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Making the Case for Quality

May 2011

Supporting Customers and Driving
Excellence Through Quality
by Janet Jacobsen

As any successful service provider can attest, having the agility to meet customers’ ever-changing
At a Glance . . . needs is crucial. When one of Firstsource Solutions’ clients expanded into a new and highly competitive
market, the organization was ready to handle the inbound customer service calls.
• When a key client entered
a new line of business,
It was soon apparent that Firstsource was falling short of industry standards for customer service on
Firstsource earned the
this new contract. An unusually high percentage of repeat calls resulted in higher client costs and lower
contract to provide profitability for Firstsource. To shore up this situation, Firstsource turned to quality as it chartered a
inbound customer service Six Sigma team to drive process improvements.
and technological support.
About Firstsource Solutions
• Metrics showed that 15
percent of calls for the Firstsource Solutions (Firstsource) is a global provider of customized business process outsourcing
client’s new business services to the banking and financial services, as well as telecommunications, media, and healthcare
were repeat calls, sectors. Its clients include FTSE 100, Fortune 500, and Nifty 50 companies.
leading to higher costs
and lower customer The organization has a “rightshore” delivery model with operations in India, the United States, the
satisfaction scores. United Kingdom, and the Philippines. More than 22,000 people are employed at the organization’s
42 delivery centers.
• A cross-functional Six
Sigma team implemented Firstsource implemented a business process management system (BPMS) in 2005. This nine-step model
process improvements governs, deploys, and manages the organization’s processes that span multiple enterprise applications and
that lowered the repeat corporate departments. The BPMS provides a 360-degree performance snapshot to the leadership team as
call rate to 9.6 percent. the system tracks daily performance measures against targets on quality, productivity, and timely delivery.
• This project was selected
as a finalist in ASQ’s Turning to Quality
2011 International Team When a leading telecommunications client entered the direct-to-home satellite television business,
Excellence Award Process.
Firstsource was selected as a strategic partner to provide inbound customer service and technological
service support. In this highly competitive media market, successful companies focus on revenue from
both new and current customers. To increase profitability, media companies, such as Firstsource’s cli-
ent, must adapt quickly to market forces with streamlined operations and reduced costs while providing
a personalized customer service experience—in this case, through Firstsource’s Mumbai and Bangalore
service centers.
Shortly after the initial launch, the client asked Firstsource to improve its quality of service delivery
and reduce end-customer dissatisfaction caused by a low rate of first call resolution. In comparison to
customer service industry standards, the rate of repeat calls, defined as the same customer calling for
the same issue within one calendar month, was too high and resulted in higher costs to serve each cus-
tomer. The repeat call rate was at 15.79 percent, well above the target rate and industry standards.
At Firstsource, leaders are always looking for improvement project opportunities, so the higher than
expected repeat call rate caught their attention. Ultimately, this issue was selected as an improvement
project for several reasons, including:
• Maintaining a competitive advantage for the client by reducing the cost of operations through
streamlined processes.
• Achieving performance levels to match industry standards.

ASQ Page 1 of 4

project champion • Ruchi Ajatshatru. tracking it on regular intervals. analyze. failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA). authenticate the 24 potential causes and then created an effort vs.• Improving customer satisfaction through first call resolution. The goal statement and the time frame were both call resolution phase. stakeholders using the supplier-inputs-process-outputs-customer • Reducing the cost to serve each customer—a potential (SIPOC) quality tool. the team used a process mapping The improvement project followed the define. through the February 2009. and control (DMAIC) approach and began in late voice response system (IVRS) at an associate’s desk. • Arun Rao. Brainstorming “Representation of the client in the project team helped us drive sessions helped the team narrow the 34 potential causes to 24. Master Black Belt In the analyze phase. Team members and their roles Pareto chart—which included customer queries like recharge were as follows: related questions. the changes and improvement steps that were in client-controlled At this juncture. and determining the top reasons for repeat calls. Other tools used to identify potential root • Deepak Khare. The next step brief: Reduce the percentage of repeat calls to 10 percent in just involved recording a baseline measure for process performance. Team members calculated the defects per one The Master Black Belt and project champion selected members million opportunities (DPMO) and process capability to determine of the Six Sigma team based on the candidates’ functional a Z value of 2. requests for additional packages. representation was critical for the success of the project and helped Next. client representative causes were focus groups. and the fishbone diagram. account balance information. SIPOC is just savings of $250. payoff • Process capability and control charts • Post Pareto • Test of hypothesis 4 2 • Control chart IMPROVE MEASURE • Defects parts per • Pareto charts million opportunities • Focus group and Z level • Process FMEA • Sample call study • 5-Why analysis 3 • Fishbone diagram ANALYZE ASQ www. and to the final call reports. one of several quality tools used in each phase of the project. related to the top five drivers for repeat calls. All team members. • Achieving strategic goals of high quality delivery and The SIPOC exercise enabled the team to develop a clear profile innovation to provide value to clients and their customers. as well as their roles and influence on the project.5. the team reviewed these potential causes and how they to steer the changes required at various levels of the organization. As illustrated in Figure 1. says that cross-functional ing process gaps in the system that were leading to repeat calls. with the exception of the client representative. the project leader.” she Page 2 of 4 .000 annually. requests for installation. Figure 2—Quality tools used in each phase of the DMAIC approach • Business quality function deployment (QFD) • Stakeholder identification • Team charter • SIPOC • Standard operating 5 1 procedures • Critical-to quality tree • Dashboards CONTROL DEFINE • Detailed process mapping • Tree diagram • Data collection plan • Solution design matrix • Establishing the dashboards • FMEA • Prioritization QFD • Effort vs. “Defects” or repeat calls were categorized and competencies and demonstrated ability to serve as change agents the data was entered into Pareto charts.asq. operations lead gaps from the process mapping exercise and completed a 5-Why • Ajay Janardhanan. project sponsor queries—constituted 77 percent of the total repeat calls. two months. Stakeholder input was completed Six Sigma Green Belt training in preparation for the also critical during this phase as it provided key information regard- project. workforce management lead cause of the problem. Using Quality Tools • Preventing revenue loss that would occur if service-level One of the team’s first tasks in the define phase was identifying agreements were not met. service excellence lead analysis for each of the five top categories to arrive at the root • Shashank Khare. The first five bars of the in their respective departments. measure. Ajatshatru. exercise to follow a call from the time it enters the interactive improve. the team performed a sample call study to areas. of stakeholders. At the end of these exercises. the team started with the evident process • Krishnan Kavikkal. and product • Sourabh Ghosh. Understanding the Process and Analyzing Data Teamwork Using the DMAIC Approach During the measure phase. the team uncovered 34 potential causes. project leader Discovering Potential Causes • Anurag Mishra.

sharing data before discussions. all of the major causes were process design gaps these causes could resolve nearly 80 percent of the defects or and technological deficiencies built into the customer service repeat calls. “While the client representative on Selecting and Piloting Final Solutions the project team and the project sponsor and champion helped To determine the most effective solutions the team performed drive and track the recommended action points to closure. risk priority numbers (RPN) use of simple data analysis tools like the Pareto chart and repeat were calculated for severity. Another sample call study was completed challenges because many of the root causes were centered in where each repeat call was assigned to one of the four opportunity the client’s domain rather than within Firstsource. which paved the way for full implementation. shown in the lower left quadrant of Figure 3. as illustrated in Figure 3. the an FMEA. She says the team overcame this challenge by selecting a data-centric approach. and communicating in a timely manner about all process changes and the expected impact. the team was able to drive and highest impact. payoff matrix - ASQ www. technical. which repeat calls as a measurable metric client end showed a clear decline in the top repeat drivers. call predictability report helped us quantify the impact of vari- Remedial actions for the highest RPNs were evaluated in more ous client-controlled Xs [causes] and portray it to the Page 3 of 4 . Figure 3—Effort vs. For each of the failures.” Process design gaps repeat call reasons in the sample call listening study Just one week after implementing the pilot phase. She adds that by converting these numbers prepared to help the team determine the most effective solutions. This eventually led the team to reduce the potential As the solutions did not involve large financial investments. The eight causes/opportunities for improvement were then divided into four categories: process. The team Customer prank calls and IT issues Voice of customer and IT downtime tracker overcame resistance by conducting process walkthroughs.05. This sample study indicated successfully addressing to Ajatshatru. as illustrated in Figure 2. was Ajatshatru explains. and In addition to some internal resistance. data indicated Lack of updated and proper training module Training process walkthrough. process.asq. into a dollar impact and showcasing the feasibility study of the The team would first implement the solutions with the lowest effort various process changes to the client. and detection measures. payoff matrix. According categories. lack of version control for training course the solutions were creating the expected impact.impact grid.” depth. which gave to monitor performance it difficult to track performance an estimated difference of around 6 percent and a p-value of Lack of definition for top less than . Absence of regular dashboards repeat call drivers Overcoming Resistance and Obstacles Lack of proper and user-friendly Knowledge gap evident in knowledge knowledge management system tests and quality audits Team members say they faced the type of resistance that’s Associates’ knowledge gap Knowledge gap evident in knowledge common in most improvement projects as employees were a tests and quality audits bit hesitant to accept change in their work activities. the team also faced customer issues. So the costs and effort required for the change management of launching these Process FMEA and segmentation of new steps and the risks were mitigated considerably. the changes to closure. the causes to eight high impact causes. Ajatshatru says the pilot phase cause validation was a key to the success of the project: “It helped us correct a Opportunities for improvement Validation few flaws in the improvement process design. occurrence. The improvement steps were No evidence of proper operational Lack of prior proper definition of definition of “repeat call” as a metric from also measured by analyzing a post-improvement Pareto. This was Lack of regular dashboards Absence of team-level dashboards made followed by the hypothesis test of two proportions. An effort vs. team piloted them to a group of customer service agents and then closely observed performance through rigorous monitoring Figure 2—Eight improvement opportunities and root of the reasons for repeat calls. associate.

tomer satisfaction. • Contact Ruchi Page 4 of 4 . customer loyalty.asq. A graduate of Drake University. lished. Standard operating procedures for updates and feedback • Read about Firstsource’s team-based improvement activities mechanisms were created and then monitored daily with a strong and the results of the organization’s other team projects at governance structure around the metrics. All four projects were selected as dipped under 10 percent. the improvements. she resides in Cedar Rapids. www. and a competitive edge for Firstsource as the organization exceeded industry benchmarks Ajatshatru says this project was a good candidate for the ITEA for performance. ASQ www. Conference on Quality and Improvement in Pittsburgh. at ruchi.” For More Information she competition/.64% • Innovation through some “radical” ideas generated as part of DPMO 157. the project resulted in finalists and each has the opportunity to give a live presenta- reduced costs to serve customers and higher productivity rates tion during the final round of competition at this year’s World for Firstsource. process because it not only aligned to the organization’s vision of driving excellence through continuous quality improvement. tives that Firstsource entered in ASQ’s 2011 International Team ally exceeded the project goal as the percentage of repeat calls Excellence Award Process. the organization. Intangible benefits included improved end-cus.389 the project. PA. performance dashboards • For additional information about Firstsource.asq.50 2. the team moved to the control phase with a comprehensive plan for monitoring and sustaining firstsource. Figure 4—Results of the improvement project but it also helped deliver the following: Parameter Before After • Alignment with client’s goals and achieving status as a “strategic partner” rather than that of a service In just a few short months the team actu. organization’s website at www.79% to learn more about this Six Sigma project.971 96. • Complete details on ASQ’s International Team Excellence Award Process are available at http://wcqi.firstsource.asq. So this project was thought as an apt one to [this] helps Firstsource as being seen as a strategic partner for feature in ASQ’s team competition. IA. In addition. “This project helped us build a set of common reasons/ Ajatshatru says that Firstsource works to align to the client’s learning to help us overcome problems of a similar nature across business strategy for improvement projects like this. As part of this plan.” any client rather than being just in the role of a service project leader. About the Author Janet Jacobsen is a freelance writer specializing in quality and compliance topics. • A culture of excellence within the supported line of business. Repeat call percentage 15.Achieving Results and Sustaining Momentum Sharing Lessons Learned Figure 4 illustrates three key measures that summarize the This project was one of four team-based improvement initia- project’s results.80 She adds. “In turn. visit the to monitor quality levels and internal audit trends were estab. Z-bench 2.ajatshatru@ Once the solutions were in place.