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RUNNING HEAD: Customer Service

Applying System Thinking to Customer Service Operations Amber Johnson Kaplan University

Customer Service Introduction Everywhere you turn, there are systems. Each system serves a specific purpose. Systems ensure that a certain goal is carried out to its maximum potential. Within an organization there are smaller systems implanted into the larger system. A customer service operation has many smaller systems working together to achieve a common goal. At United Healthcare International, the customer service operation system is multifaceted and driven to produce excellence. Customer Service Operating System When building a business unit, one must utilize system thinking. System thinking,

helps us anticipate the unintended consequences of our actions, find the highest leverage points for focusing our energy and resources, discover underlying causes that drive our own and others behavior and make better decisions (Hutchens, 2001, p59). Based upon the description of system thinking, it would seem that most organizations would employ the system thinking methodology. This way of thinking, however, requires recognizing all of the interactive working parts of the business unit, which can prove to be a difficult task. In the customer service operations business unit at United Healthcare International, there are certainly smaller engaging working parts within the larger business unit, thus making it a system. In order to qualify as a system there has to be a clear purpose. This systems purpose is to provide excellent customer service to its members, providers and clients. Components of the Customer Service Operating System There are a few components to the Customer Service Operating system. First and far most, there must be callers for the customer service representatives to speak with. The Sales team drives the callers; more business they sell, the more service will be needed. One of the

Customer Service most important components to the customer service operating model is Sales. The customer service professionals (CCPs) are also an essential component to the system. Their expertise is

needed to service the business that was sold. Training is required in order for the CCPs to know how to service the callers. Training gets its information from Sales; therefore these components must be interactive. CCPs interact with Sales and Training to advise of holes in the process and to provide various forms of feedback.

# of available Staff Appeal of UHCI


Additional Training

# of Sales

s O

CCP Workload

Limit: Budget

Casual Loop Diagram of Customer Service Operations at UHCI Casual Loop Diagram The casual loop diagram pictured above indicates on a high level what the Customer Service Operations and Sales relationship looks like when applying system thinking. The reinforcing area of the loop, labeled with an R, can produce exponential growth (Hutchens, 2001, p65). The business is depended upon the Sales team making sales. As sales increase, it has an affect on the number of CCPs (Customer Service Professionals) that are available. The more staff that is available, the more attractive UHCI (United Healthcare

Customer Service

International) becomes to companies looking for health coverage for their members in the United States. Currently, the market does not have the level of CCP availability of UHCI; currently 24/7. Each component reinforces the next component and so on; making a loop. The adjoining loop, labeled with a B indicates the balancing process. Balancing processes work to keep a system at a certain level of performance (Hutchens, 2001, p66). As the company begins to make more money, the natural reaction is to hold onto the increase revenue. A budget limit was enforced and indicated on the diagram. As sales increase, the budget restricts the hiring of additional staff to support additional business, instead more duties are placed upon current staff in order to save money. Additional training will be required for the CCPs to support the new business. The accumulation of duties will cause morale issues with the CCPs thus affecting the appeal of UHCIs customer service. Conclusion System thinking is a complex methodology that will increase the awareness of all the interactive working parts of a unit. As Hutchens (2001) mentions; system thinking helps management to anticipate reactions to processes that have been implemented. Proper managing of reactions and recognizing all the other working parts of the system will yield the best results for the business.

Customer Service References

Hutchens, D. (2001). The Tip of the Iceberg: Managing the Hidden Forces That Can Make or Break Your Organization. Waltham: Pegasus Communications Inc.