Metrics Drives Behavior

Quick Summary: Measuring the right or wrong items equally creates awareness which influences behaviors.

Abstract:

It is easy to institute mechanical metrics with the intent of increasing efficiency, which is another way of saying reducing costs in the customer service operation.  Although, on the surface, this appears to be a reasonable approach.  However, emphasizing those metrics may have the unintended consequence of actual reducing the most important metric of all - the level of customer satisfaction.  Companies need to carefully consider the behaviors of their customer service reps that will naturally occur as they attempt to meet the pre-established metric goals.  Will those behaviors help or hurt the overall satisfaction level of customers?

This article could have been included in a number of different chapters in this collection.  Sales reps, for example, are driven by their incentives.  They will focus on bookings, shipments, or collections as appropriate and will also become masters of “quota management” to maximize monthly, quarterly, or annual incentive payments.  Virtually all other groups respond similarly.  Of all the groups, customer service metrics probably have the largest impact on customers.  All of the positive good will that this group can generate can be easily offset if the wrong set of metrics are imposed upon them.

Principle Five: Demonstrate Sustained, Measurable Improvements in All Aspects of the Business, is based on the creation of metrics.  As noted, the mere act of measuring some facet of the business, most often, leads to improvements simply by raising awareness.  The simplistic but very real example of this phenomena is: “If I weigh myself in the morning, I eat differently that day”.  Customer service reps naturally will respond to their metrics just like the rest of us.  Unfortunately, it is easy to fall into the trap of focusing on the wrong metrics.

The primary root cause for the creation of inappropriate customer service metrics is the belief that customer service is a cost drain and a necessary evil that companies must accept.  As with other cost issues, the natural response is to minimize those costs at all costs.  In the case of customer service, the cost of reducing those costs is likely to be reduced customer satisfaction which is, of course, the only metric that really matters!  Some examples of distorted metrics are:

  • Minimizing Reported Problems:

The article in this collection. “A Simple Definition of a Defect” defines a defect as any deviation from a customer’s expectations.  This customer centric, broad definition is used to take the entire debate of what is a defect and what is not off the table.  Even with this broad definition, there is “wiggle room”.  For example, what if the company identifies a latent issue that could have disastrous impacts later, but customers are not currently aware of its existence?   According to the definition of a defect, the customer is not aware of the product not meeting their expectations now so it is not a defect!  This example is an obvious case in which a defect is present but is being rationalized away. Unfortunately, the response to even these obvious issues is to ignore them, most likely based on short-term financial impacts.  Exploding gas tanks, faulty ignition switches, or exploding air bags have plagued the automotive industry.  Degraded performance over time impacts the most common personal computer operating system and has existed for years through many OS iterations.  High levels of lead in certain off shore toys have been reported for years with no action taken by the manufacturer.  The list goes on and on.  More commonly, companies rationalize issues using “logic” such as: “That is not a defect, the customer just doesn’t understand…” or “That is not a defect, everyone should know that….”. 

  • Distorted Closing Rate:

Some organizations track the length of time that it takes a customer service rep to “close” a call.  Knowing they are under time pressure, reps may begin to end calls even when they know that proper resolution to the problem has not occurred.  For example, they may say “Please do not hesitate to call us back, if my suggestion does not work” full well knowing that the customer will, indeed, have to call back when the suggested approach does not resolve the issue.

  • Bulk Resolution:

Similar to Distorted Closing Rates, some companies will close large number of open issues on the same day that “happens” to coincide with the end of the quarter or other reporting period. Often, the rationalization is: “Those issues will be resolved with the next release (when it occurs).”

  • Closing on Transfer:

Many companies will consider a call closed when one team member transfer the customer to someone else in their department or other group for resolution.  The result can be multiple “positive” closures for one issue, which distorts the overall results.

  • Collecting Information:

This metric has subtle consequences.  It involves measuring a customer service rep’s ability to collect all information from a customer following an on-screen rigid format whether the information and process are of any value or not.  As an example, a customer service rep may ask a caller for their name, address, phone number, email address, contract or account number, and the last four digits of their Social Security number when all the caller wanted was to be transfer to another person who was actively working on the call!

Virtually all of the above examples, plus many more, place the customer service rep in an awkward position.  In order to preserve their jobs, qualify for a bonus or a promotion, or some other personal incentive, they feel forced to focus on the metrics and not satisfying the customer.  Albert Einstein once said: “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.”  The examples listed above are excellent examples of the issue in his quote. 

Companies can easily determine if their customer service metrics are effective independent of any of the numbers that they generate.  All they have to do is conduct an independent survey of customer satisfaction or a simple Google search to view customer ratings.  A consistent disconnect is proof positive of some internal systemic issues that cannot be corrected simply by “cranking up” pressure on the metrics.  Wholesale attitude, mostly by senior management, need to occur.  Only then will behaviors change and then, much later, customer opinions will improve.

Perhaps the most telling customer service metric could be generated by each customer service rep after each call.  They would simply provide a “yes-no” answer to the question: “I was able to resolve the customer’s issue.”  That metric would be a major contributor to the company’s CEO and CFO bonus calculations.  Wouldn’t that be interesting!

Article Number : 6.010302   

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