for Call Centre Response Times

When a Toyota industrial engineer named Taiichi Ohno was investigating ways to optimise production material stocks in 1953, it struck him that supermarkets already had the key. Their customers purchased food and groceries on a just-in-time basis, because they trusted continuity of supply. This enabled stores to predict demand, and ensure their suppliers kept the shelves full.

The Kanban system that Taiichi Ohno implemented included a labelling system. His Kanban tickets recorded details of the factory order, the delivery destination, and the process intended for the materials. Since then, Ohno?s system has helped in many other applications, especially where customer demand may be unpredictable.

Optimising Workflow in Call Centres
Optimising workflow in call centres involves aiming to have an agent pick up an incoming call within a few rings and deal with it effectively. Were this to be the case we would truly have a just-in-time business, in which operators arrived and left their stations according to customer demand. For this to be possible, we would need to standardise performance across the call centre team. Moving optimistically in that direction we would should do these three things:

  • Make our call centre operation nimble
  • Reduce the average time to handle calls
  • Decide an average time to answer callers

When we have done that, we are in a position to apply these norms to fluctuating call frequencies, and introduce ?kanbanned? call centre operators.

Making Call Centre Operations Nimble
The best place to start is to ask the operators and support staff what they think. Back in the 1960?s Robert Townsend of Avis Cars famously said, ?ask the people ? they know where the wheels are squeaking? and that is as true as ever.

  1. Begin by asking technical support about downtime frequencies, duration, and causes. Given the cost of labour and frustrated callers, we should have the fastest and most reliable telecoms and computer equipment we can find.
  1. Then invest in training and retraining operators, and making sure the pop-up screens are valuable, valid, and useful. They cannot do their job without this information, and it must be at least as tech-savvy as their average callers are.
  1. Finally, spruce up the call centre with more than a lick of paint to awaken a sense of enthusiasm and pride. Find time for occasional team builds and fun during breaks. Tele-operators have a difficult job. Make theirs fun!

Reducing Average Time to Handle Calls
Average length of contact is probably our most important metric. We should beware of shortening this at the cost of quality of interaction. To calculate it, use this formula:

Total Work Time + Total Hold Time + Total Post Call Time

Divided By

Total Calls Handled in that Period

Share recordings of great calls that highlight how your best operators work. Encourage role-play during training sessions so people learn by doing. Publish your average call-handling time statistics. Encourage individual operators to track how they are doing against these numbers. Make sure your customer information is up to date. While they must confirm core data, limit this so your operators can get down to their job sooner.

Decide a Target Time to Answer Calls
You should know what is possible in a matter of a few weeks. Do not attempt to go too tight on this one. It is better to build in say 10% slack that you can always trim in future. Once you have decided this, you can implement your Kanban system.

Introducing Kanban in Your Call Centre Operation
Monitor your rate of incoming calls through your contact centre, and adjust your operator-demand metric on an ongoing basis. Use this to calculate your over / under demand factor. Every operator should know the value on this Kanban ticket. It will tell them whether to speed up a little, or slow down a bit so they deliver the effort the call rate demands. It will also advise the supervisor when to call up reserves.

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Keys to Successful Matrix Management

Matrix management, in itself, is a breakthrough concept. In fact, there are a lot of organizations today that became successful when they implemented this management technique. However, there are also organizations that started it but failed. And eventually abandoned it in the end.

Looking at these scenarios, we can say that when you implement matrix management in your organisation, two things can happen – you either succeed or fail. And there?s nothing in between. The truth is, the effectiveness of matrix management lies in your hands and in your implementation. To ensure that you achieve your desired results, recognise these essential keys to successful matrix management.

Establish Performance Goals and Metrics

This should be done as soon as the team is formed, at the beginning of the year or during the process of setting organisational objectives. Whenever it is, the most important thing is that each team player understands the objectives and metrics to which their performances will be evaluated. This ensures that everyone is looking at the same set of objectives as they carry out their individual tasks.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

One pitfall of matrix management is its internal complexity. Awareness of this limitation teaches you to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the team players up front. Basically, there are three principal sets of roles that should be explained vividly ? the matrix leader, matrix managers and the matrixed employees. It is important to discuss all the possible details on these roles, as well as their specific responsibilities, to keep track of each other?s participation in the projects of the organisation.

One effective tool to facilitate this discussion is through the RACI chart – Who is Responsible? Who is Accountable? Who should be Consulted? Who will Implement? With this, clarification of roles and responsibilities would be more efficient.

When roles are already clearly defined, each participant should review their job descriptions and key performance metrics. This is to make sure that the roles and responsibilities expected of you integrates consistently with your job in the organisation, as a whole.

Manage Deadlines

In matrix management, the employees report to several managers. They will likely have multiple deadlines to attend to and accomplish. There might even be conflicts from one deadline to another. Hence, each should learn how to schedule and prioritise their tasks. Time management and action programs should be incorporated to keep the grace under pressure.

Deliver Clear Communication

Another pitfall of matrix management is heightened conflict. To avoid unrealistic expectations, the matrix leaders and managers should communicate decisions and information clearly to their subordinates, vice versa. It would help if everyone will find time to meet regularly or send timely reports on progress.

Empower Diversity

Knowledge, working styles, opinions, skills and talents are diverse in a matrix organisation. Knowing this fact, each should understand, appreciate and empower the learning opportunities that this diversity presents. Trust is important. Respect to each other?s opinions is vital. And acknowledgement of differing viewpoints is crucial.

The impetus of matrix management is the same ? mobilise the organisation’s resources and skills to cope with the fast-paced changes in the environment. So, maximise the benefits of matrix management as you consider these essential keys to its successful implementation.

Monitoring Water Banks with Telemetrics

Longstanding droughts across South Australia are forcing farmers to rethink the moisture in the soil they once regarded as their inalienable right. Trend monitoring is an essential input to applying pesticides and fertilisers in balanced ratios. Soil moisture sensors are transmitting data to central points for onward processing on a cloud, and this is making a positive difference to agricultural output.

Peter Buss, co-founder of Sentek Technology calls ground moisture a water bank and manufactures ground sensors to interrogate it. His hometown of Adelaide is in one of the driest states in Australia. This makes monitoring soil water even more critical, if agriculture is to continue. Sentek has been helping farmers deliver optimum amounts of water since 1992.

The analogy of a water bank is interesting. Agriculturists must ?bank? water for less-than-rainy days instead of squeezing the last drop. They need a stream of online data and a safe place somewhere in the cloud to curate it. Sentek is in the lead in places as remote as Peru?s Atacamba desert and the mountains of Mongolia, where it supports sustainable floriculture, forestry, horticulture, pastures, row crops and viticulture through precise delivery of scarce water.

This relies on precision measurement using a variety of drill and drop probes with sensors fixed at 4? / 10cm increments along multiples of 12? / 30cm up to 4 times. These probe soil moisture, soil temperature and soil salinity, and are readily re-positioned to other locations as crops rotate.

Peter Buss is convinced that measurement is a means to the end and only the beginning. ?Too often, growers start watering when plants don’t really need it, wasting water, energy, and labour. By monitoring that need accurately, that water can be saved until later when the plant really needs it.? He goes on to add that the crop is the ultimate sensor, and that ?we should ask the plant what it needs?.

This takes the debate a stage further. Water wise farmers should plant water-wise crops, not try to close the stable door after the horse has bolted and dry years return. The South Australia government thinks the answer also lies in correct farm dam management. It wants farmers to build ones that allow sufficient water to bypass in order to sustain the natural environment too.

There is more to water management than squeezing the last drop. Soil moisture goes beyond measuring for profit. It is about farming sustainably using data from sensors to guide us. ecoVaro is ahead of the curve as we explore imaginative ways to exploit the data these provide for the common good of all.

How to create a custom form with Field Elite

A common requirement for most Field Service Workers is to complete various forms and paper based inspection checklists when visiting customer sites and remote area locations.  Often the data collected is often used in collaboration efforts across multiple teams and organisations. 

Using paper forms, binders, cameras, and filing cabinets can make this process complicated, frustrating, and often, near impossible.

If you consider that, even though we are entering the third decade of the new millennium and despite the proliferation of Smart Phones and Tablet computing an incredibly large percentage of field service teams are still making use of paper based systems!

Read more about the benefits of digital forms data collection

Field Elite Customised forms

Field Elite enables Field Service organisations to easily create their own customised forms which can be attached jobs. 

The creation of forms can be done using the Web Based Administration Portal which is provided as standard to all customers when signing up for an account.

To access the form builder from Side Navigation navigate Settings –> Form Templates –> Create Form


You will then be presented with Form Builder utility which will contain an Empty Default Form and a list of fields types you are able to insert.

There are a variety of fields you can use to create all manner of forms. There is no restriction on the number of fields or field types you can choose to create forms suitable for your purpose.

If you can think it you can create it

In the example, we’ll work through, we are going to create a Simple Conference Room Inspection  Report, to be used by Facility Managers to assist in carrying room inspection reports for conference centres.

To add fields to your form simply Drag and Drop the fields onto the form.

Once you have completed adding which fields you require to your form and you are satisfied with the layout.

Select Settings tab to provide a meaningful name for your form.

You can also select a Form Layout you wish for your form.  For the purpose of this post we are going to leave it as Vertical.

Once you are satisfied with your form you can select Save Form 


Once your form has been saved it will be available for selection when defining jobs in the system.

Summary

It is really easy to define custom forms using the Field Elite from templates module.  The Form Template module enables you to create any manner of forms your organisation may require.

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