A team of 10 Technical Support specialists handles requests: functional questions, data issues and defects, all related to a billing software. The users, here invoicing business experts, wanted their non blocking requests or tickets processed and resolved within 5 days. Their situation, only 40% of the requests resolved within 5 days, was a problem.
I started by leading some of the technical support specialists and their leader on how to observe a process of work. We observed their colleagues during their work – indeed with their permission- and discovered the following:
- Surprisingly, the 5 days lead time rule was not clear for all. Three technicians did not even recall this rule. For two others, starting to process any incoming request within 5 days’ timeframe should be enough.
- Each technician was holding 10 to 30 requests (also known as tickets) as a local backlog. One part represented tickets they deliberately picked up and finally could not resolve due to a lack of competencies. They did not ask for help. The other part were tickets assigned to them by the team leader without any clue of their specific competences related to the subject.
- There was no shared process on how to resolve a ticket. We observed one technician spending too much time collecting non-relevant information about a user, instead of going straight to the pain point.
I conducted a workshop with some of the technical support specialists, as a way for them to lead the change. They learnt “Lean Management” tools such as Voice of Customer, Flow Management, Variability and Standards. They challenged their current process and way of working using those tools and experimented them to make weaknesses visible and to help find sustainable solutions. Therefore, they executed the following action plan:
- Visual management, collective performance awareness and follow-up: they visualize in real-time, on the wall, all the tickets flow, incoming, under processing, and resolved. They also include the target of the day, to clearly see how they are performing. This target is the number of requests to be resolved, calculated each day by the team leader and some of technicians, according to a strategy to ensure the 5 days lead time. Those requests are usually a mix of incoming requests, tickets from the backlog and dedicated slots for urgent requests. All of those are shared during a daily stand up meeting the team hold.
- Live team support and monitoring to quickly unlock blocking points: during the working day, according to the progression on the live update, the team leader proactively goes and sees technicians at their desk. With the objective to smooth the tickets processing, he ensures to unlock difficult situations, so the team can reach the target of the day. The other way around, each technician has been instructed to immediately request the team leader support as soon as he faces a difficulty. So, the leader comes immediately to the technician’s desk and unlock the situation.
- Adaptive flow management, incoming requests assignments and dispatching: some of the technicians, experts, assume a dispatch role. Becoming the entry point for all the incoming requests, they resolve the simple tickets and assign the other ones to the team members according to their specific competences. As experts, they know which competences are required to resolve the tickets, also know their colleagues’ abilities and so do the assignment efficiently. They resolve the simplest very fast, and finally help or provide guidance – by working in pair mode – to the others to resolve the complex tickets. The dispatch team size varies from one to three people according to the incoming volume.
After 8 weeks, 68% of the tickets are resolved on time – within 5 days. The technical support team productivity increased by +73%. This productivity is the average of the number of tickets resolved per day, per technicians. The clients expressed their satisfaction and would like the team to keep the momentum.
Together with the team and the management, we took 2 hours to reflect on the project. My objective was to help them clearly define the way to go ahead, knowing what they have accomplished and how they proceeded. As new ways of doing, definitively adopted as a standard, they mentioned:
- The adaptive flow management organization according to the incoming tickets volume. This has been a success.
- The way they used to ring, and request help from the team leader, as soon as they are blocked. This is, in fact, known as the “andon” mechanism. It creates learning by doing opportunities between a technician and the Team Leader who becomes the teacher.
- The definition of a daily strategy in order to reach the target performance for the day. They used to adapt it in real time during the day.