Key Drivers & Success Criteria behind the ‘BCC Customer Service delivery project’.

Clearly the Brisbane City Council Call Centre is not just your every day successful project to improve Customer Service delivery in the public sector. The size and scope of the project makes it a Milestone and a model for Government agencies, large or small, anywhere in the world, wanting to 1) Improve Customer service & Complaint Handling & 2) Take cost out of the process of citizen interaction.

The project has put to rest the Myth that only profit driven private organisations can and will let the customers be first. In fact shortsighted profit maximization often leads to deteriorating Galley Slave type call centres failing to walk the talk of exceeding customer expectations.

The fact that a monopoly organisation, such as the Brisbane City Council, can overcome the inherent inertia of taking the customer for granted, demonstrates the feasibility of revigorating a bureaucratic organisation by insisting 'Customer come First'.

Key Drivers :

1. The Vision formulated and propagated by The Lord Mayor Jim Soorley ' Customers come First'. To make this more than your everyday pre-election speak the challenge is to allow all staff to buy into and make it their dream too. Re-instating pride in serving the customer has been a major achievement of the Lord Mayor and his management team.

2. Identifying & mapping out all customer contact processes. To improve and redesign processes it is imperative to know the existing processes. Mind you, it must be the actual processes and not the theoretical ones charted out in the manuals of 'how you are supposed to'. When GE (US) set out to re-engineer its processes in early 90ies, it was found that only the people involved in the day to day delivery knew the actual processes and these were often very different from what management thought was going on. BCC spent more than 20 months process mapping prior to the establishment of the call centre; and it's still ongoing.

3. Establishing KPIs for every customer interaction process. Its easy to establish unrealistic KPIs, however unless they are defined with & by the people who are involved with the delivery, pride will be substituted by cynicism. KPIs will further help identify the tools needed to deliver within the timeframes established.

4. Integration of the Call Centre with the rest of the organisation. Many call centres are established as dead-ends and integration happens only slowly or not at all. BCC turned the integration process on its head. Based on the process mapping each agency and department was asked to identify customer phone-interaction and transfer involved staff and proportion of budget to the call centre. The Channel Conflicts & Turf fights were headed off up front, rather than allowing continual politics to undermine the call centres effectiveness. To further entrench the call centre each rep was given liason responsibility to a nominated adminstrative area to ensure continual process and delivery improvements.

5. Clearly defined Outcome based performance standards for the Call Centre. 'Handling 90% of calls within 20 seconds' and ensuring '90% of calls are handled at the point of entry without transfer' set very high service level standards. The challenge is to create a Coaching Culture which encourages reps to continually improve own performance and thus productivity. Pride and a shared goal for improved service delivery is the key here.

6. Finally translating Improved Service delivery into cost savings, short term and long range. In the 1998/99 budget BCC has taken AU$ 100 million out of its $1 billion budget. These savings are not only related to the call centre but an overall saving due to productivity and efficiency.Its very complex to identify the actual cost savings achieved by the new customer service delivery call centre strategy. 'Significant cost savings' is how it is recorded, ( my guesstimate indicates direct savings of AU$ 5-7 million yearly, not taking into account the effect of costly complaint handling avoided due to improved one step customer satisfaction. A recent US study set this as high as US$ 1000 pr complaint).

I want to underline, that the 6 key drivers identified above are based on my personal evaluation.If you're looking for ways to improve your call centre, this can be a valuable starting point.

Niels Kjellerup Editor, July 10th 1998.


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