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Three Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement Insights 

Three Lean Six Sigma Process Improvement Insights  thumbnail Image

Written By:

Rick Zayas

January 23, 2023

Lean Six Sigma is a process improvement philosophy focused on delivering greater value to customers, employees, and businesses. Lean methodologies for improvement involve designing or redesigning processes to meet audience expectations while eliminating all other activities that do not positively contribute to the desired outcomes.  

Below, we look at three critical Lean Six Sigma insights that will help ensure project success:  

  1. Find and listen to all the voices that are important to your organization.   
  2. Identify and validate causal factors adversely affecting your results.  
  3. Understand that the most direct path to your project’s success is not always a straight line.  

While the concept originated years ago in the manufacturing sector, its practices can drive improvements in nearly every aspect of a customer experience operation, from hiring and training to workforce planning to customer engagement. These data-driven projects often focus on specific metrics such as customer satisfaction (CSAT), issue resolution, sales, accuracy, speed of service, and efficiency. By finding and improving underlying issues through a Lean Six Sigma project, organizations can make meaningful changes that last. 

  1. Find and listen to all the voices that are important to your organization.  

One of the first steps in resolving a business issue is to identify who the customers are and listen to their respective “voices” to understand their expressed needs. The most common voices are those of the customer, the business, the process, and the employee.   

Even a well-designed process can, over time, be rendered ineffective or incapable due to changes in personnel, technology, customer expectations, and government regulations. Also, remember that processes can be visible to the customer as part of their product or service experience or they may exist behind the scenes in operational support.   

Proper analysis of these voices enables organizations to translate them into critical requirements and then design the processes to meet those requirements. This Lean Six Sigma exercise is called building a critical-to-quality (CTQ) tree. It is a useful way of converting voices to something measurable and actionable for your customer experience processes.  

  1. Identify and validate causal factors adversely affecting your results.  

When seeking a resolution to a business issue, an organization’s first inclination is to look at the process activities and the people working within the process. However, it has been our experience that the root cause of an issue often is not the process itself but the inputs to that process. Every process relies on inputs, which must meet exact requirements regarding function, time, or quality. The whole process may be doomed if even one of the inputs fails.   

For example, if you are making a pizza, the inputs could be the dough, cheese, sauce, various toppings, or even the oven or the pizza maker. If all these inputs meet the exact requirements, you have a greater chance of making a good pizza. But if one of these inputs is off, you will have a mediocre pizza. And if more than one input does not meet requirements, you could have a terrible pizza. Similarly, when managing a customer experience operation, if one input is incorrect, customers could be left dissatisfied, unfulfilled, and possibly searching for an alternative product or service.   

Using the Lean Six Sigma methodology, these vital inputs are known as causal factors. Causal factors must be identified and validated in terms of their relationship to the CTQ and controlled to ensure your process delivers the desired outcome. Various Lean Six Sigma tools can help identify and validate causal factors. Finding and improving the performance of the causal factors can be the difference between genuinely solving a business issue or wasting precious time and resources.  

  1. Understand that the most direct path to your project’s success is not always a straight line.  

Achieving sustained improvement and consistent, high-performance levels are the desired outcomes of any Lean Six Sigma initiative. In our work, we use DMAIC — a data-driven problem-solving methodology to help us improve processes and generate customer value.  

The five phases of DMAIC — Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control — were not intended to be and should not be linear if you want to achieve sustained improvement. Instead, measure and analyze data throughout the life of the project. Monitoring data after taking action ensures the causal factors are correctly identified and that the actions had the intended result.  

Test improvement ideas, measure and analyze the results, and then pivot or adjust the solution design accordingly. By building measurements, analysis, and controls into the solution, the solution will adapt to change and become sustainable.   

We often find that executives want to implement Lean Six Sigma practices in their call centers. However, they must first learn how to adapt a manufacturing methodology to address their service issues. We have helped many companies through our COPC® Lean Six Sigma for Contact Centers training and consulting, designed specifically for contact centers and customer experience operations.   

We teach Lean Six Sigma in a practical way that is directly applicable to business operations. We then guide our clients to successfully use this methodology in performance improvement projects to resolve their business issues and provide a significant return on investment.   

For example, a client recently engaged COPC Inc. for Six Sigma consulting and training. Working together to train green and yellow belts, we focused on the specific business issues affecting performance and operational costs. Our client soon realized a significant opportunity for improvement was first contact resolution (FCR), which was below target. The current level of repeat calls resulted in customer dissatisfaction and an additional business expenditure of $4 million annually in labor.   

After extensive Six Sigma training, our client took ownership of the analysis to develop and deploy action plans in pilot programs at some of the company’s internal and outsourced call centers. Throughout this process, COPC Inc. mentored the client’s newly trained yellow and green belts while reviewing analysis files and participating in project meetings, offering observations and guidance.   

Upon project completion, our client achieved dramatic improvements, including a ten percent reduction in repeat calls, a ten percent increase in second-call resolution and an eight percent increase in third-call resolution. The client is taking this project’s achievements and expanding the solution throughout the enterprise. Sustaining similar improvements from the pilot program at the enterprise level would represent a reduction of 678,000 calls annually for a savings of $6 million.   

Using Lean Six Sigma to improve call center performance is a proven way to determine underlying operational problems and implement organizational change. Want to learn more about implementing Lean Six Sigma to drive performance improvement?   

Want to learn more about implementing Lean Six Sigma to drive performance improvement? 

Take our online COPC® Lean Six Sigma for Contact Centers Yellow Belt class to learn foundational concepts for using Lean Six Sigma in a contact center. Or contact us to set up in-person COPC® Lean Six Sigma training for your team or to get help with an existing Lean Six Sigma project.