Non-value Added Work in Contact Centers: Identifying and Removing the Waste

Non-value added work vs value-added work concept businessman identifying money growing with baby plants

Non-value Added Work in Contact Centers: Identifying and Removing the Waste

Value-added Work vs Non-Value-added Work

Value-added (VA) activity is what a customer will pay for or pay more for: a product, service or better customer service. If the activity isn’t directly related to said product or service then it’s non-value added (NVA) work. 

This is somewhat dependent on the industry but examples of value-add are:

  • Upgrading a product matching customer needs
  • Improving self-service options
  • Creating new products 
  • Faster delivery

An employee at a huge office of a major bank had to fill out a request form to get a ream of paper, and then go to a different floor to retrieve it. That is a great example of a non-value added activity (and one that could be handled better). 

A lot of work in business is necessary non-value added activity of course (essential non-value added or ENVA). There are many tasks like filing, taxes, policy making, testing, research and organizing that don’t directly add value to a product or service, but are necessary (and until we have a robot workforce, will have to be performed by people). The key is to remove or reduce wasteful tasks like:

  • Hunting for data 
  • Fixing errors
  • Waiting on information or approvals
  • Manual analysis and oversight 

How Does This Apply to Customer Service?

Streamlining saves money and time in contact centers or customer service departments just like in any other area of business. That time is more profitable when spent on value-added activities that improve customer experience and product offerings or on efficient actions that support these.  

Don’t discount the emotional and mental drain of such wasteful processes on customer service agents and managers either. These energy drains impact productivity and can have lasting effects that ripple across a company. Addressing the non-value activities that add stress can help reduce agent churn by preventing customer service burnout.

Customer Service Management Non-Value Added Work

For management, waste tasks include:

  • Manual QA and analysis
  • Reinforcement of training/reminders
  • Managing/sorting backlogs
  • Identifying repeating issues
  • Handling inappropriately escalated interactions
  • Scheduling
  • Overly complicated policies 
  • Too many manual approvals

Customer Service Agent Non-Value Added Work

NVA customer service agent activities that can be streamlined include:

  • Too many systems/lack of integration
  • Searching for information  
  • Waiting on approvals
  • Overly complicated forms and processes
  • Long service scripts
  • Call holds and transfers
  • Unnecessary repetition of questions/information
  • Providing incorrect/unhelpful information

Ideas for Identifying and Eliminating Waste

The first part of eliminating waste activities is to identify them. Some tasks are obvious candidates for improvement, like manual QA and manual training reinforcement. These tasks can be automated with AI powered software, like CSAT.AI. This solution allows for automated analysis of interactions while simultaneously providing agents with training reinforcement in real time.

For insight into refining processes and workflows, empower agents to give feedback on what’s already in place. They can help target areas ripe for improvement. Encourage them to include tasks that are mentally and emotionally taxing too.

There are many KPIs to track in customer service. These take resources to gather and quantify, so make sure there is a plan to use them or they are a waste. Identify metrics which are the most important either for a more immediate goal or for a business’s specific niche.  

A company with a newly released product may want to know how many service interactions reference that new product. Use software with custom phrase based modeling to track specific metrics automatically. 

The Human Touch Has Value

Identifying and reducing unnecessary NVA is great, but don’t throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Remember that customers are willing to pay more for great service, especially in high end products and services. Good customer service representatives keep customers coming back. 

They also fill the gap between customers and technology. Chatbots and self-service are valuable tools, but sometimes a customer doesn’t even know what to look for because they don’t know what’s wrong. Alternatively, they don’t know how to phrase their question to effectively search for an answer on a website or FAQ. Like a customer who can’t get their device to work and needs a new power cord, but all they know is that their device doesn’t work. 

Beyond that is the simple value of being heard that cannot be served by technology. In 2021, Gartner predicted that within the next five years 75% of customers will use phone support channels due to loneliness, not actual product and service issues. This poses a challenge to reducing NVA, but also highlights one of the reasons human agent interaction is important to customers. If they are willing to pay more for this portion of the service, it could be argued that engaging these connections is a value added activity. 

So when identifying waste and streamlining processes, keep in mind the value of the human touch.