These German words started a revolution in SAP support back in 2008.
In English: ‘Corrupt Block’.
How things were:
We already had an outstanding Backoffice process.
Multiple teams, multiple missions. All fully staffed.
Backoffice Team 1: Emergency and Critical Situations (ECS).
The team that saves companies millions of dollars when their SAP system stops working.
The team that handles and solves critical customer issues:
Business down scenarios.
Sometimes because a customer’s Database was no longer usable.
Sometimes because of corrupt blocks in their Database.
Backoffice had 24×7, follow the sun support.
A taskforce comprised of multiple departments.
Between Product and Solution Support.
Lengthy, formalized handovers from region to region.
Quick access to high management.
All of this industry was the reserve of Premium Customers.
Only accessible with certain top tier support contracts.
Our German customer, with the “Korrupte Block” ,was not Premium.
Their business was down because their database was corrupted.
Our emergency Backoffice team was not present to lead recovery.
Things turned sour.
As it turns out, we too had a corrupt block.
A lack of understanding of what customers need from support.
When they most need support.
2008. The Corrupt Block Revolution
We started a new team, a fresh mission:
Business down is business down.
Regardless of support contract.
We set out to identify the top 10% most critical issues within all of SAP Support and to escalate these issues to our emergency Backoffice team.
We formed the “Priority 1 Control Center”.
But of course, this was never going to work.
Like all good SAP endeavors, we needed a 3 letter acronym!
So we changed the name to “Priority 1 Control”.
And began to make global changes on how customers were supported through times that can break a business.
Some things we learned along the way about building support processes and making changes:
1. Be humble, Initial changes are never perfect changes
Existing systems and infrastrastructure didn’t give us the options that we needed.
Initially, a lot of manual work was involved.
We had to make iterative improvements to our internal systems.
Which took time.
Over that time, we had to find new ways of motivating a rotational team.
Our judgement was not always right.
There was a learning curve.
And plenty of internal voices that wanted to make sure we got that learning.
And got it good.
We were changing things.
Not everyone liked the change.
So we started off with a culture of iterative improvements.
An expectation that we would need to learn along the way.
We welcomed comments, emails and adjusted.
That culture, one of discovery, rather than defensive protectionism, saved us in the early days.
Be humble, seek feedback, recognize that your idea can always be refined.
Initial changes are never perfect changes
2. The Ideas Spider Web
We found that every customer issue is critical to the customer.
We found new ways to classify, identify and resolve.
We found the right questions to ask.
That could only be asked as part of a conversation.
That we needed to talk to our customers more?!
To make communication a two way street.
This gave way to new ideas in SAP support.
Things that would only come to fruitrition years later.
A new focus on customer phone calls.
A new focus on communication training.
At a later time, these new ideas would send our measures of customer satisfaction through the roof.
3. Not everyone excels in a new, often ambivalent environment. Pick your team carefully
Not everyone is an entrepreneur.
Not everyone relishes vague goals.
Trying new things.
Many will say ‘what’s so wrong with the way things are now?’
Why take the risk?
Theres no guaranteed reward!
Leaving a comfort zone can be uncomfortable!
Not everyone on your team will be motivated by the thrill of doing something new.
Very clear, very detailed communication is often needed.
To set the vision.
To ensure the needed support.
Even then, be prepared for some to walk away.
I’ve written here about the importance of a ‘steering team’.
A small band of ruffians who rally around to complement your skills.
Under these circumstances, leading by setting a vision, inspiring, is not always enough.
Many skills are needed.
Many skills you will not necessarily have.
Few matters are more important than your steering team.
4. “Resistance is futile.” Be prepared, many will still try
In 2008, we were reforming a legacy process.
Something that had been around for years.
Lots of ‘turf’ can form over those years.
Lots of things to be protected when that turf is stepped on.
We were also creating new ‘turf’.
That wasn’t controlled by those who wanted control.
We were increasing the workload.
Without increasing the manpower.
But we had the support of some key allies.
Those who I would later think of as mentors.
We had visionaries, entrepreneurs.
And an outstanding boss.
Be prepared for push back.
Passive or aggressive.
Be prepared for resistance.
Some good strategies are over here.
Be prepared for the exploration.
The new ways that you will find to model around customer needs.
The satisfaction that you can change the ‘corrupt blocks’ and make a lasting difference.
And let that tone lead your team to success.
Stephen M Dick
Customer Support leader, team builder, process designer.
Other content written by the author here.