Ethnographic Research – Project Objectives

As BankOne grew by acquisition over the years before being bought by JP Morgan Chase, their customer service management team needed to make a decision regarding the development of a new platform for customer service representatives. With multiple systems, different account number configurations, and legacy systems on green screens, we were tasked with helping the decision-makers understand how to move forward with one of two options – either quick fixes or, develop a whole new system.

We were asked to quantify findings by analyzing the costs of lost productivity so that the cost of developing a new CSR platform could be justified if our conclusions led to this recommendation.


Since ethnographic research is about observing people in a natural setting, our team spend three days at a large CSR center in Missouri. We sat with 12 customer service folks and were able to listen to each of their incoming calls for an hour. We also followed up by asking for ratings of specific systems to further understand key pain points.

This approach allowed us to gain a perspective on the following:

  • How much time the average call lasted
  • What systems and programs needed to be accessed for a range of issues such as canceling a check, updating a password, transferring funds, etc…
  • Understanding which tasks took the most time and why
  • How having multiple software systems was impacting learning curves and worker morale

Success Measurement

Our detailed findings addressed the following topics regarding workflow inefficiencies. Too many applications caused the following problems:

  • Increased task complexity
  • Inefficient workflow
  • Double Handling
  • Less productivity
  • Decreased system resources
  • Increased overhead costs

By saving 30 minutes of time for each CSR per week via an improved system, we were able to calculate that the cost of developing an entirely new platform would pay for itself in 18 months. This new user friendly system would result in a more productive work environment,  less employee turn over and major cost savings.


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