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Time Is On Our Side

“Time is on our side…” proclaimed Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.  Depending on how easily you recognized that song, you may or may not agree and there may or may not be much you can do about it.  However, if you are running back-office operations more than likely time is not on your side. The good news is there is more you can do to improve that situation than you think.

The front office or contact center has, for decades, been the standard-bearer for measuring and managing time and their employees’ positive or negative relationship to it. With the toolsets available today, literally not a second goes by that is not measured, categorized, and assessed.

In most back-office environments, the focus is predominantly on the time it takes to complete an end-to-end process. How long it takes to submit an application, process a claim, or update a client’s address or policy beneficiary, for example. Often broken down into a series of individual steps or tasks, managing turnaround time for these processes down to the minute is critical to the company’s bottom line as well as the all-important customer experience. Detailed examination of end-to-end processes can, and very often do, bring hidden opportunities for improved efficiency and cost savings. Trindent can help with that.

An area where many back-office environments often fall short goes beyond process management and looks at broader time and resource management. Outside of the processes you are so closely managing, how are your employees spending their time? The answer – and even just your ability to answer the question – may surprise you.

Most office production environments have assumptions built into their budgets to account for daily non-discretionary unproductive time like breaks and lunches. Often, there are several other activities, perhaps more discretionary in nature, like meetings, follow-up on pending cases, answering email or voicemail, 1 on 1 coaching, training, etc., that occur on a daily or weekly basis that are not always itemized in operating budgets. All these activities, discretionary and not, can add up to 30-40% of an 8-hour day, sometimes even higher.  Moreover, you are very likely paying for overtime as well because somehow processes and tasks are not getting completed as expected.

Let’s look at the math, shall we?

Typical fulltime day = 8 hours or 480 minutes

Breaks (often 2x 15 minutes) = 30 minutes = 6.25%

Lunch = 30 minutes = 6.25% (Likely unpaid, but time is time)

Follow-Up = 30 minutes = 6.25%

Email / voicemail = 30 minutes = 6.25%

Daily Team Meeting = 15 minutes = 3.125%

Other meetings = 60 minutes = 6.25%

Total Non-Production Time = 195 minutes = 41%

Getting a clear accounting of all these items provides a much more effective picture of what expectations need to be in place around how employees are spending their day.

That said, assumptions will only carry you so far. It is in the tracking of the actual activity where the greatest opportunity lies. The reality is meetings go long, employees linger over breaks and lunches, follow up takes longer than expected. What about when your employees arrive and leave work? Are they arriving on time or leaving early? Suddenly that 41% assumption starts looking more like 50%. On the other side of the coin, what if you find your assumptions are inflated but you are still seeing the same productivity? Where did that time go? (Oh, and did I mention overtime?)

“WE ARE NOT A CALL CENTRE!” is a familiar mantra. Couldn’t agree more! If you were a call center, we would be pulling out a much larger magnifying glass. But you do have resources, often hundreds of them, that need to go through their day in a time sensitive manner. You need to be able to account for their time.

But don’t despair! Depending on the platforms and tools you have already deployed, a variety of approaches can be taken to make active time management an integral part of your day to day operations. And Trindent can help with that too.

The author of this blog – Paul Camrass is a Senior Consultant at Trindent.

Image courtesy of macrovector