It is people, process, and technology—right?

I can’t count how many service management meetings I have been in that have started with the statement, “It is people, process, and technology.” Now, after reading “Which Comes First, Customers or Employees?” by Inc.com’s Steve Tobak and an expanded blog post, I am left with three questions: Can you deliver world-class service management without happy, engaged employees? How much of a differentiator are people to our process and technology? And can people, for example, make poor processes or technology work?

 

Quality of service as a business differentiator

Several years ago, I read an article that hit closer to service management, “You got served: Behind T-Mobile's customer service success.” Jennifer Reingold’s article in Fortune Magazine tells the story of how Sue Nokes moved T-Mobile from the bottom to the top of the JD Power and Associates’ survey. Nokes’ had a simple philosophy: Making customers happy happens naturally when employees like what they do and have a stake in the business. With this focus on employees, customer service became a business differentiator for T-Mobile.

 

What you can learn from T-Mobile’s focus on people

In 2002, Nokes was lured to T-Mobile CEO Robert Dotson. When Nokes dug in, what she saw was 12 percent daily absenteeism and 100 percent-plus annual turnover—clear signs of miserable employees. And practices at T-Mobile, such as “neighborhood seating” (where employees moved nomadically from cubicle to cubicle), certainly were not inspiring pride or ownership among staffers.

 

Nokes asked managers at the time if they were losing valuable staffers (they were), then she turned to employee focus groups to ascertain what was driving workers away. As the story goes, Nokes asked the focus group (as she does all employees), “What's going well, and what's broken?” Nokes probed into concerns, complaints and problems of both customers and employees then followed through on her findings. As Nokes says: “When you ask what's wrong, you'd better fix some stuff."

 

Most importantly, she created a standard set of metrics to track call quality and call resolution. She told her team that “she would never hold them accountable for things that don't matter to their customer or to fellow employees.” A critical change that she made for employees and their customers was moving from measuring how much time was spent on a call to “one-call resolution”. This meant that agents could spend as much time as needed with customers to resolve their problem.

 

Nokes fixed T-Mobile, from the inside out. Call center workers got their own desks, more training, better salaries, and more opportunity to grow with the company. With these changes, absenteeism dwindled to 3 percent annually, attrition dropped to 42 percent, and employee satisfaction soared to 80 percent (an all-time high).

 

And even better, internal employee satisfaction morphed into external customer satisfaction. The changes that Nokes instigated improved T-Mobile customer service and put the company on the top of the J.D. Power list. "They have great customer care, they handle the folks they do have, and they're growing at a pretty good clip,” says Kirk Parsons, senior director of wireless services at J.D. Power.

 

Back to you

Do you believe this applies to your service desk and elsewhere in IT? Do you believe that T-Mobile proves that it is people, process, and technology?

 

Related links:

Solution page: IT Service Management

Solution page: IT Performance Management

Twitter: @MylesSuer

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About the Author
Mr. Suer is a senior manager for IT Performance Management. Prior to this role, Mr. Suer headed IT Performance Management Analytics Product ...
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