When shifting services from an in-house shared-services model to an outsourced one, be prepared to address service level issues.
When a company transitions from an in-house, shared-services center to a fully outsourced HRO provider, issues are likely to arise as a result of the change in the company’s existing staffing, systems, and processes to the new provider’s centralized systems and shared call center. One of the more prevalent areas of risk during this transition is deteriorating levels of service to employees and a build-up in open cases. Depending on daily call-center volumes, it doesn’t take long for service levels to reach unacceptable levels. If this happens, consider these steps.
• Step one: Complete a root-cause analysis to identify internal and external sources of problems and
clarify what is and isn’t “broken.” Also, develop a game plan that attacks causes rather than symptoms. This analysis can unearth holes in case ownership—for example, if certain types of cases remain unprocessed. It also discloses possible reporting deficiencies when there is no clear picture of the open caseload or if open cases become hidden once assigned to specific individuals.
• Step two: Assign and reinforce manager accountability. Assign each case type to an area of responsibility and an area supervisor. The service provider should schedule regular staff meetings to:
• Assign orphan cases and discuss specific case issues;
• Get staff talking to each other, solving problems together and providing frank feedback;
• Identify “quick fixes” to reduce backlog; and
• Strategize about maximizing staff productivity and rewarding desired behaviors.
• Step three: Tackle the backlog. Group whatever open cases exist by age. Assign those in the oldest group for speedy resolution. If they are still open the following week, supervisors should be required to justify why.
Once all open cases in this oldest group are resolved, the focus shifts to cases in the next oldest, perhaps those more than two months old. In this way, the oldest cases systematically grow younger. If these cases cannot be resolved because of delays in retrieving data, they should be quickly escalated to the key client contact.
The company and service provider should identify and work duplicate cases and train staff on case management systems to ensure that duplicated cases are not being created and cases are being correctly closed.
Implement initiatives that encourage individual performance among call-center employees. For instance, a call center can schedule several “conquer cases” weeks. During these periods, the call center can be staffed with “bay-walkers” who answer questions on a one-and-done basis, thereby reducing the number of new cases being created. Staff members who reach certain case closure goals could receive rewards—for example, free meals, snacks, prizes, and overtime bonuses.
These tactics are an effective means of reducing—and eventually eliminating—any backlog of cases that may exist outside of the SLA.
• Step four: Initiate an ongoing management process. As the backlog shrinks, the effort should move from “remediation” to the ongoing management process. New tools can be incorporated to facilitate case visibility and assignment by automatically assigning cases to specified areas of responsibility. “Case aging” tables can provide full and flexible visibility to all open cases.
Avoid a Crisis
A crisis situation can build within a matter of weeks when ongoing, large monthly volumes of cases combine with staffing and systems changes to disrupt productivity and focus. Effective case management within the outsourced center relies on:
• Constant monitoring of the outstanding casework through meetings and daily reporting;
• Robust support systems and case management tools;
• Proactive training on plan changes and system upgrades; and
• Planning for temporary surges in volume.
Finally, companies should recognize that outsourcing does not equal disengagement. Effective case management requires continued involvement. Managers need to provide early warnings about organizational developments or plan changes that might drive call-center activity and coordinate among corporate staff
functions and other vendors to achieve a satisfying call-center experience for all employees.