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Empower Your Contact Center


A friend of mine recently shared a customer service horror story with me – and 500 of her other friends – via Facebook. She purchased a DVD player from a major retailer online and eagerly awaited the arrival of her new purchase. Four days after the anticipated delivery day came and went she called customer service to find out what happened.

(Names have been changed to protect the guilty.)
After spending 45 minutes on hold and getting frustrated, Casey Customer decided to hang up and call back later. After tending to the needs of her very active two-year old daughter, Casey tried calling customer service again and got the following pre-recorded message, “We are experiencing higher call volumes than normal and wait times will be longer than expected.” While this was disappointing, she felt like waiting was her only option to ensure that she gets the gift she ordered in time for the holidays.

But as you can see, this wasn’t the case …
After waiting what felt like forever she finally got a customer service rep on the phone. While the rep tried to be helpful, he lacked visibility into shipping information and could not help her get a new item shipped out since the original was showing as having been shipped and he was unable to track the package. Now, not only does Casey Customer not have the merchandise she paid for, but she also spent the better part of a day trying to get it straightened out without success.       

Later that day, the saga comes full circle with Casey Customer finally getting assistance, ironically, after posting a message on the retailer’s Facebook page. Her attempts to get anywhere with the contact center were futile because the representatives she spoke with were not empowered to help her get a new item sent out or truly identify what happened to the original.

So, what have we learned here? First, participation in social media and the ability to resolve customer issues using those channels is critically important.  Also, if the retailer had a good contact center then the disgruntled customer would not have had to post her tale of woe on Facebook for the whole world to see!

The moral of the story?

Empower your contact center.

Contact center support can make or break the customer experience, especially during the busy holiday season. Your contact center should be able to emulate what the consumer is doing online in order to solve pain points and challenges, fast. Train agents so they know what products are being sold online, as well as details regarding promotions, requirements to purchase, shipping and return instructions. Empower agents to resolve issues on the first call and to upsell products.

If your current customer contact center solution is leading to unsatisfied customers fleeing to your competition, it may be time to make a change. When I first started out in marketing I always heard the phrase “one unhappy customer will tell ten friends.” Nowadays, the voice of the customer reaches a lot further! Make sure you have the right systems in place so that your customers are sharing a story of joy instead of a tale of woe.


Getting in Control with the Balanced Score Card


As a result of my previous blog on cloud computing, I have had conversations with many IT executives.  Cloud computing is a trending topic in most organizations. During both face-to-face and online conversations, I noticed that the “need” for cloud services usually is not part of a structured plan or part of an approved IT roadmap/yearly plan, but is treated as a separate project or path. During the discussions it became clear to me that since CIOs have been primarily focused on stripping out costs at an operational level during the last few years, making business-aligned IT plans has become a lower priority.

When I asked how business value is being measured with the introduction of new a cloud solution, I heard a lot of silence.  During follow up meetings it became clear that there is still a need for a model that will link and measure innovation, client satisfaction, internal processes and financial results. This reminded me that a methodology like a balanced score card (BSC) could be revitalized again.


The BSC was introduced by Kaplan and Norton in 1992 at an enterprise level. The basic principle is that the evaluation of a company should not be restricted to financials only. The additional areas of innovation, internal processes and client satisfaction should ensure future financial results, while driving a company toward its future goals. Therefore, each of the four areas should be evaluated so that managers can get a more balanced view of the organization. For each of the perspectives they proposed a layered model: mission, objectives and measurements.

An IT-strategic BSC links with the business by contributing to business goals. The IT-strategic BSC can be supported by a linked cascade of scorecards (e.g. architecture, development, operations management). This set of BSCs, including measurements, will help to determine how business value is being created.

e-Commerce IT BSC

When the BSC was launched, e-commerce was just at its commercial beginning. What has changed from the ”old days” is that the IT function/role today is more a strategic partner than a service provider. The following four areas can be part of an e-commerce BSC framework: customer satisfaction, innovation, operations and financial control. Below is an example of how we could map e-commerce actions into a BSC. As actions may occur not only for technology, it is beneficial to split actions into the headers: technology, organization and processes.

If you have created a BSC and look at the defined actions, it may appear that some planned actions may benefit in several areas.

Example of an e-Commerce IT BSC

 Balanced Score Card


As many organizations are in some kind of transformation mode, whether due to newly available technology or changing business needs, it may be a good idea to consider structuring your activities according to a BSC. This will ensure that the defined activities will really contribute to the creation of business value.

What kind of BSC card or equivalent are you using?


Energy Resources in Times of Turmoil – Costs on the Supply Chain


As 2011 draws to a close, I think it’s worth noting this was a banner year for supply chain disruptions.  Those disruptions covered the gamut from political upheaval to natural disasters and all had far reaching implications for supply chain professionals.  During the last 11 months, the global market has been impacted by the Arab Spring, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan as well as the flooding in Thailand.  Although the latter situation is still developing, we’re already feeling some of the impact – Honda, which has facilities in the flooded area, has been forced to roll back the availability of at least one of its new models.

While your operations or suppliers might not be in these regions, that doesn’t mean you won’t remain unscathed.  Here’s why: disruptions on this scale will absolutely effect the world’s energy production and cost.  And our modern supply chains are inextricably tethered to oil, gas, electricity and natural energy sources like solar and wind.  Let’s take a minute and break down how we consume energy.

  • Planes, trains and automobiles – Logistics account for a significant amount of energy consumptions worldwide.  And that consumption comes with a price tag.  As Dan Gilmore (@scdigest) states in an article on the topic, “… transportation is a huge element of supply chain costs, representing 6 percent or so of US GDP and even higher levels in many countries.”  The political unrest in the Middle East has strained oil production in countries like Libya.  In a March Special Report by Dun & Bradstreet, “The Global Fallout from the Middle East Crisis,” the disturbances were said to likely affect hydrocarbon prices and raise business costs.  Additionally, natural gas supply disruptions were predicted that would significantly raise counterparty risk and have ramifications on supply chains in Europe and around the world. 
  • Manufacturing – The ability to sustain manufacturing operations is based on energy availability.  We saw this first hand last spring in Japan.  In September, CNN reported the Japanese government mandated big industrial energy consumers cut down their power usage by 15 percent to avoid blackouts.  While the country’s manufacturing ability is improving, this isn’t a long-term solution.  And if you rely on components from Japan, chances are your business has been impacted.
  • Storage – Once made, products spend a certain amount of time in storage.  Keeping those products cool and secure adds to the overall energy costs.  While all products are likely to require high-tech security systems, storing temperature-sensitive products such as produce, pharmaceuticals and technology can add significant energy costs.  Ensuring the warehouses had sufficient electricity in Japan this year was yet another issue raised after the tragic events of last March.

The popular saying, “When man plans, God laughs,” has special meaning for supply chain professionals.  While there is no way to anticipate events that will impact energy availability and cost, there are steps you can take to mitigate those risks.  Here are five tips for your consideration as you plan for 2012.

  1. Ensure you have visibility into your suppliers’ sub-tier suppliers so you can quickly recalibrate your supply chain if energy availability will comprise your ability to meet production quotas.  Also, diversify your supplier base and develop relationships with suppliers in different regions around the world to ensure continuity if one region is impacted by a natural disaster.
  2. If your logistics costs are particularly high due to your industry segment or competitive pressures, consider hedging the price of oil.
  3. Adopt postponement strategies that allow you to finish products closer to the end consumer.
  4. Investigate more sustainable sources of energy.  Place your storage facilities in areas that can tap into natural energy such as wind or solar.
  5. Redesign your packaging for further pallet optimization.  This has additional benefits such as meeting retailer requirements and consumer demand for less packaging.

BP puts out an annual review of energy production and consumptions every June that is a veritable gold mine of information on the state of global energy.  In the most recent report, BP estimates that global energy consumption rose 5.6 percent in 2010, the highest rate since 1973.  It will be interesting to see how 2011 will compare given recent events.


Social and Environmental Leadership Across The Supply Chain


Value Chain ExchangeToday I had the privilege of hosting the eighth webinar in our Value Chain Exchange series: Social and Environmental Leadership across the Supply Chain. The event featured an excellent keynote presentation from Bob Murphy, vice president, global hardware execution for IBM and culminated with a panel discussion including Bob and Louis Ferretti, who is responsible for product environmental compliance and supply chain social responsibility for IBM.

When we started this series two years ago, we were responding to a clearly stated desire from our clients for an avenue to share best practices and learn from real supply practitioners on how they are dealing with real supply chain issues.   

The keynote from Bob on today’s webinar certainly met that expectation head on, with a wonderful overview of how the IBM Integrated Supply Chain team has taken corporate social responsibility and embedded it as a business imperative within the supply chain.

Many companies – including our own – are on a journey towards a more sustainable supply chain.    Making the transition from awareness, to initial projects to a comprehensive corporate social responsibility commitment requires clarity on objectives and top-level executive support.

IBM is recognized as a leader in this space and today’s webinar provided great insight into its approach, the challenges faced and system of management for this area of its business.     

Of particular interest was the linkage between the IBM approach to financial benefits, and senior leadership goals and the extension of the program across the supply base.   The requirements for supplier compliance extend the influence of the program and in turn extend the benefits to IBM as better supplier performance ultimately results in a better result for IBM.

I would like to thank Bob and Louis for joining me on the webinar and invite additional questions and comments on the topic in the comments section below.

A recording of this webinar will be available in the resource center of shortly.


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