Have you ever been frustrated by a call center? It might be because the service provider was looking at as many as eight to twelve screens, trying to help each person to the best of their capacity. Operational complexity describes a business that requires a high level of complexity to operate. This is increasingly common because new products and services are constantly being developed in the effort to increase revenue. New services and products leads to new policies and regulations, new technologies, new customers, and new need. The more complex the operation of your business is, the longer it takes for employees to master the tasks. And let’s face it: not all employees are exceptional. There is a spectrum of employees, and only very few are outstanding.
Your company might deliver great but inconsistent service. Rather than blaming the overwhelmed employees, let’s first take a look at the service model itself. It’s likely that your service model is built for employees you wish you had – not the ones you are actually dealing with.
Here are some general and easy steps to get you started:
Investigate – Step away from the desk for a while and get some hands-on experience at the front of the organization. Learn what the employees experience every day. Otherwise, how will you know what needs to be fixed? Try to see this part of your business as objectively as possible. As a viewer, you’re trying to shatter some built-in assumptions and denial. Try talking openly and honestly with your employees about their experience on the job. Ask them what could make their jobs easier and how their jobs have changed over time. Roll up your sleeves and join them. How does it feel to take twenty complicated drink orders within five minutes? How does it feel to manage a menu with 200 items on it? Now you know! I recommend doing this for at least a few days.
Make a Complexity Graph – Now that you are pretty familiar with your business outside of your office, try to plot how the level of complexity on the job has changed over the past few years. Time is the x-axis, and level is on the y-axis. Then plot a line showing the level of employee sophistication over the same time span. You can do this intuitively (or, as I say, “eyeball it”). How big is the gap between the two lines? Ideally, both the lines match! You have to decide if the gap is a serious threat to your business or not.
Make Improvements – If the gap worries you, then work on closing it. Either reduce the amount of complexity of the jobs your employees are doing, or increase the skills of the employees you hire. You can select higher-caliber people, or you can train the employees you already have. You can also do some of both. Of course, it’s a daunting task to increase selection standards. It takes a lot of persistence, resources, and time. Training is also an option, but that also takes a large amount of resources to do. It might be worth it, but you have to assess the situation.
You can also reduce the complexity of the tasks your employees execute. You can break large tasks into smaller tasks. You can then divide those smaller tasks among many employees. That way the system remains complicated (which might be necessary!) but each employee only is responsible for a small portion of it. If you’re ready to reduce operational complexity, start with the parts of your business that do not add direct value to your customers – like the 200 menu items, or the 20-step milkshake. Then you can tackle the more systematic complexities.
I hope this helps! I know that figuring out how to increase the efficiency of system-wide operations can be daunting. Like anything else, you just have to take one small step at a time. Before you know it, you will have rejuvinated your business and increased the satisfaction of your customers