Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

A Gorilla lounging around.

Image via Wikipedia

Have you heard about the study, “Gorillas in our Midst?”  It is based on an experiment in which people are asked to watch a video of a basketball game and count the number of passes one of the teams makes. A minute or so into the tape, while the people are busy counting passes, a woman in a gorilla suit walks onto the screen, stops, faces the camera, and beats her fists on her chest.  Fifty percent of the people who watch the video don’t see the gorilla. I think life in the contact center is much like this experiment.

Each day, we focus on the task of “counting the passes” in our own “basketball game.” We know what we have to do to get through the day, and we do it efficiently.  But, we miss a lot by being so focused.  What would someone without so much intentional focus see? Does our harried pace keep us from observing something as obvious as a gorilla in a basketball game?  And, might the solution to some menacing problem be found in what we are not seeing?

A good way to check whether we are “missing the gorilla” is to ask the new people on the team what they see.  These individuals haven’t been indoctrinated into our carefully orchestrated day, and therefore often observe what we miss.

Keep an open mind. You may hear some things you think are impossible.  I’ll bet there were several people who didn’t believe they had missed something as obvious as a gorilla in the middle of the video. When we are hyper-focused, we become blind to everything in our peripheral vision. Believe me, that’s where those gorillas love to dwell.

In which fifty percent are you – do you see gorillas in your midst daily or have some manifestations gotten by you?

When was the last time you opened up a customer record to handle an inquiry only to find the comment field populated with abbreviations and codes that made the documentation unintelligible?  Or, as you are quality checking the data side of a call, you find entries into fields that “are not allowed” according to procedures but certainly are allowed by the database? If you have, then you probably agree with Howard (2007) “Data quality isn’t just a data management problem, it’s a company problem.” And, certainly it is a customer contact problem we have to address sooner rather than later. 

In his article, Howard describes how he was in the process of integrating three new data sources into his enterprise customer database when he discovered the sad truth to the lack of data quality management.  The first two files had the state code field correctly defined as a two-byte field however file number one had 64 values defined for state codes and the second file had 67 distinct values defined.  The third file had the state field defined as 18 bytes with 260 distinct state codes defined. At this point he begins to ask, “whose problem is data quality anyway?” 

To try to figure out his dilemma, Howard first looks to the data modeler who could have defined a domain table of state and commonwealth codes that would force anyone using the database to enter a common code set.  He then considered the application development team whose “application edit checks failed to recognize the 50 valid state codes or provide any text standardization conversions.”  He states that whether or not a company has a quality assurance team is largely dependent on the size of the company but goes on to say that data quality with these teams may not be better.  In his example, the fact that the state code should be only two bytes in length and conform to the USPS standard was overlooked.  Because there was no specific requirement to test, these data sources passed QA with flying colors.  Howard says, “More than likely, someone assumed everyone knew the 50 state codes and that writing validation code was a waste of time. After all, everyone knows the state abbreviations for Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri. (Don’t feel bad if you have to check – I did.)” Finally, he turns to the business users.  An executive at one of Mr. Howard’s clients told him that data quality at their company was an afterthought. “Bad information was captured and passed on to the next application that assumed the first application had done its job.  Bad data is persistently stored in multiple data stores.” 

Mr. Howard’s article presents a valid question:  Because data integrity is critical to the success in today’s corporations, who is responsible?  Enterprise systems contain critical product, customer, and employee data.  This data is integrated into management reports including dashboards and scorecards.  Managers and executives use this data to make both tactical and strategic decisions.  If someone does not take the responsibility to manage the quality of data quality, critical data elements / metrics may be incorrect or unusable thus jeopardizing the success of an organization.  We all know what happens when a customer contact agent inputs undefined abbreviations and nonsense data into customer interaction fields.  What can we do as customer contact professionals to ensure the quality of this precious data? 

I propose we take the reigns in the contact center by designing automated workflows and unified desktop interfaces that drive consistently accurate and best practice data capture.  If we don’t do it, Mr. Howard suggests that no one else will (or is).


Howard, W. (2007). Data Quality Isn’t Just a Data Management Problem. DM Review, 17(10), 16.   

The benefits of simulation-based training have been long apparent-just ask any airline pilot, who must spend hours in a flight simulator before ever entering the cockpit of a plane.

And that’s no surprise. Research has confirmed commonly understood belief that people retain only between 5 to 10 percent of what they learn through reading and lectures; while that number increases from 75% to 90% when they practice by doing or teach others (simulation).

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