Everyone’s capable. But of what?

This is the third installment in a four part series of posts where we’ll explore a simple performance management model for customer service called E-C-R: Expectations, Capabilities & Rewards. Parts one and two are here. 

In the context of our model, capabilities are simply the tools, tactics and skills required to achieve a particular strategic objective; thus meeting or exceeding a specific expectation (E).

Organizations, collectively, possess a portfolio of capabilities: design, production, creativity, global reach, technology, cash management….you get the idea.  The challenge in driving sustainable performance improvement within the orgnization, though, is to find or develop a collective set of capabilities that, when applied towards an objective, accomplish it.

Take a topical example, one that many customer service organizations are facing right now; social media in the contact center.  Suppose our strategic objective is to “be everywhere our customers want to be” (forgive me Visa).  This could translate on our strategy map to “providing service and support across the multiple channels through which our customers wish to engage”.

If the organization has traditionally provided service through phone and email channels, it has acquired or developed a particular set of capabilities including CSR skills, telephony infrastructure and even specific physical structures in which to house the contact center.

When we now need to engage with customers through this completely new, still evolving channel, many organizations are finding that those current capabilities are not sufficient to continue to exceed their stated expectations (KPIs) for service delivery.  I’ve witnessed several organizations over the past year attempt to fit a square peg in a round hole, especially in the area of agent skills.  These companies are finding that a rep very skilled at phone-based communication, is often not at all prepared to tweet, moderate an on line community or comment on a blog post.

As my organization embarked on this journey last year, we invested time in first defining the needed skills, creating new job descriptions and roles and then applying Forrester’s social technographics ladder to build a profile of our current capabilities against those skills which we identified as necessary for communication in a Social CRM environment.  The gap analysis that resulted allowed us to then build a linear plan for acquiring the missing capabilities.   

So, when you find your organization suddenly struggling to maintain expected levels of performance, take a step back and inventory what has potentially changed within the context of those expectations.  On the surface, the expectation may seem consistent, but through continuous review, you may discover the environment within which your organization is now trying to achieve its goals may have shifted.

Continuous improvement requires continually reshaping and often breaking the mold.

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