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7 Challenges that Keep Operations Managers Up at Night

Posted by Francine Haliva on Oct 15, 2015 6:33:00 AM

If you are an operations manager and you are reading this post, it is a safe bet to assume that the hour is late.  What other time could you possibly find to fit in some 'light' reading? And you are probably feeling guilty too.  After all, you have numbers to crunch and a million things to think about, resolve, plan, prepare, schedule, report.  But please keep reading, because I have some ideas to help you achieve your targets.

First, get ready to pat yourself on the back.  After all you are a multi-tasker extraordinaire, a jack-of-all-trades, and a wearer of many hats.  You are a vital member of the management team- driving efficiency, reducing costs, improving customer experience, taking ownership of the key metrics that drive a company’s performance and ensuring that the organization is running at full speed.

You know that you play a major role in doing the valuable and necessary everyday functions that enable other departments in the company to succeed; that you are making a real difference.

So why are you still awake?  Most likely it has  to do with one or more of these reasons:

1. Concerned over productivity

Operations managers are increasingly feeling the pressure to push employees to work faster and better. The key questions that arise are: How can we get the team “up to speed" and performing their duties quickly and successfully? How do we ensure continued success after the initial training ends? How do we best engage employees so that they remember the knowledge and skills learned during training sessions and are able to apply it once they are back at their desks?

To address these questions, operations managers are turning to a new software solution called Performance Support. As its name suggests, it is designed for performance. The purpose of performance support is to deliver real-time guidance and/or automation so that employees can accomplish their tasks more quickly, with fewer errors, while on the job. Another advantage is that employees don't have to stop for re-training every time something is new or changed.

Related reading: Telecoms Crack Down on these 8 KPIs with Performance Support

2. Need to improve process quality

From keying errors to compliance issues, employee errors can come at a high cost to an organization, especially if you consistently notice similar errors by multiple users.  One way to prevent quality issues that stem from employee error is to use technology.  Performance support prevents employee errors by adding a safety net around possible pitfalls.  Using these systems, companies can easily add custom validations to problematic processes and forms. When an employee enters information into an application, the performance support software makes calculations and checks the validity of the entered information. It will alert the worker if there is an issue and suggest corrections or will automate the process.

Here is a real-world exampleof how a leading cable provider used performance support to reduce (in some cases eliminate completely) keying errors resulting in significant cost savings for the company.

3. Worried about customer satisfaction

Worrying about the customers is not only the sales department's job. Investigating customer satisfaction and reporting any issues also falls on the shoulders' of operations. But where do you start? Recent research suggests that no single KPI has a bigger impact on customer satisfaction than First Call Resolution (FCR). In a study of more than 150 call centers, the Service Quality Measurement Group (SQM) found that for every 1% of improvement in the FCR there is a corresponding 1% improvement in customer satisfaction. SQM also found that call centers that achieved “world class” customer satisfaction ratings had a FCR average of 86%, while centers that were not among the elite in customer satisfaction had a FCR average of only 67%. Call centers with higher FCR rates also typically enjoyed lowered operating costs and happier employees.

The key to improved FCR is providing your customer-facing employees with the relevant information at the right time in a manner that allows them to focus on the customer.  Performance support provides desktop automation and real-time guidance that constantly monitors the agent's desktop activities and can be designed to suggest support processes that are relevant to the user’s current open and active application and window or automatically perform the action to complete the desired task.

Related reading: Improve Customer Satisfaction and Boost Sales in 3 Easy Steps

4. About to deploy a new enterprise-wide application

Although you are confident that the fancy new system you are deploying is merited and necessary, an application rollout can be a nightmarish experience. Pitfalls lurk in every corner but often involve things like loss of productivity during the training period, management unable to provide the promised resources, key performance indicators and deadlines being missed, and fearful employees refusing or unable to adopt the new business applications. 

So what can you do to reduce the risk and ensure a successful application rollout and employee adoption? Involving key personnel and stakeholders early in the process will ensure informed decisions are made at key junctures. Open communication channels, extra support during the transition and performance support for employees will yield a better understanding, commitment, and faster adoption from all people expected to use the software.

Related Reading: Take the stress out of your new application rollout

5. Buried under a mountain of reporting

Many operation managers are responsible for corporate reporting, including the compilation of financial and performance data and the communication of this data to stakeholders. Challenges arise when the business hasn't kept current or accurate records. Comprehensive record keeping on P&L as well as sales goals and expenses is necessary to assess the company's long-term viability.  On the flip side some companies collect and report a vast amount of everything that is easy to measure and as a consequence their managers end up drowning in data while thirsting for insights. Effective operations managers understand the key performance indicators of their business and distill them down into the critical KPIs. 

6. Unresolved conflicts between departments

Let's face it - sometimes the office resembles a school yard. You have different groups, with varying agendas, who all think that they know best. Managing conflicts or competing business practices within an organization is a major challenge for an operations managers, who are often left feeling like a school principal. For instance, a company's development team may frequently be in conflict with its marketing team about various goals and decisions while marketing, in turn, in conflict with finance.  These departmental clashes can have a detrimental effect on operations when they impact the efficiency or productivity. Operation managers can end competing practices by instituting company-wide standards and goals and encouraging open communication.

7. Difficulty recruiting the right talent

Finding and keeping good people is not easy.  If in our previous analogy you were a school principal, now you are the sports coach - motivating people through hard times, training, educating, and managing diversity and cultural differences.  This can be especially daunting during periods of change or growth in which companies needed to hire in large numbers. A well-planned and well-executed onboarding process will increase the chances for a positive work experience leading to a win-win relationship between the new hire and your company.

Related Reading: Employee Onboarding: So you hired them...what now?

Topics: employee performance, Sales Operations


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