How to improve customer satisfaction using complexity?

We all have the unpleasant experience of calling a call center to get customer service or to try to resolve a problem that we have. Our interaction with any company, we purchase commodities or services form, will rarely end up as a good experience. The question is WHY?

This post, take into account that you already read my previous post about complexity and you have a basic understanding of complexity and how it applies to the business and managerial world. 

Customer satisfaction is a complex problem. There are many elements within a company that needs to work in synchronization to address ever-changing customers’ requests. To reach customer satisfaction a company needs to coordinate external and internal entities that can make their own decisions, take their actions, see the same reality in different ways due to diversity, and are tightly interlinked. 

The interaction between all autonomous and diverse groups creates unpredictability because each group sees the reality differently, following different mental models and can take their actions. The huge potential of uncertainty makes customer satisfaction one of the most complex challenges for companies. Or in different words to provide good customer satisfaction one needs to find a way how to fit his operation to deal with complexity and decrease the underline unpredictability. 

So how complexity can be used to understand and resolve this challenge?

The first change is the focus. Complexity focus on the interactions between parts of the organization, not on the parts themselves. The effort is an attempt to understand what’s wrong in a system (the organization, not technologies), not what’s wrong with people and groups. Focusing on the system makes people more open and engaged. If the key to understanding complexity is in interlinks all the other efforts, that focus on parts, won’t be able to uncover what caused the problem. There are several ways to focus on interlinks to understand how a system is running. The best one right now is the three visual languages that were defined as part of systems thinking.

Over the years scientists spend time and effort to find what are the attributes that make systems successful in complex environments. Let’s try to see if this knowledge can help us to reveal potential challenges and resolution to customer satisfaction. 

let’s start with the idea of distributed control. To deal with complexity, the system needs to be able to distribute control and authority. Central control is not working when dealing with complexity. Let’s try to reflect this attribute on customer satisfaction. How many times you called a call center and you had to wait on the line, so the representative can get an approval. This is central control and you know how it makes you feel. How would you feel if the agents that you are speaking with will interact with you without delays and spending time listening to annoying music? would it change your satisfaction? That can be achieved by giving those agents the ability to make decisions. To distribute control within given boundaries.

Self-organized team is the concept that people can create teams button-up based on risen needs. Those teams can last 5 minutes or 5 months, as long as their member see the need to collaborate. Those self-organized teams are usually cross-functional teams. They will be form based on a given problem and will have all the needed expertise to resolve them. The group will have people that somehow connected to others. Connectivity is what brings them together. in short, self-organized teams are created ad-hoc and they are not homogenous as departments (silos). 

How a self-organized team related to customer satisfaction? Often, our need as a customer exceeds what customer support can provide. When that happened, we are being handed over between different groups that related to resolving our problem. Every group will guarantee us that the problem is not on their side (who cares) and they will (in a good scenario) forward us to the next group in the process. Is that ever make you happy? Did you feel that you are dealing with a company that cares about you?

How would you feel if the customer support person will pull online a group that has different expertise to resolve your problem and you could hear how they are progressing toward a solution? How would you feel if you asked for some new feature or service from IT and you’ll get it fast, really fast? This is feasible and happens in organizations that enable self-organized groups to form themselves to resolve problems, not just customer problems. Self-organized groups are not just happened in companies. They are an outcome of a culture that enables this phenomenon to happen.

Ants alone can’t do much, but when they in a big group they are capable of doing amazing things. As groups ants are developing certain capabilities that they can’t achieve as individuals. This phenomenon called emergence. How that is related to customer satisfaction? 

One of my favorite parts, when I’m interacting with common customer end personals in organizations, is to count how much time it takes them to become robots and repeat the same (sometimes unrelated) predefine message. This is an example of missing of emergence in a system. Instead of people and groups developing new capabilities and behaviors to adjust to changes (that I introduce), they are repeating the same mantra. That is not an experience that customers like to have.

What if all the groups that are dealing with customers can change what they are doing and how they are doing it to adapt to customer requests. Would I need to experience repeating slogans that are irrelevant to my problems? When I’m not hearing slogans, there is less work for supervisors, but that is getting more into efficiencies.

Emergent is very easy to create within groups, but if you are not familiar with the advantages it brings you probably not going to spend the time and effort in creating it.

I just use several attributes of complexity to demonstrate how it can help to understand what can be wrong in a system and how it can help to realize what can be the appropriate solution. I hope that I manage to get your attention and curiosity. In this post, I used customer satisfaction. In my next post, I’m going to show how to resolve different problems with different complexity’s attributes

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