Leadership Lessons from Karen Rizzo: Don’t Leave People Waiting

In 2018, I was promoted at IGS and assumed responsibility for our technology support team. The team was dedicated and had great attitudes but they were struggling quite a bit. They weren’t able to keep up with the amount of tickets/requests that they received from our coworkers. In short, people were waiting.

When I was previously managing the IT Infrastructure team at IGS, our requests/tickets usually came from a select group and typically we didn’t receive more than 3-5 per day which made it was pretty straightforward to gauge customer satisfaction. The requests to the technology support group came from the entire organization and we often receive hundreds per month. I wasn’t quite sure how to keep a pulse on how the team was doing.

Around that time, I met with Karen Rizzo (Contact Center Director at IGS) to ask her for advice on how to gauge customer experience for large volumes of transactions. Karen recommended that we send out a short survey after each completed ticket. She felt it the survey should be short enough that people would be willing to fill it out but long enough that we could collect some key data.

We landed on the following questions…

  • Was your issue resolved?
  • Did you feel like your issue was handled with the correct urgency?
  • Would you want to be assisted by this technician again?
  • Do you have any additional comments?

The survey was incredibly helpful and allowed us to quickly gauge customer satisfaction. However, Karen’s best advice had to do with the fact that we often left our customers in the dark too long while we were working on a particular problem. Even if we had the best of intentions and were handling other critical issues, the customer had no idea. Karen told me that when we leave people waiting, they tend to assume the worst.

Karen gave me a really helpful analogy about what it’s like to wait without any information. She told me a hypothetical story about sitting at the restaurant waiting for food. You naturally get frustrated when it takes longer than you expect for your meal to be delivered. You’re always a lot more patient and understanding when the waiter stops by every few minutes to share an updated status and offer some water.

Based on Karen’s advice, we adjusted our processes a bit. We realized that we would likely always have a backlog of tickets to work through. We decided to make sure that we touched base with our customers every few days to let them know that we still were still tracking their issue/request and provide them with an updated ETA. We also gave them the opportunity to escalate if needed.

This simple procedure helped us in a number of ways. We were able to self-prioritize our tickets which let us limit the amount of Work in Progress (WIP). By doing less, we were ultimately able to do more. After just a few months of following Karen’s advice, we were able to significantly improve both the quality and quantity of our work while continuing to keep a pulse on customer satisfaction.

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