Include Continuous Improvement in Frontline Performance Goals
By Susan Hash

Creating a culture of continuous improvement requires managers to trust their staff. It also calls for frontline employees to take a more active role in the organization's success. Agents must be empowered to problem-solve, and be encouraged to continuously seek opportunities to improve the customer experience.

Providing input and ideas to improve the company is not optional at Frontier Communications, it's an expected part of the job and is included as part of the sales and service staff's performance goals, says Lynn Holmgren, VP of residential sales and service.

Frontline consultants are required to submit and implement two process improvements with their coach per year. That amounts to around 3,400 improvement ideas from the front line alone. In addition, coaches are required to submit three ideas for performance improvement every year.

Improvement ideas are typically center-specific and are vetted by a team within each center. Ideas can be as simple as creating a relaxation room or switching the brand of coffee in the break room. Some, though, are implemented across sites. For instance, a recent submission suggested that training be posted in the bathrooms. Called "potty training", it's simply a notice or document that is posted on the inside of the stall door and is meant to reinforce training, recent changes or to provide information about sales contests. Another suggestion from a frontline consultant was to incorporate a crawler to scroll key messages and updates across the bottom of the staff's desktop screens, similar to a stock ticker, rather than providing that information via email.

Despite the volume of improvement ideas generated by Frontier's frontline staff, Holmgren stresses that it's not just a one-way information flow. An important part of the process is providing feedback to the individual who submitted the idea. In addition to thanking the individual for submitting the idea, the team should discuss possible next steps, for instance, if the idea will be submitted further, whether more information is needed, or if the idea won't be pushed forward, then why it didn't meet the criteria.

Inside View: KP OnCall

In telephone triage call centers, high standards are maintained—they have to be. Experienced RNs must be able to quickly and accurately assess patients over the phone, relying on physician-approved protocols, critical thinking, clinical judgment, verbal cues and listening skills. They must be able to immediately identify or rule out potentially life-threatening conditions without the ability to see, touch or smell. KP OnCall, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kaiser Permanente Southern California, provides 24/7 integrated telehealth programs to providers, payers and employers. Because of the critical nature of its calls and the high level of skills required, KP OnCall's RN candidates undergo a rigorous screening process, computer testing and interviews, which include triage questions specific to this type of job. Only those who score the highest receive job offers.
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