Lean Contact Center Transformation through Knowledge Work Standardization

Case Studies Contact Centers
Lean Call Center Implementation
A Top 5 U.S. Health Plan Provider Contact Center

Case Study: Lean Contact Center Transformation through Knowledge Work Standardization

United States

How to Improve Call Center Productivity in Less Than 6 Months by Implementing Lean Six Sigma

The contact centers never recovered from the onslaught of volume from the Affordable Care Act. Despite new technology, and call center transformation strategies from specialized experts, the cost per call remained unacceptably high. Service levels remained stubbornly low. Surges in call volume were transferred to external call centers—contractors. Employee overtime pay skyrocketed. Contact center cost cutting became virtually impossible.

Simple walking tours convinced the new COO that more technology would not increase call center efficiency. She noticed that numerous, existing continuous improvement call center efforts failed to target the 7 wastes typical of lean process improvement. She routinely observed 4 of these 7 wastes: excessive waiting, unnecessary motion, avoidable defects and inappropriate processing. She decided to launch a call center transformation that would standardize management of these knowledge-based workers’ productivity. Her goal was to implement a lean approach in improving the performance of the service call centers: to create a knowledge work factory.

Project Sponsor:

Chief Operations Officer

Non-technology, self-funding operational
improvement implementation:

– No new technology
– Organization-wide improvement
– 7-month implementation

Client Description, Lean Knowledge Work Project Scope, Process Improvement Objectives

A Top 5 national health plan provider, the company operated four primary service contact centers to serve membership measured in the tens of millions. Nearly 5,000 customer service representatives struggled to handle call volume surges, relying heavily on third-party vendors. They struggled with how to improve call center efficiency and how to cut costs in the call center.

Lean contact center transformation began with a 7-week Phase I analysis of operations. This delivered a self-funding, guaranteed business case and work plan launching a 7-month, Phase II implementation to improve call center productivity. By completion, total inbound call volume fell by 30 percent. Contract call centers were eliminated. First call resolution rates doubled. Overtime was reduced 70 percent and cost per call was cut in half, without new technology.

Project Objectives:

– Cost reduction
– Improved employee productivity
– Reduced call volume

Project Scope:

– Four contact center locations
– Member support services
– Provider support services

Contact Center Transformation Implementation Examples

The Lab implemented more than 400 non-technology lean contact center process improvements. Examples:

Root Cause Lean Management — Root causes were identified that generated 65 percent of inbound member calls: open enrollment, password query, etc. A call center performance improvement plan template included preemptive, call reduction strategies, such as clearer instructions and member notifications.

Transaction Process Standardization — The catalog of over 200 call center transactions was simplified to 30 that represented 90 percent of the work. Next, lean standard work methods helped simplify and standardize the activities of the customer service reps (CSRs). Daily productivity metrics, CSR team KPI reviews and discussions delivered measurable continuous improvement in cost per call.

Segmented After Call Work (ACW) — Despite the latest technology, ACW durations had steadily increased. Lean standardized transactions enabled the development of similarly standardized, desk-level ACW job guides with common instructions. These non-technology improvements were built into templates, which ensured that common ACW tasks delivered prompt, consistent outcomes to improve call center productivity.

Implementation Results:

  • Operating cost 25%
  • Annual savings $34M
  • Inbound call volume 30%
  • Cost per call 50%
  • Break even point 5 mos.
  • ROI (12 month) 10x