Balancing Quality and Speed in World-Class Operations
Today there is pressure for companies to deliver outstanding products and exceptional customer experiences. To achieve this, companies need to focus not only on efficiency and effectiveness, but also foster a culture of continuous improvement.
When I first took over leading a large contact center training organization, I was surprised to find that speed in training call center agents far exceeded the quality of the training. The measurement of success was the number of classes conducted and the number of agents trained. In other words, the more, the better. What was not being measured was the newly trained agent’s proficiency, the quality of that training, or the agent’s performance the first 90-days performing the job. The result was a massive number of mistakes, unhappy performers, lower morale, and higher attrition.
Quality or Speed?
You cannot focus solely on quality or speed. Like any great partnership, it’s about striking the right balance. Quality AND Speed are two keys to opening the door to superior operational performance and an outstanding customer experience. When thinking about what a world-class operation is, there are many allusions to quality and speed:
• Deliver products and services on time.
• Be agile enough to adjust their processes to accommodate changes.
• Realize that people are their most vital asset and continually train, develop, and coach.
• Measure the core metrics that drive success and avoid analysis paralysis.
• Know that quality is determined by customers.
At the end of the day, we are all consumers, and what do consumers want? A great product, service, or experience—now. This can only be achieved when quality and speed are in sync. Too much of an emphasis on either, without purpose or intent, can result in suboptimal practices and behaviors. Going fast without well-documented processes and procedures introduces performance and reputational risk.
Quality is a must-have, without it you’ll have no products or services to sell, and no operation to support them. Consumers are quick to react to poor quality, errors, long lead times, and false promises.
Think about your last poor experience. What impact did it have on your loyalty to that brand? Disappointed consumers are more vocal than satisfied ones. Today’s obsession with social media magnifies poor customer experiences. A singular focus on quality can result in a great product, service, or experience that never sees the light of day. This is where speed comes in – speed to market and speed of delivery.
Speed is a must-have, but it needs to be strategic speed. According to the Harvard Business Review “Need Speed? Slow Down” article, “Simply increasing the pace of production often leads to decreased value over time.” When speed results in errors, omissions, and failures, the balance between quality and speed has been lost and must be regained. There are many attributes that influence speed – experience, tenure, processes, training, technology, leadership, etc.
Understanding the capabilities of your team in conjunction with the operational ecosystem surrounding them is essential in fostering a world-class operation. Moving slower initially to get things right will increase the likelihood of long-term success. This rings true across various dimensions – people, products, processes, tools, and technology. Balancing quality and speed must be adopted at the top and valued company wide.
Equally important, and not mutually exclusive.
In addition to the union of quality and speed, world-class operations are comprised of great people. In his book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins states, “people are not your most important asset. The right people are.”. This is true regardless of the company, industry, role, or function. A world-class operation and team must be comprised of the right people that possess strong core values, are eager to learn, are willing to continuously execute and improve, and put team and mission ahead of self.
Bringing a balance of quality and speed will change an organization’s operations and customer experience from good to great.
Our team has seen great success and unceasing improvement in quality and speed by modernizing learning strategies and adopting a classroom environment to educate and train team members. By measuring the quality of interactions and creating a channel for feedback, we have adopted metrics and addressed failing metrics. We’ve shortened training timelines by teaching what was necessary and allowing time for questions. We’ve reduced mistakes while decreasing attrition and increasing morale. The result has been a happier, more proficient team that delivers world-class customer service and experiences.