Making a Pin, Breaking a Mold

You can find references to the power of specialization and the division of labor back to the 4th Century BC when Xenophon said “he who pursues a very specialized task will do it best”. Then, in more modern times, Adam Smith introduced the idea to the Division of Labor to improve productivity in Pin Making, extolling the productive powers of separating the tasks associated with making the humble pin, and allowing each pin maker to specialize in the production or assembly of the parts.

This idea of the division of labor is fundamental to modern manufacturing, but it does come at a price. Karl Marx wrote that specialization may also lead to workers having poorer overall skills and a lack of enthusiasm for their work. He believed that as the level of specialization increases the workers become increasingly detached from the process of production and fail to gain any satisfaction from their roles, a process he described as ‘alienation’.

So, what? I work in a call center. Call centers have long been called the factories of the service industry and it is a fair comparison that with the onset of technology such as power dialers there have been concerns that we are turning our contact center staff into robots.

What’s the answer? Specialization increases knowledge and productivity, but is actually a problem for contact-center resourcing, as having to have many small specialized areas makes resource and planning models a nightmare. The lack of multi-skilling and the inability to overflow calls reduces flexibility and the quality of the customer experience with reduced First Call Resolution and ultimately makes for an expensive contact center.

But the world is too complex a place to not have specialists who can deal with heavy complex and compliant processes. So how do you break the mold? How do you reap the power of the division of labor and accurate processing from specialization without crippling yourself with many small inflexible teams? The answer is to translate and transform complexity using intelligent, intent-led solutions that can deliver conversational and process guidance to the user. This allows them to focus on having a meaningful and valuable conversation with the customer. After all, customers are never going to care how you resolved their problems, or how your work gets done, they just want their problem resolved in a timely, efficient and pleasant manner.