Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Reading Material III

48 Days To The Work You Love

How To Make Your Income Double By Working Half - Work To Live, Not Live To WorkWhile the title might indicate that this is a guide to finding a new job, that's actually not what this book is about!  This book is actually more of a process to help you find out who you can be.  Once you've learnt this about yourself and made this discovery then you can actually understand why you are in a job you hate!

Dan Miller will help you see clear patterns which will help you in making your future job and career decisions and along the way, help you find the work that you really do love!  The book does a good job of giving you purpose for finding work that has both passion and meaning.

Starting off Dan Miller covers whether or not work and play can co-exist and why doing both is not a bad thing to actually enjoy your work (i.e. not just to pay the bills and "work to live NOT live to work").  Then he covers the fact that the current work environment is not that of our parents or grand-parents universe - the fact that most employees change jobs every 3-4 years with (hopefully) a significant pay increase by undertaking this move!  We are currently in a shift from a production based job market to a knowledge based market with a concurrent increase in the speed of technological change.

As Miller explains, "everyone lives on the edge of job obsolescence and the threshold of career opportunity" and he provides some very interesting statistics to the current job market. 
  •  Fewer than 1% of job seekers find work by responding to an internet ad
  • During an interview, your answer to any question should be no longer than 60 seconds
  • The best times to have an interview are Tues-Thurs between 8-10am
  • 2,322 of 2,756 managers rank enthusiasm as #1 in what they want in applicants
  • Today people are paid for their productivity, not their time, not their seniority
  • IQ contributes only about 20% to the factors that predict success
  • 69% of businesses today cost less than $10,000 to start; and 24% cost $0
  • The most successful people got there not by being in the most lucrative industry, but by doing work they loved
Goal Setting: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Goals (Worksmart)

Dan Miller goes on to describe that to truly achieve success you must create goals.  Write these down (including short and long term goals) and then break each goal down into it component parts to determine what you need to do to achieve each one.  These goals should NOT just be career based, but should also cover your personal life.  The seven areas of life he recommends to make goals in are:
  1. Finances
  2. Physical
  3. Personal Development
  4. Family
  5. Spiritual
  6. Social
  7. Career
Finally there is some really good templates and reading material with regards to resumes and interviewing as well as how to best conduct your job search.  The job seeking advice is not just a “How to Interview” or “How to get your resume noticed” but rather goes into defining what work is and how to face this current job market that is constantly changing. 
Doctor Who: The Complete Specials (The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars / The End of Time Parts 1 and 2) [Blu-ray]As always, I try to emphasize reading (or in this case watching) something unrelated to work.  Its important to relax and let your mind wind down and for the fans of SciFi and Fantasy, Doctor Who is a "classic" of the oldest school and the re imaging of the show by Russel T. Davies has definitely brought it into the 20th century in a big way. 
 This is the last episode (in 2 parts) with the 10th Doctor (David Tennant) and it is a moving finale to the character he has made his own.  With some significant changes in store for "The Doctor" iin the coming season, this episode is essential viewing for any true SciFi buff.

You may find these related posts of interest:

Friday, February 19, 2010

How do you measure First Call Resolution?

Probably the first question to answer is “What is FCR?” – In its simplest form it is a measurement used by most technical call centres to determine how often a customer’s call is resolved at the first interaction.

Measuring FCR

Now while this statement is fairly easy to make ... measuring it gets a bit difficult as you can well imagine.  Measuring this correctly depends on how you are tracking customer issues – if you are able to correlate the customers to their issues you should be able to pull reports that inform you if/when a customer issue is re-opened and that metric would apply as a negative value.  If you do not have such a tool available or in house, measurement gets significantly more difficult.

In addition, you must account for time of reports and the potential of customers re-opening closed issues incorrectly.

As I’ve mentioned, you need to determine an appropriate time frame as customers will often utilize the same (fixed) issue when reporting a new issue regardless of if the issue has re-occurred or not.  In addition, you should track if a customer does not verify/dispute a fix in a specific time frame.  As a starting point, you should aim for 5-10 days as your target time frame.  Any reports after this period in time would count as a new issue.

If you are unable to correlate customer reports by a CRM system (see this good review on JIRA), you might be able to pull information from your phone system or ACD/IVR system although this does get a little bit more difficult and complicated.  Another option of course is via email addresses.

Now in addition to measuring from a customer report perspective, you can also utilize Customer Survey’s to determine what the FCR is.  However, this is a very “subjective” measurement as it is very dependent on the customers mindset and viewpoint and might be unrelated to the question being asked.

What is it good for?

Is FCR a useful metric?  By itself it probably isn’t.  FCR is dependent on historical data and trending.  The goal at all times should be to improve the FCR that you are providing to your customer as that ensures they are getting a speedy and useful resolution to all of their issues at their first call.  So if you initial measurement of FCR is 80% (i.e. 80% of issues resolved at the first call) your goal should be to aim for 85% in a reasonable time frame, and so on as time progresses.

In addition to the goal of improving the FCR %’age, you also need to determine and this is where your reports come in useful – why are your customers calling?  More than likely you will find that the 80/20 rule applies here – i.e. 80% of your contacts are due to 20 issues.  If you can focus on those 20 issues, you will drive down your overall quantity of issues quite significantly.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Play to your strengths! - The Question of Outsourcing Part III

Continuing my posts on Help desk Outsourcing - discussing some key decisions regarding whether or not to outsource your help desk.

Play to your strengths! - The Question of Outsourcing

Play to your strengths! - The Question of Outsourcing Part II

    Ready to Use: Confidentiality & Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA) - Contract Samples on CD-Rom That Can be Customized to Fit Your Needs
  1. Location & Scale -  Despite the urge to keep your outsourced staff in-house (where you can keep your eyes on them and make sure that they're doing a good job!) its actually better to have them in another facility.  If you choose a vendor that is supplying multiple other businesses this is obviously self evident, but even for a smaller operation, by keeping your supplier "in house" you mitigate any potential cost savings that you could see.  By choosing to have your calls with a larger organization, you are also able to take advantage of "scale".  As these companies have to keep staff for other clients anyways, you will be able to utilize these resources when your business is busy and when other businesses aren't.  Working with larger organizations in this fashion ensures allows you to provide your customers with around the clock coverage at a fraction of the price you would have to pay if you did it yourself. Taking the outsourcing model to its logical conclusion implies Overseas outsourcing.  There are obvious cost savings to be had by utilizing resources in another country at an advantageous rate of change to yourself, however these savings must be weighed up against the infrastructure costs required to setup a center in this region (not relevant if you are approaching an established company), the training required for staff without the necessary local knowledge required for your customers and the potential negative backlash from your customers.
  2. Access & Tools - If you are going to do this right, the company that you are outsourcing to must have the same level of access to your systems and resources that an in-house department would have.  Putting aside the obvious legal ramifications based on sharing sensitive customer information with an outside group, without this level of access, this team just will not be able to deliver the solution that you are looking for. NDAs and Disclaimers must be in place to protect your client's information, but whether you enable the outsourcer to have access to your network through a VPN or otherwise it is absolutely mandatory that this level of access is granted.  The worst thing from a customers point of view is speaking to an "order taker" vs. a qualified help desk analyst that can resolve their problem.
  3. Training - Talking about qualified ... train the outsourcer to the same level that you would an internal employee.  If you have an existing helpdesk, use staff from that team to assist in your training.  At the very least you must ensure that you cover off the following:
    • Top 20 Customer Questions and appropriate Solutions
    • Finding Customer Information
    • Logging and Reporting Customer Information
    • Escalations & Escalation Matrixes
    • Basic Troubleshooting methodologies
    • Product Knowledge (specific to your company)
    • Products and Services (specific to your company)
    • Types of Customers
    • Technical Training (specific to your service): you can (& should) specify that staff supporting your product are trained to a specific standard or certification.
  4. Reporting & Oversight - Now one important thing is you cannot forget about the outsourcer once you've established a relationship with them.  Monthly (at a minimum ... in the beginning you probably want to have weekly) meetings are required to ensure that they are meeting your SLAs and reporting appropriately to you.  What reports and KPIs are you monitoring to ensure that customer service is not being missed?  Make sure that you document fully what you are expecting to receive from the Outsourcer and that you receive it at the agreed upon intervals.  However, you cannot take the information that they provide to you at "face value".  You are going to still have to conduct some sort of internal audit to ensure that they are actually providing you with relevant and accurate information - a good way of doing this is selecting a random sampling of the clients they have stated to have worked on and performing a customer satisfaction survey on them.  You will then be able to determine if the customer was satisfied with the wait time, the level of knowledge of the helpdesk representative and other factors!
Outsourcing the helpdesk can offer signficant cost savings and enable companies to deliver a high level of service to their clients.  With the right vendor, you could see some significant cost savings from outsourcing as your outsourced service department enables you to better focus on your core competencies.  Done wrong however, and you could lose your customers or face significant backlash as well as a loss of faith in your products and services as a whole.  Its a fine line to balance and I hope that this series of posts has given you some things to consider that might be of use in your decision.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Importance of Training (Part II) - Management Skills

How important is it to ensure that your skills are up to date?  Assuming that you received your certification or degree several years ago, has the technology you are supporting changed?  Are the teams you are managing still using the same tools and resources they used to in the past?  

The one thing that is constant in this world of ours is that change is inevitable and universal.  This very much means that what you knew last week and last year is now obsolete. Just as it is important to ensure that your team is appropriately trained to support your customers and products, it is also essential that you are trained on the latest and greatest.

The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel CompanyThink about it like this - in school a syllabus would change from year to year.  Regardless of the subject being taught, neearch and knowledge constantly advanced and grew and what the next batch of students were taught differed in a lesser or greater degree.  Now, it was fine in school as you were with your peers and everyone was being tested against the same standard - however in the real world, this just doesn't work.  Your peers are also your competition and whether they are inside your company or part of another company it is crucial that you maintain a current and relevant base of knowledge with regards to your companies products and services and how to best support them.  There is a constant need to get yourself trained and to upgrade your skills irrespective of your position in the company.

What most employees tend to forget is that while Senior Management are key instruments in providing direction and support to the entire company, they have not forgotten the importance of ongoing training and learning and this lesson needs to be realized at the middle Management level also.  The transition from an average Manager to a top tier Manager is gradual, but knowing the latest trends and information definitely play a factor in this.  This is obviously NOT just a matter of being able to spout the latest and greatest "buzz word" that is currently in vogue.  The only way to truly advance is to actually understand what you are talking about and to believe in its value and potential.  Being ISO certified is easy - understanding that ISO is NOT just paper-pushing which is the common misconception is something else altogether.Management

Someone just starting out on the Management track however needs to focus on soft skills.  Things like Team Work, Leadership, Dealing with Change, Time Management are all crucial skills that are useful for the young Manager and also show a demonstrable return for the company.  Once this base is in place additional training which is focused on industry and technology trends should be looked at and into with the focus being on advancing the Manager and department that he is responsible for.  
Management, Ninth EditionAs you gradually work your way up the ladder, this training becomes more theoretical in basis, however it will have an increased value to the organization as the scope of your responsibilities continue to increase.

A Manager at any level is well advised to keep abreast of the latest trends and information affecting his industry through the use of technical journals, trade publications, networking and even the Internet as a whole.  By speaking to customers and other managers in the industry further training and planning can be determined and while Managers today have less time then yesterday, the training if structured correctly can be useful and relevant and should be able to show an immediate impact to the organization.

It is key to remember to that training cannot be a single event and should be considered a constant - just like change - as that is the only way to stay in the running.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Play to your strengths! - The Question of Outsourcing Part II

Help Desk Manager's Crash CourseContinuing my posts on Helpdesk Outsourcing.

Play to your strengths! - The Question of Outsourcing Part I

Helpdesk and Customer Service positions while generally entry level should still be staffed with people that have ambition and can grow to other roles within your company.  If you are not hiring for this type of person, you are not getting the right person you need.  In addition, in some environments, the helpdesk itself is very stressful leading to significant churn and retention problems.  In addition to the staff themselves, you generally need to have a supervisor and manager to ensure that they are performing to standards and that you have the resources in place to cover sick days, vacations and other gaps in the schedule.  Finally you want to think about growth ... as your business grows, will the size of your helpdesk?  How many extra resources will you need for 10 customers, how about 100 or 1000?  What is your projection with regards to your growth prospects?  Are you going to staff your team before you get the sales (costly but allows you to ensure that they are trained properly) or after the sales come in (financially in the short term you're saving money, but are you providing all of your existing customers with the appropriate level of service?  what are your new customers going to think about not being able to get through to your call center because of long hold times?). 

With all of the above mentioned (the details in my last post), the cost of a "good" help desk is not inconsiderable and you never just want to offer your customers "good" service ... you should be aiming for "great" service at all times!!!

So with everything I have said - I completely understand the justification and reasoning for those companies that have decided this is NOT their skill set and they'd rather focus on making their customers happy with and through their product and not by offering superlative service only when it is broken.  However, if you are still on the fence and are trying to decide whether or not to outsource, there are a couple of things you should consider.

Please see my further posts for additional information on this topic.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Play to your strengths! - The Question of Outsourcing

Outsourcing For DummiesTo Oursource or not to outsource ... while not exactly a question that plagued William Shakespeare (hence the lack of any really good quality plays about it!), is a very valid question for the small and medium size business!

While my natural inclination is generally to urge businesses to support and service their customers directly - after all the only one who can really tell you what you are doing wrong and right are the people paying for your service - there are sometimes very valid reasons to outsource your helpdesk and support operations.

As you helpdesk is your primary and first point of contact with customers, they are the people that your customers will most likely work with whenever they are having a problem.  The question to ask yourself though - especially if you are a smaller business - is ... is this the business you are a specialist in?  If your skills are in manufacturing or cooking, perhaps picking up a phone and troubleshooting a customers service issue is really not your forte!

You must remember, that to the customer calling in, the person on the other end of the line IS your company.  If your support staff are not well trained with the appropriate tools and resources available to them, then they are not going to be able to provide the answer that your customer is looking for.  If they are not knowledgeable and helpful, chances are good that your customers is going to feel the same way about your business too!

Now I think its self evident that many companies just don't have the resources for a high-quality help desk.  As companies focus on efficiencies and turnover the mandate for these businesses is generally getting through as many calls or emails as possible in the shortest amount of time.  While being responsive is an admirable goal, you NEVER want your staff rushing to get the customers off the line without providing the correct answer - this is a slippery slope and will only lead to unhappy customers and as I've been mentioned before you'll lose more business in the long run with unhappy customers than you can afford to.  When companies do not provide the help desk team with the appropriate resources, training or tools you have a recipe for failure. 

Please see my further posts for additional information on this topic.

Play to your strengths! - The Question of Outsourcing Part II

Why is Everyone Chatting?

All the world over, businesses are changing their modes of operation. More specifically in how they handle their customers. This is becaus...