Does your business suffer from Key-Person Dependency? Often abbreviated KPD, this describes the reliance of an organization on an individual who is in sole possession of critical institutional knowledge or subject matter expertise which is vital to your company’s ongoing success. KPD is not uncommon within technology companies, and it is especially prevalent when it comes to the client services department. Providing excellent service requires a unique blend of emotional intelligence and specific technical knowledge.
Service team members who possess this mix of skills are highly valuable. However, relying exclusively on these individuals to service your clients also presents your business with a substantial amount of Key-Person Dependency risk.
Here are five techniques for mitigating this risk while still providing excellent service.
Consolidate Your Service Communications
It is common practice in many tech companies for clients to use direct communications with an individual team member to request service. This practice quickly leads to clients becoming dependent on those personal communication channels to receive the support they need. Instead, you are much better off creating dedicated channels for support requests. Creating a support phone number and email address (such email@example.com) for your clients to use for service requests is a simple and effective way to avoid KPD. By doing so, the methods used by your clients to request support remain constant, no matter who comes and goes from your business.
Use a Ticketing System
Another highly effective strategy for combating Key-Person Dependency risk in your service team is the use of a ticketing tool such as Zendesk.
Ticketing tools allow for the tracking of service incidents in a highly collaborative manner. By providing this visibility into ongoing service incidents throughout the company, you can avoid losing information trapped in the head of your key service team members. When used properly, ticketing systems also provide a valuable historical record of past incidents, and what was done to resolve them. So if a key member of your service team leaves, their client-specific knowledge doesn’t go with them.
Leverage Real-Time Communication Tools
When it comes to written communication, most companies rely exclusively on email. By its nature, however, email encourages siloed communication which is visible to few members of the organization. Additionally, retrieving critical information from an email system after a key team member leaves can be an arduous task.
Real-time messaging tools such as Slack are a better option for reducing KPD risk associated with written communication. These tools enable faster, more company-wide collaboration on the resolution of service incidents. They have the added benefit of being highly transparent and searchable.
Identify and Document Critical Processes
One of the simplest and most overlooked methods of reducing KPD risk is to identify and document service processes within your company. In fact, here at OneVision Resources, we believe so strongly in the value of documentation that we are developing an entire “Playbook” — one exceptional service for use by our partner network. Ask your key person to create simple PDFs with screenshots outlining fundamental processes such as how to schedule an appointment, create a service order, track hours, and send an invoice. Even a basic set of how-to guides outlining these core processes will go a long way toward getting a new team member up to speed.
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Cross-Train or Outsource
Cross-training can be highly effective. Encouraging collaboration and having regularly scheduled team meetings can help to spread critical knowledge and information throughout the company. However, the idea of cross-training within the business is much easier in theory than it is in practice. Most integration firms are staffed with highly-specialized individuals with overflowing plates. Trying to cross-train your system designer on proper service coordination techniques, for example, can be nearly impossible given bandwidth constraints.
This is one of the reasons that outsourcing can be such an effective way to combat KPD risk. By using outside firms staffed with specialists who are focused exclusively on one part of your business, you can vastly reduce your Key-Person Dependency risk. This also frees up internal resources to focus on what they do best, and vastly reduces the likelihood of burnout taking hold of your service team.