When “Undercover Boss” Comes to Customer Service – A Knowledge Management Challenge


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Many within customer service know the knowledge management challenges that service agents face on a daily basis. But oftentimes, these challenges don’t make their way to the executive level.

If you’ve seen the TV show “Undercover Boss,” then you’ve seen this disconnect before: executives go undercover within the operational levels of their businesses, only to find that the principals touted from the corporate HQs are far removed from ground-level operations. The bosses find themselves shocked by the lack of execution, leading to widespread organizational changes.

With that framework in mind, I issue a challenge to customer service VPs of support, services and success – spend more time on the floor with your people.

The main disconnect occurs when efforts are wasted to meet/exceed performance metrics. Having run a large support organization in the past, I’ve found that organizations are very good at monitoring and measuring. In most cases, these metrics become a baseline for the organization to achieve.

This approach can be problematic, because flawed baselines create barriers to achieving higher results. Employees will work solely to justify the metrics, which does not necessarily provide a higher degree of service. In the end, wasted effort hurts support operations, even if the metrics are met each quarter.

To combat this problem, I encourage executives to instead examine the effort an organization requires to deliver on those metrics. An example comes from one company I visited that had major flaws in its organization. The agents, managers and directors all saw the problems, but could not get their executives to believe that their organization was expending too much effort for the value they were delivering. In other words, if the metrics were met, the increased effort was not a problem.

This is a classic example of the gap that can exist between executives and ground-level management. The issue is not in the metrics, but the cost of the effort the metrics require. What if this organization could reduce the cost of delivery by 20-25 percent – would that have an impact on the organization as a whole? Absolutely. In these situations, the only way executives will understand the cost of delivering support is to see firsthand what occurs on the front lines. Many would be appalled at the cost and effort their frontline staff spends to deliver service. I guarantee that many would take action to help improve their ability to support their customers.

In a world where customer experience is first and foremost of many organizations, often a front-line perspective is helpful for any executive that wants to improve the quality of support and engagement with their customers.

Here’s how an executive can get started:

1) Book a full day

2) Forget about the metrics for the day, and observe the effort

3) Work alongside every job or role in your organization

4) Observe what you think each role needs to work better

5) Ask for direct feedback from those you sit with to understand their view

By the end of the day, you will have a much better appreciation and a list of actionable items that will make a difference in your organization.

Like the Undercover Boss, if you find major issues and want to get some help – check out the success stories these organizations experience when they stopped wasting effort and started providing a higher degree of service.

Does your organization waste support efforts for the sake of metrics and measurement? Are your executives part of the problem, or part of the solution?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Ed Shepherdson
Ed Shepherdson serves as Coveo's Senior Vice President of Enterprise Solutions. He brings 30 years of experience in the technology industry to this role. Prior to joining Coveo, he spent 18 years at Cognos, now an IBM company, where he most recently served as Vice President of Global Customer Support.


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