To the call center manager, the problem was call volume. There were too many CSRs needed and as more locations came on line, the call volume would only increase. The manager's suggested solution would cut the number of calls, thus decreasing the manager's cost, but it wouldn't really solve the underlying problem. The call volume is only a symptom of the real problem which would not be solved with the presented solution.
Others might suggest that having the point of sale system in the store keep a running count of inventory level and automatically notify the online system when it has reached a stock out or reserve stock level. By doing this, the calls are eliminated and the manager doesn't need to use their time to notify a stock out, either. While this solution could work, there are two issues with it: such an integration is expensive, especially if the inventory software in the store can not keep such a running tally. Second, this also implies that when products are sold in the store that the store knows exactly which items are sold. If the store sells nails by the pound, for example, it is considerably more difficult to know exactly when the store is truly out of nails.
What Really Happened
So what was the real problem? We've been alluding to it the entire time, but the real issue here is inventory management. The store is suffering from stock outs, but no one at the store level seems to be concerned that they are potentially forgoing sales because of a lack of product. If the store doesn't have the item in stock that the customer wishes to purchase, they are potentially missing out on sales.
In this situation, you should start by enlisting the store operations team and helping them determine the exact reason the stock outs have been happening. Is the store not managing their inventory correctly? Is the incentive for the store to maintain a minimum inventory amount keeping them from being able to sell products the customer wants? Is the store intentionally not stocking certain items they don't want to sell and then repeatedly calling those products in to the call center as 'out' in order to never sell them?
So how did you do? Did you come to the same conclusion we did? Do you like the idea of this series? Do you have a great scenario you would like to write and present? Let us know in the comments!