Matt Dale leads a support team in a highly seasonal business. Find out how he manages improvements in that environment!
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Charlotte Ward 0:14
Hello, and welcome to Episode 98 of the customer support leaders podcast. I’m Charlotte Ward. The theme for this week is process improvement. So stay tuned for five leaders talking about that very topic. I’d like to welcome back to the podcast today, my good friend Matt. Dale. Nice. Lovely to have you back. And you’re joining me this week to talk about process improvement, right?
Matt Dale 0:42
Yep, that’s that’s right, Charlotte. Good to be back here. I love being on the podcast. So process improvement is near and dear to my heart. One of my kind of core values as a person is this idea of continuous improvement. Really just saying like, anything that we’re doing, we can get a little bit better, right? So even if I’m gonna you know, see And support professional, which I hope to think that I am at this point, there are areas in my job and my work product and what I’m doing, they can get a little bit better. To get better, I need to know how I’m doing, you need to have a place to kind of start with that. And in taking a look at that work product and taking a look at that thing, then allows us sets the stage if you will, for for that the next iteration and the chance to say hey, how did we do that time. So there’s kind of this, this continuous process of doing the thing, examining the thing we did and reflecting on it, doing the next thing and then examining and kind of going from there.
Charlotte Ward 1:31
taking things in very small increments is is a good way to look at this. I think it’s also tempting to make some sweeping changes as well though, right? Do you think there’s a time for small incremental improvements and a time for big sweeping changes?
Matt Dale 1:47
I think there are those times I think, for our business we’re very busy during the back to school season. I was joking to my directory this week is like it feels like we have two seasons we’ve got back to school busy season and then we have the season that is prepared. For the back to school busy season. And so for us back to school is not a time when when we’re busy is not a time to say let’s make a big sweeping change. Those are a chance where we can say, you know, basically, we’re locked and loaded. We have the processes in place, we have all of our workflows, we have our tools, everything needs to be ready to go so that we can provide the best possible experience for our customers throughout that really intense and stressful time. So that’s not the time when we say hey, let’s make a big sweeping change. As we move out of busy season. That’s the time we can take stock on that and how did how did our back to school season go? Did our was our customer satisfaction, you know, where we wanted it to be? What was our team arrayed appropriately? We have the right people on each product. And then, you know, January to July is when we’re looking at how do we how do we fix some of those key issues. Maybe it’s doing a better job onboarding or hiring more people based on the volume that we saw. Maybe it’s improving our help docs, and those are the times to do kind of the big stuff, but at the same time during that season. We’re also looking at those small, incremental changes going, Hey, how can I How can I do better on this ticket than I did last on the last one? Or how can we do better? You know, as a team with communication?
Charlotte Ward 3:06
Yeah, I mean, your business is, is very seasonal. So you have to be driven in your approach by the, by the seasonality that you serve, right. But I guess we can build something of that rhythm into any support team, however, seasonal or not the business, right? I sort of feel like what you’re saying is that you, you choose your time to make a bigger change, and then everything that comes for a little while after that is incremental improvement.
Matt Dale 3:35
I think that’s right. And I think it’s important to to choose that time and be focused about it. I think if you try to say, Hey, I’m gonna change every aspect of something right now and all at once, I think you’re gonna have a problem with that, like, if you look at my personal life, if I’m trying to be more physically fit and more active, and at the same time, I’m also trying to be worrying about my you know, changing my budgetary habits and the way I deal with my finances. And if I’m trying to spend more time with My kids, those are all great things. But if I’m doing them all at once I’m going to get exhausted, I’m probably not going to see success in that. And so being focused and able to say, Hey, I have these three things, the most important one is, I need to spend more time working on my physical fitness, because I’m not in the shape that I want to be in. And that’s going to have big benefits down the road. So I’m going to choose to focus on that I’m going to spend a period of time where I’m kind of letting the other stuff sort of cruise along where they’re at, because I’m making a big change in this area in my life. Obviously, there’s times that are better or worse for big change. So like when we had our first child, that was not a good time for me to say, hey, I want to spend more time working out at the gym. Because that’s not going to be successful for my family. And just like that, it would be a bad idea to eliminate, if we’re to change make a big change in the way the phone system works, and more in the middle of busy season. Like that’s not going to work well for agents that’s not gonna work well for our customers. So I think you have to understand what’s going on in your world, and what bandwidth Do you have and then I think you need to be very focused on this is the thing that we’re working on right now. And then once you’ve done the change, work on that incremental improvement building that into so it’s habit or just a way of life. And then once that’s dialled, then you can move on to the next change and kind of go from there.
Charlotte Ward 5:10
Certain things have to happen because they have to happen at some point in time that they they’ve got to be solved. Some things have to happen for the longer term and can wait a while. But there is this there is this third thing that I think people often forget, these are the things that potentially could wait while but have a lead time. I think there are some things you have to accept that we’re prioritising them now because we need the benefits sooner even though the benefit might not be for six months or a year. The sooner we get it in, the sooner we see it. I think there’s some interesting prioritisation there around what you place that big focus on.
Matt Dale 5:48
I would also say that I think in our business world, it’s very easy to get caught up in the quick fixes and not invest in those longer term projects and not being very strategic in those being able to take that bigger picture perspective. If you’re thinking about, you know, being a leader in customer support, I think you need to kind of take that step back and really go what are what what kind of organisation do we want to be? What’s the end goal? In a perfect world? What will we look like? And then you need to kind of work back from there and go, what are the, you know, from a project planning perspective? What’s that? That’s that critical path that will get us there? What are the things we must do right now, I must start right now. So that we are ready to go when when we need this thing to be in place. And I think those are the things that as a younger manager and leader that I wasn’t as aware of the importance of but but I think, as I’m, as I’m learning and growing, I’m seeing the importance of that longer term strategic planning.
Charlotte Ward 6:41
That’s it for today. Go to customersupportleaders.com/98, for the show notes, and I’ll see you next time.
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