There are a couple of different ways of thinking with regards to call center management . . . command and control thinking and systems thinking.  Both types of thinking require us to plan for resources using call volumes and duration.  The similarities pretty much end there.

The command and control thinker uses these same data (call volumes and duration) to improve productivity.  Such measures as (average handle time), cost/contact, customer satisfaction, agent utilization and of course you must have a balanced scorecard (a pretty version of MBO).  Command and control thinkers also focus on the individual with coaching, performance appraisals, inspections, monitoring, targets and incentives . . . and the worker only is worried about not getting paid attention to by his manager/supervisor.  All of these things are waste and with all the time organizations spend putting into it, I wonder what could really be done to improve things.

Systems thinking focuses on the customer and more importantly the customer purpose and measures from their perspective.  They understand that the focus is the system, not the individual.  That performance of an organization is 95% determined by the system they work end and only 5% is attributable to the individual.  They also understand that call center management’s job is to manage this system and leave decision-making about the work with the work instead of some report.  They understand that failure demand (unwanted calls, problems, follow-ups, missed appointments, etc.) make up between 25% and 75% of all calls in a call center.  They understand that the call center is part of a broader system and not a part to be outsourced to reduce transaction costs or share services to cut costs without first studying customer demand and eliminating waste BEFORE such ventures.  They understand that targets and incentives become the defacto purpose of the worker and the real purpose is tied to serving the customer.

The two types of thinking are almost opposites.  Command and control fails to deliver sustainable results, while systems thinking can provide business improvement that organizations only thought were possible for manufacturing companies in Japan.  Are you ready to change thinking?
Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  His organization helps executives find a better way to make the work work.  Download free from “Understanding Your Organization as a System” or sign up for his newsletter and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at or LinkedIn at