It is not uncommon for growing companies to strive to follow the best practices of their industry. Taking what you teach others by trial and error, without having to endure the pain they suffer along the way, is not just about smart leadership. This is also common sense. As a result, companies that embrace the expertise of their peers have little to be noticed or innovative about.
Our company attributes much of its growth to our excellent service, and a willingness to adopt those familiar best practices has been a key factor. But much of the real innovation that sets us apart from thousands of other companies in the business process outsourcing (BPO) space is rooted in many unfamiliar best practices.
In short, we have long been studying best practices from other industries and looking for ways to apply those lessons to our own operations. For example, although we do business with IT companies and are large users of technology, we do not consider ourselves an IT problem. Nonetheless, when a company’s leadership team is familiar with ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) best practices for enhancing the end-user experience, we recognize that they can learn from them.
We examine how ITIL practices can be applied to our help desk, fulfillment, and field service operations. Has it proven beneficial? Absolutely. We observed that the measure of end-user satisfaction was much higher than that of BPO providers.
Driven by the successful application of these best practices, we are always looking for ways to fine-tune our business offerings based on other industry expertise. Recently, the company hired a leader from the manufacturing industry to determine if Six Sigma and lean manufacturing practices could be applied to its service-centric business processes.
The conclusion is eye-opening. While many involve proprietary processes, examples of how to view BPO through a manufacturing environment provide some insight.
On the one hand, a key component of lean manufacturing is a focus on identifying and eliminating as much waste as possible. In manufacturing facilities, waste is often tangible, such as waste wood and sawdust from furniture factories. One of the most wasted things in a service-centric BPO provider is employee time.
For example, one process in our fulfillment service involves picking items from shelves, transporting them through a building to an area ready for shipment, and then transporting them back to their original location for pickup by the shipper. The distance between the two areas may not seem long, but if you extrapolate the time it takes for staff to move items back and forth to a full year, the cost is high. Bringing all processes together more closely will reduce time and limit potential damage.
The expert examines nine different types of waste—safety, shipping, defects, waiting, overprocessing, overproduction, movement, excess inventory and unused talent—that are inherent in the way we do business. Take safety measures. Simple injuries have financial and time costs, and workers who handle the performance of their duties face a variety of potential injury risks, from climbing ladders to lifting and moving objects to using case openers. Identifying safer workflows has a measurable impact on safety outcomes.
Another safety-related example applies to help desk agents, making sure they take breaks at the right times and perform simple exercises to reduce eye strain and keep muscles slack. These steps improve productivity and morale because they reduce the likelihood of stress-related situations. Equally important in today’s job market, it helps limit the movement of people.
Applying technologies that have helped manufacturers transform their workplaces and deliver the level of quality needed to thrive in the global marketplace will help us become more efficient and effective, increasing the company’s value to customers. By using a formal process like this, we can explore a wide range of improvement opportunities and prioritize them for the greatest overall benefit.
A constant commitment to seeking improvements in quality and efficiency has always been at the core of the company’s DNA, and discovering and applying unconventional best practices from non-service industries leads to innovative improvements in our services. Rather than simply copying what others have done, we explore areas that other companies have never considered and learn from their findings. That’s why our customers can count on us to continue to better serve their needs.
Jeff Medley is the CEO and founder of Netfor, https://www.netfor.com/