Solving Nagging Problems Requires Ownership

Posted by on Jul 12, 2020 in Problem Solving | 0 comments

Does your organization have a nagging, frustrating problem that carries over from one year to the next and never gets resolved? If you ask, “Who owns the problem?” do you get a clear answer, and if so, why aren’t they doing anything about it?

Problems tend to go on and on without resolution when no one steps up and decides to own the problem.  Let me give you an example.

In his recent book, Upstream, The Quest To Solve Problems Before They Happen, Dan Heath gives an example of the travel website Expedia.  In 2012, the head of the customer experience group uncovered that for every 100 customers who booked travel on Expedia — reserving flights, hotel rooms, or rental cars — 58 of them placed a call afterward for help.  The number one reason customers called was to get a copy of their itinerary.  In 2012, there were roughly 20 million calls from customers who wanted to get a copy of their itinerary. At roughly $5 per call, that’s a $100 million problem.

Customers weren’t receiving their itinerary for several reasons: they had mistyped their email address, the itinerary ended up in their spam folder or they deleted the itinerary by accident.  Making it worse was the fact that there was no way they could go to Expedia’s website on their own to retrieve their itineraries.

Expedia’s management knew of the problem, but like most organizations, call centers are managed for efficiency and customer satisfaction.  Each group involved had its own focus, i.e., the marketing team attracted customers to the site, the product team helped customers complete a reservation, the tech group kept the website humming, and the support group addressed customers’ concerns quickly.  In the end, it was no group’s job to ensure customers didn’t need to call for support.

The problem was finally resolved when management decided to form a team, from different operating groups, and gave them the simple mandate:  Save customers from needing to call us.  The team identified and implemented several corrective actions and incorporated them into the website.  This effort resulted in a decline in the number of customers calling for support from 58% to roughly 15%.

I’ll almost guarantee you have a similar situation in your own organization, hopefully not to the tune of $100 million, but something that frustrates you and the whole organization on an everyday basis.  When you think about everyone involved in the process, is it clear who owns the problem?  Will anyone step up and take ownership of the issue?  If not, what will you do about it?

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