Advice | 14th April 2020

Revealed: Top 5 priorities for Customer Support Systems under Strain

At Xcentuate Management Solutions we are Ireland’s leading operational planning experts.  We use the ActiveOps solution to bring operational data together and put in place a planning and control process to ensure teams deliver the best possible outcomes.


With Covid-19, almost all customer operations are under strain at the moment, from dealing with extraordinary volumes, increases in sick leave rates or drops in productivity as staff try to work from home while taking care of children.

Here are our top 5 priorities for managing through the crisis:

  • Bring your data together to understand your true AS-IS situation – don’t base it solely on what managers will say or feedback from sales – this tends to have a certain amount of bias
    • Look at volumes in each area
    • Get a view of capacity – resources, leave etc
    • Get a view of effort in each area (even if it is approximate)
  • Build an operational plan for the next 4 weeks
    • Include key metrics that can be tracked (We said that training would happen – did it happen).
    • Include daily and weekly actions
    • Include measures that can be tracked
    • Be patient – depending on the depth of the crisis, it cannot be sorted in a very short space of time!
    • Look at different scenarios and what actions you might take

Build it based on best estimates.  Your first plan will have lots of gaps (work vs resources available).  You then make data-based decisions – for example what to prioritise/drop.

  • Work with key stakeholders – agree plan with stakeholders (SMT, sales, partners), get their buy-in and support for the plan.  Keep them up to date
  • Don’t overload on meetings – we see this a lot for teams in crisis seem to spend all their time in meetings. The plan should have regular check-in and metrics to assess performance.  When you have a meeting make it agile and quick with definite agenda – the longer you spend in meetings the less your people are spending managing their teams.  Look at other meets and ask yourself is meeting necessary or is everyone due to attend needed.
  • Communicate with Teams – tell them the current situation and communicate your plan.  Get buy-in from people to achieve the plan

Some helpful hints:

  • A Training plan will likely be required as it is likely you will need to move people from quieter teams to busier teams for the short term. Also, training needs to be prioritised for newer staff so that they can add more value.
  • You might not see results overnight and things may need to get worse – especially if you have to divert additional effort to training initially (plus it is usually the most experienced people do the training)
  • Stop all non-essential tasks and focus on what is important to the customer and the business.
  • Look at what is not necessary at this point in time (e.g. one to one meetings – but be careful, you will end up with more diverted activity later to make back up)
  • Trust your people – get buy-in to plan and leave them to execute – they cannot manage their areas if they are in meetings with you
  • Look at activity – which activities have more risk for business, which are more visible or important to customers – don’t be busy on wrong things.
  • Look to support – are there third parties or temps that could be used for some activities freeing up staff to work on other things (e.g. simple large volumes)
  • Collaborate – get teams to work together – can teams under less pressure help those that are not! This will really help the morale of those teams under pressure!
  • Keep revisiting plan – it was only a plan and it will need to be updated to reflect experience.

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