Unfortunately, many Operations Managers’ projects kick off with the time-honoured cry: “the call centre’s blowing up!”. It might be a network outage, a defective product, or a supplier failing to show. Either way, communications need to be sent to impacted customers. And invariably, that can’t happen right away.
Sending a text message to impacted customers requires senior sign off. The earliest possible meeting of senior managers – which happens two hours later – concludes the Ops Manager was right. Yes, send a text message. Then comes implementation.
Unfortunately, that requires IT support and the help of an external vendor. A list of recipients needs to be extracted from the CRM, and the vendor needs to launch the text message campaign. By the time the message is sent it’s all too late.
The recent power outages in South Australia are a perfect illustration of impediments that prevent customer communications being sent in a timely manner.
So what does the Operations Management function need to help their customers and company? The answers lie in 4 key areas:
1. A great dashboard
No, a relayed message of “the call centre is blowing up” does not constitute an adequate dashboard for Operations managers!
A real-time view of customer-impacting metrics is essential. The best performing customer-focused companies include leading indicators wherever possible. This helps operations managers get ahead of issues and be proactive.
For example a procurement centre with a live view of stock backorder is essential for many operations managers. They can then pre-empt customer enquiries with advanced communications if they see delays on the horizon.
Depending on industry and company, an effective dashboard might contain average shipping times, stock reports, lead pipeline, or sales enquiry volumes.
When designing your dashboard the question to ask is “what information pre-warns us of customer-impacting issues?”
2. The authority to take action
Operations Managers are constantly held back by cumbersome internal processes that prevent them from implementing a communication change.
Using the recent South Australian example, consider the scenario of the utility company needing to notify households and businesses of an impending power outage.
The operations manager might need sign off on communications from 3 levels of management. Plus a senior legal advisor. Maybe a corporate affairs rep too.
This obviously couldn’t be achieved in time and the impact on homes and businesses was huge.
There are two solutions to this. Depending on the scale of the issue, you could empower your operations manager with absolute authority. Alternatively, organisations need pre-approved messages for all common scenarios which might include:
> Product recalls
> Blow outs in call back times
> Staff shortages
> Flight cancellations
> Planned/Unplanned outages
Be realistic in estimating the amount of time taken to navigate internal process. If it’s been a problem in the past, it will likely be a problem in the future. Pre-approved communications are the preferred option whenever possible.
3. An agile communication platform
Having the authority to change and send communications is one thing. Having the means to send them is another.
Agile systems are a ‘must’. A way to create, change and send customer communications in real time. And an interface that lets operations managers do it themselves. No IT engagement, tickets or config required. No deployment windows required. No upload queues. No external suppliers.
And this goes for all communications mediums. Text messages, emails, or call centre scripts/IVR prompts.
Too often ops managers aren’t enabled with the means to quickly change or send customer communications. And then it also becomes their job to deal with uninformed, irate customers. Talk about salt in the wound.
4. Reliable communication channels and contact data
Intent only counts for so much. To land your message, you need reliable communication channels and robust customer contact information.
That means no VOIP calls (poor call quality), mobile app notifications (40-70% are turned off depending on category) or emails (40% open rate).
Unfortunately, the way to be notified on South Australia power outages is via app notifications from the ‘Alert SA’ mobile app. It is designed to warn of power outages as well as floods, fires, transport disruptions and more. It’s great the South Australian government has tried to send notifications.
But the reviews reveal all the common app notification issues. It’s just not a reliable communication channel:
Operation managers need reliable communication channels to land critical messages. That means SMS or voice calls for messages that are time sensitive. Less time-sensitive messages can be sent via email.
The other perennial bugbear of the operations manager is unreliable customer contact data. The slickest customer comms process and systems can be completely undermined by incorrect or incomplete databases.
Set your Ops Managers up for success
Operations managers are the first to feel the blowtorch when things go wrong. There is no other team member with such a vested interest in customer service and operations. And essential to this is smooth-running communications. Companies must support them with the systems and process they need to do their job and drive the best customer outcomes.
Use the above 4-point checklist as a conversation starter with your operations managers, and get prepared for your next emergency communications campaign.