A year of work in progress – day 129

Day 129 – 23 July 2014

When I arrived at Durham the call closure achievement levels through the Service Desk looked good yet the customers were complaining of a poor service. After some investigation it turned out that we had a considerable backlog of unaddressed customer issues. It transpired that we would work our socks off to try and achieve a resolution within the service level agreement but once that was breached it was anyone’s guess if your problem would ever be solved.

We had a long tail with many calls several months old. On average we had just under the equivalent of nine days work outstanding. This is what kicked off our optimisation programme and emphasised to me how the use of targets can skew your business. Today we still have a backlog and it contains equivalent of about two day’s work. This has been a great improvement but when you add up all the time that the customers have been waiting it amounts to thousands of days. I think we could do better.

There are a couple of things that I know about our Service Desk calls. We resolve the vast majority of the calls that we receive (in the high ninety per cent) and the rate at which we fix calls follows uncannily the rate at which they come in. Armed with loads of graphs and numbers we spent a good portion of this morning’s Project Leaders meeting trying to work out how to take us to the next level of service. What I wanted to know is why can’t we fix all our calls on the day they arrive?

Of course life is never that easy and we had a good two hours’ worth of conversation around where we are and where we would like to be. Call handling is important but no more important than many other things we do. We need to focus less on calls but rather productivity. A call is not a task but is a need within the business to do something that a customer requires. The priority we place on these calls should reflect the effect upon the business. Ideally we should get no calls at all as everything is working and having less calls will mean more time to do the other things that are important.

We came out deciding that we need to have better understanding, better management, greater consistency and better use of resources. We have an action plan and we’ll come back to this at a future date.

After this the Senior Leadership Team and the Senior Project Leads got together. It’s a year since we set the SPL group up and some things have worked very well while others haven’t. We agreed that the role of the group is to manage the day to day operations, contribute to the strategic direction, improve communications and develop our people. We also agreed that the two groups need to continue to work closely together. It was another good meeting where everyone got to say their piece.

In the afternoon we had and informal SLT, including an update telephone conference call with Northumberland and in the evening I attended the Dynamo board.

Learning points for today: You can be consistently inconsistent; there is strategic and operational but there is also tactical; a stick is an unnecessary analogy and it takes a while for people to say the things they want to.

Today’s enjoyment rating 8/10 – some interesting meetings to chair.

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