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Increasing Customer Satisfaction with Six Sigma Practices

Customers and businesses alike want better quality and fewer errors, and with Six Sigma practices, customer satisfaction is likely to get a boost – along with sales. With a focus on quality control obtained through gathering and applying feedback, Six Sigma and customer satisfaction often go hand in hand.

Using the Six Sigma methodology, professionals understand problems by speaking with customers and employees, and then strive to eliminate those problems through a structured improvement process. Eliminating variation through Six Sigma, product production or services can be transformed, creating an outcome that may be higher quality, delivered more quickly, and may be less expensive. For customers, this increases satisfaction, which increases their purchases, in turn growing profits for the company.

The Six Sigma framework applies to any industry or sector, allowing businesses of any nature to benefit.

Here, we examine some key case studies where organizations have implemented Six Sigma to increase customer satisfaction.

eBay improves its member experience and cuts costs.

eCommerce giant eBay faces a unique challenge since it relies on numerous small companies – or even individuals – who sell items on their platform. To increase customer satisfaction, eBay applied Six Sigma to improve the member experience and reduce costs. The first step was to educate each customer service agent, ensuring every single professional possessed the tools and understood the organization’s underlying principles. By reducing their contract subscriptions process time from seven days to just two with Six Sigma, eBay achieved a $114,00 year-over-year revenue gain in the first year.

A call center won over its client for contract renewal.

When a call center learned its financial services client was considering terminating their contract, it opted to apply Lean Six Sigma processes to understand what the problem was. On the surface, call center employees knew that service had slipped, but the company wasn’t tracking all their key metrics. Their Lean Six Sigma expert uncovered several critical issues: most calls not resolved on the first contact required additional research, employees were held responsible for availability to answer phones, which deterred them from researching issues, leaving most open questions unanswered for customers. Customers with unanswered questions were more likely to call back in and increase the call volume, perpetuating a cycle of delays and unanswered or addressed calls. By applying Six Sigma, the call center improved processes in four ways:

  1. Split the team into researchers and customer service representatives
  2. Established a process to rotate employees through the two positions and created appropriate metrics to track performance in both sections
  3. Updated the computer system to allow for notes and system time tracking of issue resolution
  4. Established a proactive where management received notification for calls that were not resolved within four days

Ikea combatted declining revenue and increasing customer complaints.

In 2011, home furnishing company Ikea reported significant revenue loss, which it attributed to a high number of customer complaints. Through Six Sigma processes, the company transformed its business processes and, as a result, reduced the number of customer complaints.

The organization leveraged several Six Sigma principles to reduce the number of monthly complaints from 333 to just 43, including:

  • DMAIC methodology to transform business process
  • SIPOC to establish the flow
  • Data Collection and the KANO model to both measure and understand customer dissatisfaction
  • Pareto Chart to identify critical issues
  • Ishikawa Diagram to analyze root causes of those issues
  • Affinity Diagrams to offer potential improvements
  • Control Charts to monitor the new processes

By interviewing, establishing benchmarks and analyzing the total compliant dataset, Ikea was able to assess the causes of the crucial issues and create solutions to address them.

Cummins applies Six Sigma to its social media customer service to hone its processes.

A global engine and engine technology manufacturer, Cummins already leverages Six Sigma across its organization, but applying it to its social media practice helped the organization plan carefully across disciplines and earned credibility with senior management, who already endorse Six Sigma.

Although businesses are rushing to social media in droves, very few are doing so thoughtfully and as an asset to their brand. Increasingly online, customers expect to have their needs met in social channels as well as more traditional ones. Through Six Sigma, Cummins was able to:

  • Determine the same tool would be used organization-wide, and document that case through Six Sigma processes.
  • Establish company objectives for social customer service such as desired customer benefits and goals for cost savings.
  • Create an organizational philosophy on human-fueled vs. automated responses. (Cummins opted for human-driven communication).
  • Benchmark against companies heralded for social media customer service prowess to understand where the company wanted to be.
  • Pilot a North American program while the organization aligns on its common tool.

TELUS International strives for near-perfect customer service, empowering its teams with Lean Six Sigma.

TELUS’ Global Director of Business Process Excellence, Anna Kozlova, says the organization focuses on operational challenges for customers, applying Lean Six Sigma (LSS) to any process-related aspect of the business. As part of this effort, the organization has altered the customer satisfaction benchmarks traditionally used, honing in on contacts per customer, first call resolution, call transfers and turnaround time.

In one specific application, the organization aimed to reduce repeat service calls to a customer’s home. By analyzing data to seek statistical significance, LSS experts established that sending the same technician to the house the second time boosted the likelihood of resolving the issue – by 25%. Through a new coding system, dispatchers could ensure they scheduled the same technician for the second return. While the change wasn’t perfect – it worked about half the time – it did save an estimated $59,000 per month.

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