Needle in the haystack

Something that is very difficult to locate! If you find one, you are never sure, how many more you might have missed. For many, it is even difficult to know what to look for and where to start. But in most cases these needles have the potential to cause damage when least expected. Ranging for a mild annoyance to a major accident, not knowing about these needles adds to anxiety and uncertainty in routine tasks and procedures. Only exceeded in recklessness, when you operate under the assumption that there are no needles in our organization.

Let us talk about your needles then — as they relate to your team.

Needles in your people stack.

Starting with the obvious questions —

The obvious place to start looking for needles would be in the reports on your desk or desktop. Right? After all you have a stack of reports from your previous performance management exercise. Can we pull out the needles report?

Business Report

Don't have one? Oh well, no worries. We should get the answers from one of these — ranked list of employees, skills assessments, 9 box models or the 56 other reports that tool/consultants prepared for us.

Ah. You are throwing a fancy term at us. May be we refer to this as something else. Why don't you just spell it out.

What makes the needles concept a bit complicated is that we are not looking for individuals. We are looking for certain attributes within an individual or a team that surface only in a very specific set of instances. A few needles in the hay is not a reason to discard the bale of hay. The needles may cause damage if the hay is fed to cows or your bundles are joy are jumping around in the bundles of hay that have those needles!.

So all of the reports you have on your desk or desktop may have needles hidden in plain sight. The top performers can have needles just as much as an individual in any of the boxes in the 9 box report. The needles in the people stack are often narrow areas of improvement, a few isolated experiences reported by collaborators. These do not rise to the level of a repeatedly observed pattern. Those are the ones that get immediate response and are mostly dealt with swiftly.

Jim's story

In a global and very well managed customer support organization, front line agents were expected to do their very best to close a case at the first contact. They tracked First Contact Resolution (FCR) metric for all cases handled by agents. New hires, regardless of their experience level, were indoctrinated into this philosophy and the expectations and responsibilities were made crystal clear before their first interaction with a customer.

Jim, our lead character, was a junior member of the team, both in terms of age, experience, and, tenure with the company. He was consistently rated highly based on internal metrics such as FCR rate and customer satisfaction score (CSAT) derived from external customer satisfaction surveys. Cases that he handled were efficiently managed and all the protocols were observed. This story was a rare occurrence, where a customer re-opened a closed case which was assigned to a different agent.

When the other agent perused the case file summary, she immediately noticed that the customer had an unrelated issue not related to the previous case. She promptly resolved the issue, ended the phone call with the customer and opened the case details screen to enter her notes. And that is where she noticed a lot more substance – a lot more than the case warranted.

Our rising star hot-shot agent, was using the notes fields to rant about the customers. Adorning the colorful language, were emojis, millennial slang, and, very very questionable sense of humor. "Honestly, I didn't understand a about half of what was in there, but I know that was not the place for such editorial commentary," she said in a later interview.

With no customer facing issue and the tremendous pressure for her to jump to the next case, she entered her notes and moved on. But she did remember the incidence to mention it in the 360 review for our rising-star agent which was done a few weeks later. Again, top ratings to the agent on prescribed job duties, but a mention of the observed behavior in the open feedback section of the review.

What happened after the 360 reviews? Procedures followed, charts built, lists prepared, bonuses doled out. Jim did get a well deserved raise and continued along his merry way.

Astute readers would note that the humor aside, colorful commentary in customer contact notes can come back to bite you in a variety of ways. Least of which are the legal implications. There was no malicious intent here on anyone's part. Jim was venting — dealing with his work stress in what he thought was a safe place. The other agent did her part by making it known. The managers got lists and slides as the output of the review process – they did not have access to the commentary part of the review. The issue fell through the crack.

Because no one was looking for the needles. If your job is to load bales of hay on a truck, you don't stop to worry about the needles in the hay. While this one did not result in any damage,

Insight Magnet was asked to analyze data collected from the 360 review and this was flagged as a flag. Upon further investigation, Jim had quite a few of these masterpieces in the annals of the case files. It was just a question of letting him know and the problem was addressed. They were able to add a slide to the new-hire onboarding training about writing closing notes for the case.

Not an easy problem to automate

We have observed that good managers can sometimes see or hear things that are not visible or audible. They call it gut feeling, instincts or hunches. These hunches are not merely a result of the trigger stimulus, rather it is a result of the manager analyzing that trigger event in the context of the individual, situation, environment and other factors.

Now what if it was possible to distill this amazing ability acquired over years of experience by a small group of talented individuals? Sure, We'll take two of that. Our goal was to implement a system that is based on