Using Six Sigma To Improve Call Center Efficiency With CTQ

Published: 15th June 2011
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The call center's main function is to retain customers. Any time there is a delay or defect in the process there is also a potentially lost customer.

If a call center's primary focus is not customer satisfaction, new customers won't be attracted and old ones won't be retained. Everyone can recall a situation in which they dealt with a call center and discovered that everything that could possibly go wrong; did go wrong. In many ways, this mirrors a manufacturing line that operates under "catching the errors" versus "error-proofing" the system. While Six Sigma has been applied to manufacturing situations for several years, the same philosophies can also be applied to call centers. The idea is to change the perspective to that of "zero-defects."

Applying the manufacturer's viewpoint to Six Sigma application in a call center setting involves developing some characteristics all employees should strive for. These are commonly called "critical-to-quality" (CTQ) and involve features that must be met in order for a customer to receive quality service from the call center and become a new/repeat customer.

The first of these CTQs involves how quickly the phone call is answered. Among call centers practicing Six Sigma, it's generally accepted that all phone calls should be answered in no more than three rings. A potential customer attempting to connect with a representative feels less and less like a valued customer the longer it takes for their call to be answered. Calls that are answered and then automatically put on hold should have a strict queue time of no more than 10 minutes. Customers waiting longer than this will hang up and walk directly into the arms of a competitor.

Another CTQ involves how easily a customer is connected with operators. Most of us can recall a situation in which connecting with a "live" person was only possible after a dozen menu options. Applying Six Sigma standards to this process means a menu of options should connect clients to operators in three steps or less. Anything more than this is a waste of company's resources and a guaranteed loss in customers.

A third CTQ involves the need to always have live help available that is well trained. This means the help needs to be able to function off script and fully understand the product or service being provided.

The Six Sigma methodology is very much a universal process than can assist industries that one does not normally think of, such as call centers.


The leaders of the great call centers in each industry meet once a year at the call center awards ceremony of SQM Group. They award the most prestigious North American contact centre awards.

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