The ambidexterity challenge
by Jens KANNLER & Vivian TRENKLER
Vice President Partner
Management Customer Service
The ambidexterity challenge
How to balance efficiency with thrilling service initiatives
Imagine a blue and green world. The blue world consists of experienced corporate DAX groups. Those companies are characterized by an exploitive “squeezing the lemon” type of behavior. They have steady entrepreneurial success. In the green world only, startups exist. Those startups are explorative, they have to be innovative and fight creatively for their success. Ambidexterity means bringing both worlds together. So that from the perspective of a blue mass-market company, you still retain your exploitative DNA, but start investing into experiments in the green world.
What does it mean to us?
Ambidexterity requires balancing the financial needs of a corporation while constantly adapting to ever changing customer demands. Focusing only on exploitation a corporation can’t keep up with rising efficiency goals in the long term. The lemon cannot be squeezed out any longer and we all have to find a new lemon to squeeze. But with changing customer demand yesterday’s lemon might already be dry today. We always have to focus on our customers’ needs!
From a customer’s perspective ambidexterity means experiencing a special customer service. In the context of a contact center customers expect their issues to be solved without long waiting times, without being forwarded to an agent in the second level and without multiple contacts with the company. Observing the requirements of the customer we can reduce unnecessary expenditure and achieve financial savings.
How can we create a better customer experience?
At the technical customer service within DT, we decided for a change. We wanted to adjust our processes to thoroughly improve the customer experience. In order to generate enough flexibility to implement a transformation, we ramped up efficiency within our pre-existing business model even more. We came up with a list of inefficiencies to remove within our processes. By consistently implementing those measures we were able to save up to 20% of the average call handling time in our second level.
Furthermore, it was necessary to adjust the organizational structure and to change peoples’ silo mentality, who had been caught in an artificial first vs. second level structure. We have accomplished this change in the past year by qualifying our entire workforce into a competence based model.
Where did we come from and what did we change?
Yesterday retail consumers and business customers with technical problems called our general service hotline. Our first level agents tried to help them to resolve their issues. At the point, at which they could not help the customer anymore, advanced customer issues were manually forwarded from the first to the second level agent. If the second level agent could not help, he forwarded the call a second time. The customers had multiple contacts before their problem was solved.
Since the different levels of agents had differing problem solving tools and rights a lot of first and second level agents were necessary.
Today consumer and business customers are automatically matched within the IVR so that they are placed with a suitable agent right from the start. This increases the likelihood that their issues can be solved at the first contact.
Our employees received the knowledge to solve problems within their competence. Besides focussing on changing processes we have also had to work on communication skills and building a change-friendly mindset. Within the agent’s qualification we have put an emphasis on communicating the solution to the customer. We have enticed our agents to embrace a problem solving mindset.
The implementation of the competence based model increased the requirements for the employees. Where before agents either had broad but simplified knowledge or a very deep but particular skillset, the requirements of both the first and second level had to be mastered by everyone. We have supported them by integrating countless analytical tools and processes into a single guided customer dialogue tool.
Benefits of the Transformation?
The guided customer dialogue helps to solve up to 20% more of the incoming issues. Furthermore the number of manually forwarded cases and the overall talk times are decreasing. The efficiency we have achieved is more flexibility and a higher availability for the customers with less resources. Mission “Blue world” achived, we have managed to squeeze the lemon.
We also come much closer to our green goal “special customer experience”. Within the last year we have achived a 20% increase in customer satisfation and our first contact resolution rate is constantly increasing.
Stay hungry. Surviving in a green world
Is that it? Transformation acomplished, put the banner up?
In a green world businesses constantly adapt to an ever changing enviroment. Companies who stop reinventing themselves go out of business. Living Ambidexterity means to constantly transform your organisation. Moving on we focus on three additional factors to facilitate our transformation further and provide even more first contact resulutions for our customers.
Implement a spirit of entrepreneurship within your workforce. Only those employees who feel respsonsibility towards their customers will continue to strive for innvoation and excellence.
Use big data analytics to visualise the results of their actions for each individual agent. In order to foster individual responsibility we will provide agent dashboards that show their personal development through daily KPIs.
Your workforce is heterogenous. Everybody is different, has different perceptive capacities and strengths. Be agile in your training. Use your big data insights to adapt your qualification to each persons needs.
How can you handle the ambidexterity challenge?
Living in a complex world it would be presumptuous for me to give you advice tailored to your specific situation. Instead let me ask you three questions:
- How do I put customer centricity at the heart of my business?
- How do I foster responsibility within my workforce?
- Question what you have always been doing. Is there an agile way to do it?
Jens Kannler has 15 years of experience in customer focused management roles. He has worked for the past 6 years on transforming the technical customer services at DT towards a one touch organization. Further, he drives digital initiatives in the contact center for more than 1800 employees with his partners and develops sales skills in his responsibility. Prior, he has lead customer experience, CRM and strategy teams and is a promoter of an agile mindset.
Vivian Trenkler has 10 years of experience in various positions within Deutsche Telekom. In the past two years she has been tasked with steering the technical customer services (TKS) partners operational production and ensuring their performance. She is constantly active in projects advancing the business model, such as the transformation into the TKS competence model, incentive-based payment models and implementation of nearshore partners.
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