Where do your ideas come from? Are they out of nowhere, or have you seen them before...somewhere else?
The other day I came across an interesting post on the BQF Innovation blog about how many good ideas have been adapted from things people see in other areas. I've been meaning to write a post expanding on it, but hadn't developed it yet.
So, it was a real pleasure yesterday to get an insightful comment from Kent Blumberg that demonstrated exactly what I wanted to write about!
In response to my recent posts challenging the idea (held by many companies) that customer service is bad, Kent writes...
This reminds me of Fujitsu's approach to help-desk operations (as reported by Jim Womack and Dan Jones in "Lean Solutions", (Free Press, 2005).
Apparently, Fujitsu gets paid a set annual fee to run help desks, rather than getting a fee per call. That gives them incentive to fix problems permanently, thereby reducing the number of complaints.
Very interesting. First of all, it brings up the point that there are people who benefit from repeated calling about the same subject.
If a company uses an outside call center and pays a fee per call, that call center has no motivation to actually work to solve the company's problems. In fact, the more times customers have to call, the more the call center makes.
But the better part is that Kent opened his mind up to how companies in other industries are dealing with the same problem. That's actually rarer than you'd think.
In fact, the US military is a prime example of this. Until very recently, the Navy, Air Force and Army each required completely unique designs for their planes despite sharing many of the same requirements. And the Pentagon just ordered the Army and Air Force to develop their new unmanned aerial vehicles (which were both being made by the same company) together, instead of individually.
Paul Sloane's post Adopt, Adapt, Improve shares some historical examples of innovations that have come from adaptation.
Did you know that:
- The idea for roll-on deodorant came from the ball point pen?
- Velcro was inspired by burrs tangled in a dog's fur?
- The telephone was modeled after vibrations made by the human eardrum?
It's amazing how being open to seeing parallels in other fields can lead to new solutions for the same problems.
As Kent suggested for Sprint's case, it may be as simple as changing the focus of the problem.
"Customer service is costing us too much--so we need to get rid of existing customers"
"We have this amount of money to spend every month for customer service--what can we do to reduce call volume?"
This may not seem like a huge difference....
Except the call center now has an incentive to get problems fixed and out of their hair. It's to their advantage to make sure each customer's issues are addressed in the first call, and that the same issues don't reoccur every month.
It's the difference between requiring customer service reps to field customer problems versus requiring them to solve customer problems.
I would be very interested to see how this idea would work out. From what Lean Solutions reports, Fujitsu has had a lot of success in reducing call center costs and increasing customer satisfaction by focusing on fixing reoccurring problems and locating the underlying causes.
Tunnel photo from Walter.