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Case Study: Outstanding Performance Improvement Through 3 Focus Areas

The Core Services and Customer Support department of a membership organisation, with 40 staff members processing over 6,000 applications per week, were looking to improve the performance of a critical core service process.

Through PMI’s Performance Excellence Deployment methodology, three focus areas were identified for improvement, including workflow management, developing operator competence, and monitoring process performance.


50 Improvement in Response Time
50 Improvement in Response Time
3,159 Eliminated Backlogged Cases
3,159 Eliminated Backlogged Cases
92.5% Success Rate on Processing Targets
92.5% Success Rate on Processing Targets

The Customer Challenge

In the eighteen months prior to the launch of the Performance Excellence Deployment activity, the department experienced a substantial increase in new membership applications, coupled with the implementation of a new IT system that doubled application processing time and the loss of many experienced operatives.

As the process of registering an application is both highly complex and manual, these changes had a profound impact on performance, leaving the department under extreme delivery pressures:

  • Exceptionally long response times
  • High levels of processing errors requiring rework
  • Additional workload created by having to respond to dissatisfied customers’ complaints and chasing enquiries
  • Inexperienced operatives spending valuable processing time searching for easy-to-complete applications and avoiding difficult ones. This had a detrimental effect on the flow of the work from a prioritisation standpoint as well as hiding competency deficiencies
  • Due to the limitations of the existing reporting system, intensified by the high volume of work, it was difficult for the Management Team to obtain a clear picture of the situation and address the root causes
  • Staff morale was significantly impacted by both the high workloads and customer complaints
  • Improvements to the new IT system had been identified, which would reduce both processing time and opportunity for errors, but they required significant development and could not be realised in the short term


"We were dealing with a service which was not stable. We were constantly firefighting to reduce the service level, without fully understanding how the existing process was working on our new CRM platform, and how our agents were performing."

Improving the way the Process is Managed

Over a 12 week period, the organisation, together with PMI, was able to achieve outstanding performance improvement, with results that transformed their responsiveness to customers and established systems to manage ongoing performance.

#1 Workflow Management Process

The Management Team’s first focus area was the workflow management process. Traditionally, new applications were placed in a queue and then pulled one at a time by operatives in date order. Based upon the assessment of both process failure risks and operator competency levels, together with the management team we agreed to make two changes as a priority:

  • Increase the number of queues to separate out the application types by relative complexity and work content level, so that they could be allocated to staff members with the most appropriate skill sets
  • Allocate each staff member with a quota of work for the day, based upon an expected hourly processing rate and a blend of easy/difficult application type

Having adopted a mindset of PDSA – Plan, Do, Study, Act – early in the study phase, a quick and more accurate way of assigning work in the new system was identified. This had a positive impact in reducing response times even further.

#2 Developing Operator Competence

The next focus area was developing operator competence. The analysis work carried out was formalised in a competency matrix, which is now regularly reviewed as a key input to the department’s training and development plan.

The existing quality assurance system, designed to assess every aspect of application process from start to finish, was labour-intensive and generated little data. It was therefore modified into a range of narrowly scoped process confirmations, which are quick to complete, and focused on priority process risks.

Now that the process confirmations are carried out regularly, the data generated has become a dynamic input to the competency matrix as well as the IT system improvement plan.

#3 Monitoring Performance Improvement

Finally, we looked at the way performance is monitored:

  • Having segregated application types and allocated work, the team were able to adjust the system reports and increase the scope of insight they provide. They are now able to interrogate process performance at every level of detail
  • The number of progress reviews per day has been increased, providing more real-time control over workflow and resource allocation
  • With an improved understanding of the likely failure points, new system reports were created that increased the ability to detect previously hidden error types. Operators are now asked to review these reports themselves to encourage personal ownership for quality.
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The Results & Benefits the Customer Achieved

  • Skill gaps are identified and filled quickly, leading to a more skilled and productive workforce
  • Establishment of a more effective and efficient approach to managing process workflow and performance
  • Improved utilisation of available resources
  • Increase in staff morale as the workload is shared fairly, and operatives are motivated to achieve their daily quotas
  • Process risks are better managed, reducing the opportunity for errors

Voice of the Customer

“When we began this journey, we were dealing with a service which was not stable. We were constantly firefighting to reduce the service level, without fully understanding how the existing process was working on our new CRM platform and how our agents were performing.”


“Valuable data we collected during the deployment allowed us to understand some of the challenges and failures for us as a business, and for the customer. This allowed us to streamline a new process and provide guidance to agents dealing with these applications daily. Although this was a lot of hard work and man-hours for the team, it really did uncover things that we may not have considered before and identified new ways of working.”

“We’re now in a position where we’re reaping the benefits of turning our applications around within the service level and looking at our pending applications more timely. We can now provide a more robust quality assurance which lets us know as a business where we need to improve, and also enables us to better performance manage our team.”

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Are you ready for Process Performance Improvement in Your Organisation?

Over the last 35 years we have built our business by delivering results for our clients. All executed by our team of true performance improvement experts, who have held senior roles in industry, sat where you are, and understand the real-world challenges of running a business. This lets us apply pragmatic solutions to your problems, not just the ‘out of the box’ approach taught in a training course.

Our team get stuck in. We roll our sleeves up and work with you to deliver your performance improvement goals. Contact us today and take the first step towards transforming your goals into results.


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