Improving Processes & Services

Structured Problem Solving

Local Improvement Team Case Study

This short case study demonstrates how the problem-solving process works. The case presented here is based on the work of a Team of telephone operators in a large bank. They handled an average of 500 customer calls daily.

Step 1 - Identifying, Selecting, & Redefining the Problem.

Bank surveys had indicated that callers tended to become irritated when the phone rang six or more times before it was answered. Because first impressions are important to customers, the team decided to solve these two related problems:

Step 2 - Identifying Possible Causes

The team first discussed the present system of answering, calls and the potential reasons for making the customer wait.

To do this, they used a Cause & Effect Diagram, brainstorming all possible causes.

 Fishbone of Customers Waiting  

Step 3 - Identify Temporary Fixes. None.

Step 4 - Identify Root Causes.

Because the operators did not have information which indicated which were the most likely causes, they devised checklists to record the number of delayed calls over a two-week period, and the reason for the delay. The categories were:

This data was arranged in a Pareto Chart which clearly indicates that almost half of the delayed calls occurred when one of the two department operators was not on duty.

Pareto histogram of causes of delays  

Step 5 - Identify Possible Solutions

Using brainstorming, the team generated several potential solutions designed to solve the primary causes of the problem.

Their suggestions: