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Project Example: Lean Six Sigma Delivers 64% Improvement In Government Help Desk Resolution Time -

Project Summary

  • The Challenge: It was taking an average of 10 days to resolve a help-desk request—and could go as high as 42 days
  • The Discovery: It required an average of 1.2 hours to resolve requests with multiple handoffs between teams
  • The Improvements: The team created a new Help Desk Request form and established a single central contact
  • The Results: The request lead time dropped from an average of 10.6 days to 3.8 days, work time dropped by 58% and they achieved $156,767 in savings
  • What’s Next: The team is empowered to use Lean Six Sigma to find more ways to make life better for both the customers and workers

The Challenge

There are a lot of Help Desks out there advising users to “help themselves.” As a customer on the receiving end of a “good luck with that” approach, it’s easy to feel frustrated. What happened to the “help” in “Help Desk?”

Green Belt Patty Reiswig of Child Support Services of Kern County wanted to do better than that. Patty worked within Technology Service, whose Help Desk—like many others—was lacking in the “helpful” category. It simply took too long to resolve problems.

Patty formed a team with Technology Services to launch a Lean Six Sigma project. They selected “Time to Resolve a Problem” as their focus since it was the most prevalent customer complaint. The team got together to clarify what they had agreed to tackle.

The Discovery

The first task was to agree on exactly what they meant by “time to resolve a problem. They established an Operational Definition of “the time from submission of a Help Desk Request to the moment the problem is resolved and the work order status has changed to ‘complete’.” With the time frame clarified, they began investigating the data.

As they dug into their existing data, they discovered that the historical average for problem resolution was over ten days. The team established a goal of reducing that time by 30%.

They also hoped that the project would result in a reduction in the amount of work time expended on each call. This would have the bonus impact of saving money by allowing for increased call volume without adding overtime or staff.

They collected baseline data from January to May showing considerable variation. The overall average problem resolution time was 10.6 days, although completion could take as long as 42.7 days—over a month. Work time averaged 255.3 hours, with a maximum of 1025.5 hours. Clearly room for improvement!

Histogram showing the range of both problem resolution time and work time.

Next the team studied the existing process which revealed that the different teams who took the calls used slightly different approaches. One interesting discovery was that other teams were often involved for some of the issues. Handing problems off between teams added delay without necessarily improving the outcome.

Swimlane Map showing the handoffs between teams.

The Help Desk personnel revealed that some callers bypassed the Help Desk entirely and contacted technicians directly—thwarting the very purpose of the Help Desk.

Armed with clues from their process, the team identified a list of potential root causes. Organizing them in a Mind Map—an alternative to the traditional Fishbone Diagram—the causes were organized based on the 8 Wastes:

Mind Map of root causes for long problem resolution times.

After much discussion, the team identified two leading causes of delays:

  1. Coordinating services with customers led to waiting while the details of the problem were established. The team confirmed this by discussing it with multiple subject matter experts.
  2. Insufficient information was a related issue. This turned out to be a defect which created rework, leading the problem-solving investigation down the wrong path. The team confirmed this by discussing it with customers and technicians, revealing that many issues could have been resolved on the first call.

The Improvements

The team went to work on crafting a better process with an ambitious expectation of resolving problems within two days—a leap from the initial 30% time-reduction goal. This meant addressing multiple problems inside and outside the process:

  • A Help Desk Request form was created to ensure the team could get the necessary information during the initial contact.
  • Customers were educated on the new form and process, which also helped to manage customer expectations and introduced a level of customer accountability.
  • A single central contact was established for the entire process.
  • All help requests followed the same basic process, for which all participants were trained.

The Results

Implementation went well, and led directly into a sustainment plan, which included:

  • Revision of the onboarding process to train new employees in the new process
  • Regular reports to supervising staff, allowing them to confirm and ensure compliance
  • Monthly reminders to all staff
  • Expanding the system “Track-It” to include self-service

The results were impressive:

Other results included:

  • Improved first-contact resolution
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Improved Help Desk morale
  • Improved productivity frees Help Desk technicians to resolve other critical business needs

Project Example: Lean Six Sigma Delivers 64% Improvement In Government Help Desk Resolution Time -

What’s Next

Patty’s team readily passed their 30% goal. They didn’t quite reduce problem resolution time down to two days—but that’s clearly in their sights for the future. The experience left them all feeling empowered and excited about where they could make a difference, who they could help. This project made life better for both the customers and workers.

Patty Reiswig works for the Kern County Department of Child Support Services as a Senior Child Support Specialist. Patty has been with the department for 18 years. Patty has a vast amount of knowledge and expertise in all areas of the child support program.  Patty is a Lean Six Sigma Greenbelt. She strives to provide quality customer service and engages in looking for efficiencies in processes daily.

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Get the inside scoop on many other successful Lean Six Sigma projects at our Super Stories of Success page. Do you have a story to tell? We’d love to hear about your own project success! Please contact us.

Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Master Black Belt at, the co-author of The Problem-Solver’s Toolkit and co-host of the Just-in-Time Cafe. She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at UC San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.
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