Here’s the story: A health insurance company came up with an innovation for their health savings accounts, allowing account holders to select among three pricing plans. This would allow their customers to select the plan that best fit their needs.
Their market research confirmed interest in the plan, so they implemented the new account types. They built the software changes, sent letters to their 400,000 account holders, and created marketing and sales plans to stimulate demand.
After a few months they wanted to check the success of the new plans. The first piece of bad news was that far fewer account holders changed their pricing than expected. But the second piece of bad news was that operational costs were through the roof, and the time it took to update a consumer’s pricing plan was much higher than expected. Worse, the time it took from requesting to actually receiving the new pricing was much longer than expected – often taking weeks.
Why the high costs and slow turnaround? Manual processes.
While the company invested in changing their back-end software, implementation required their contact center teams to collect an account holder’s name and email it to one of their agents, who then entered the information into an Excel spreadsheet. Once every two weeks another employee opened a terminal window, looked up each customer, and manually changed their pricing.
Despite spending over a half million dollars on the back-end system and marketing investments, they dumped the customer updates on their contact center, failing to invest on the critical customer-facing system.
Manual processes are the surprise drain on contact center productivity for many companies. Unfortunately, centers are often housed far away from the corporate headquarters. As they say, out of sight, out of mind.
It’s easy to create aspirational plans, and rely on your contact center to fill in the gaps. And this works for a while. But you’re not doing your customers – or your employees – any favors.
Manual processes are a drain. For example, HubLogix estimates that manual processes in an ecommerce order can cost $4 per order. But that’s just the hard costs. There are at least two critical indirect costs.
Manual processes introduce errors into the system. In the healthcare example, how many customers requested the new pricing, but were skipped in the manual process? Worse, what happened when a customer’s request for a higher-cost plan was mis-keyed to a different customer? This is bad for both customers – and almost impossible to catch until the second customer calls to complain.
Secondly, you have a better use for your team’s time, which you can leverage using intraday management solutions. You hire your contact center teams for their empathy and ability to connect with a caller, solve their problem and ensure their loyalty. Your agents create the difference between a satisfied customer and an ex-customer. And you can bet that the health insurance company didn’t add contact center staff to handle this process. Why would you take such key players and reallocate them to data entry?
So the next time your company is building an innovation, pay careful attention to the operational plan. Ensure they’ve thought through the link between the customer requests and the back-end system, and are not relying on your agents to fill in the gap. Ensure it’s a great experience from beginning to end.
And remind everybody that great experiences are not made in Excel.