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Employing Six Sigma in Contact Centers


The essence of contact centers lies in quality control. Quality control has been about identifying and establishing performance metrics and measuring whether they were achieved during the normal course of operations. On the other hand, six sigma focuses on the defect rates and the methods to reduce them.

In manufacturing environments, it is clearly possible to identify performance metrics and also to establish tolerance levels of defection at every stage of the process. Six sigma principles allows them to measure whether the defect rates are within acceptable levels, and if not, adjust the process until the measures fall within the ranges of acceptable defection.Continuous improvement is an important Six Sigma approach, wherein the tolerance requirements are gradually exacted until they reach defined SIx Sigma level of 3.4 defects per million opportunities.

This approach shall be a daunting task for call centers, due to the lack of precision and replicability of manufacturing process. But this approach is fundamental for contact centers to improve on their customer service and to develop and establish competitive edge. Recent studies have clearly indicated that the main imperative for contact centers is cost control. Contact centers strive to identify opportunities to optimize on their cost structures by reducing the average call duration, minimize repeated calls, improve agent productivity and reduce head count and encourage the use of self-assisted service channels.

Transforming contact centers into profit centers have been proved theoretically, but practically, the number of unsuccessful stories have overshadowed the successful. The main barriers in this transformation are insufficient workforce training and investments. These barriers are deeply rooted into the contact center culture and management. Another major barrier would be process change, which will account for the major transformations in the operational activities.

Achieving successful improvements through process changes would require a clear and in depth understanding of every stage of the process. Examining the shortcomings and defects and establishing alterations that are capable to overcome them.

There are two obstacles to achieving this transformational improvement. One, is that contact centers rely heavily on manpower; agents are the most influential factors in contact centers, and, second being the difficulty in examining the end-to-end processes involved, both within the center and enterprise.

Looking across the enterprise is difficult for contact centers that discourage integration between multiple communication channels that harnesses seamless and synchronized communication. CRM approaches are to be inculcated into the culture, where a complete lifecycle of the customer is tracked and displayed.

There is a 3-step solution to this problem;

  1. Understanding the strategic objectives of the organization, measuring the defects and establishing process improvements.

  2. Optimizing processes, manpower and technologies to improve their suitability for process improvements and transformational changes.

  3. Align the improvement program, by transforming the process, education people and improving the support technology.

Once the improvement program is carried out, the organization is to measure the performance metrics and the defect rates, and repeat the process continuously to gain more.


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