Drucker & Your Contact Center

Your organization is run by knowledge workers. They plan your strategy, make decisions, measure results and they deliver service to customers, both your core value proposition and the customer experience surrounding it. At Telax we take this to heart, because we have learned that the management of the knowledge worker, i.e. helping your teams deliver the service experience that creates happy customers, while providing executives with the business intelligence to make better decisions that create better products, is the higher purpose of a world-class contact center operation.

Much of the academic backbone for the Telax approach comes from analyzing the works of management guru Peter Drucker, who in his seminal books, Concept of the Corporations, The Practice of Management, and Managing for Results, codified the concept of management into a practice that can be studied and improved upon, where previously this did not exist at all. As Drucker continued his analysis of evolving organization over years of unprecedented change in the latter half of the 20th century, he coined the term “knowledge worker” that were more and more replacing “manual worker” as the engine of the next economy. A valuable primer on Drucker’s thoughts on the subject entitled “Knowledge-Worker Productivity: The Biggest Challenge” from the California Management Review is well worth a read.

Drucker noted in his 1999 book Management Challenges for the 21st Century that “The most important, and indeed the truly unique, contribution of management in the 20th Century was the fifty-fold increase in the productivity of the ‘manual worker’ in manufacturing. The most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st Century is similarly to increase the productivity of knowledge work and the ‘knowledge worker’.”

Drucker was the first to realize that although organizations had developed great methods, tools and principles for managing a manufacturing based economy, we sorely lacked the tools to manage a knowledge worker based economy, which he considered to be a critical threat to developed economies as a whole. On page 157 of the same text Drucker said, “Knowledge worker productivity is the biggest of the 21st century management challenges. In the developed countries it is their first survival requirement. In no other way can the developed countries hope to maintain themselves, let alone to maintain their leadership and their standards of living.”

So it was in answer to Drucker’s call to action that the approach at Telax was born, to provide a framework that aligns technology, processes, and most critically people with the objectives of an organization. To accomplish the goals of modernizing our client’s service delivery capabilities and help them build stronger relationships with their customers, which are the natural by-products of managing for effectiveness and efficiency.

With the tools that are available to the contact center, the service that is delivered by knowledge workers and the information produced in the interaction is no longer a “black box” to management. Previously, only outcomes could be judged, but with no insight in to the process, no valuable feedback can be provided to improve on less than optimal outcomes. Drucker advises us of the massive feat that management accomplished in the 20th century, improving the productivity of the manual worker in manufacturing 50 fold. This drove much of the prosperity western economies enjoy today and was accomplished through new models of management, such as Fredrick Taylor’s Scientific Management or Henry Ford popularizing the assembly line (contrary to popular belief he didn’t actually invent it) or more modern iterations including TQM (total quality management) and Six Sigma. The element that all of these techniques have in common is the use of measurement to build repeatable processes by analyzing outcomes and improving the process on the next iteration by making adjustments driven by the analysis. For example, Frederick Taylor did hundreds of experiments to determine the optimal size for the head of a shovel for workers shoveling coal, plotting the max-min curve for average strength versus payload size etc. It is contact center metrics that are a hidden engine of value, to drive the data necessary to use these analytic methodologies to generate real results. At the most basic, it tells us if we are efficient, i.e. doing things right. But at the highest level it can show us if we, as an organization, are effective, i.e. doing the right things.

Ultimately, a seamless interaction between the contact center and departments that impact customer service needs to take place, because the experience of customer stretches across multiple departments and ultimately the entire organization. The customer does not view their experience in departmental silos, so it is critical customer-centric organizations have the same view and position technology and processes to support that reality. It is in hope of such insights that the famous G.E. CEO Jack Welch would admonish his team to “face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be”. This reality can be reflected accurately in a modern contact center platform, by enabling seamless visibility across the entire service delivery continuum, both for management and also the agent delivering the service, so that they have more information from which to make service decisions. And this information can also be provided automatically to the caller, so that they are informed and have control to decide their own outcomes, and it is the lack of information and control that is often at the heart of a poor experience. Sending requests into an abyss with no visibility or a sense of accountability is an extremely frustrating position for a customer. Understanding the contributing role to the customer experience of departments, either directly by interacting with the client through direct service delivery or indirectly by supporting those that do is a critical next step. And learning from every interaction, transforming data into information that helps make better decisions is nothing short of transformational.

Describing the impact of such a shift as miraculous would not be hyperbole. It will enable the organization to ask again and answer ever more clearly the critical question posed by Drucker “what is our business” and how to align the organization correctly as tactical plans work to underpin the strategic answer. In conclusion, a summary paragraph of Drucker’s analysis of another large organization’s transformation through this same analysis we encourage our clients to perform:

“Productivity of the knowledge worker will almost always require that the work itself be restructured and be made part of a system. One example is servicing expensive equipment, such as huge and expensive earth-moving machines. Traditionally, this had been seen as distinct and separate from the job of making and selling the machines. However, when the U.S. Caterpillar Company, the world’s largest producer of such equipment, asked “What are we getting paid for?’ the answer was “We are not getting paid for machinery. We are getting paid for what the machinery does at the customer’s place of business. That means keeping the equipment running, since even one hour during which the equipment is out of operation may cost the customer far more than the equipment itself.” In other words, the answer to ‘What is our business?’ was ‘Service.’ This then led to a total restructuring of operations all the way back to the factory in order that the customer could be guaranteed continuing operations and immediate repairs or replacements. The service representative, usually a technologist, has become the true ‘decision maker’.”

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