7 Very Familiar Habits: Habit 3 – Put First Things First

A subtitle to Habit 3 could be:  Let Priorities Drive Initiatives

We are all guilty of repeating actions that worked before without thinking about whether those actions are appropriate now. We just dive in, knowing that it will work again because it worked before.

The same thing happens when new initiatives are implemented. Everyone jumps in, convinced that their prior experience will apply. The same thing happens when we start to think about improving customer service. But if we want excellent customer service, don’t we just start throwing out actions like

  • Increase First Call Resolution
  • Decrease Time to Answer
  • Increase calls per hour

That might help but…..probably not. We haven’t stopped to define what “excellent customer service” is. Sure, customers like it when their question is answered the first time they call and that they don’t have to hang on hold very long. But is that what will make the customer feel like he has had excellent service? We have to look at things from the viewpoint of the customer, not what we think they want.

Once we have that definition we can let it drive our priorities. Some of the key initiatives PhaseWare is seeing in its customers include:

  • Using the web to expand access to service. Customers want 24/7/365 service. And they want different channels to access it: phone, live chat, email, self service…. This will require a culture change in our organizations and a reworking of the information flows or knowledge base design to accomodate multi-channel service.
  • Providing a common knowledge base for customer support as well as web self-service. Another reason to map the current work and information flows to determine what will need to change so that all the channels have the same information at the same time. This doesn’t require new technology, it involves smarter use of resources.
  • Setting up interactive process support tools. Rather than the traditional training given to support agents, where there may be some class time or workshops and then listening while an experienced agent handles calls, using knowledge powered interactive tools to  help the agent work their way through the process while capturing the data.

Develop a business strategy with clear goals before running out to buy the latest technology. Executives, you need to make sure your team understands the need for any changes in strategy, how it will be implemented, and how progress will be measured.

So, if you put first things first,  acquisition and implementation of new technology should be some of the final steps to take, not the first.


Establish key objectives for the support desk.

Choose metrics that balance each other. No single metric can completely capture all the perfomance data needed to measure success.

While buying and implementing technology during a performance optimization initiative, the more time we spend understanding our users’ needs, architecting the framework, and defining interfaces, the better the chance of success.


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