Simple solutions

Sometimes the simplest solution can have enormous impact.

I once worked with a technical support team suffering from declining customer satisfaction metrics.

The cause was thought to be cycle time, so we mapped the department’s high-level process looking for areas to focus on. The communication lines on the map looked like a family-size bowl of cooked spaghetti; there were loads of alerts and protocols for system changes and outages.  But speaking to the agents we learned that no one felt informed and they often told customers that they would have to investigate and get back to them.

As a fast and easy communication experiment we opened an agent chat room and when customers called in with problems that might affect multiple users, we asked agents to post.  The chat would be updated as problems got fixed. This would improve agent experience while more difficult cycle time improvement plans were implemented.

Within a few months customer service metrics began to improve but cycle time had not budged. Customers were happier because agents were able to tell them what was happening even if the news was not good.

Sometimes the simplest solution can have enormous impact. There are striking examples of this in The Checklist Manifesto – a checklist can literally save lives! A good rule of thumb in problem solving is to start with solutions that are fast and inexpensive, even in situations where a more complex, long term solution may be optimal.


How can you structure problem solving to identify simple solutions?  What guidelines could improve problem solving in your organization (E.g. “Must explore no cost options”, “No IT”, “Generate at least one solution that can be tried immediately”)? 

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