Can measuring the wrong things guarantee a broken customer service culture?

Choosing the wrong customer service metrics can destroy a customer centric culture or prevent it from developing

Can measuring the wrong things guarantee a broken customer service culture?

One way companies send a message about the value of customer service to employees is through what they measure and evaluate. Companies that exhibit excellent customer service tend to measure their success in meaningful and relevant ways. Companies that lack that kind of culture either don’t measure at all, or measure the wrong things. Measuring the wrong things tells employees that real customer service is not valued by the company. Here’s an example.

Call centers are great examples to draw upon because companies often think of them as “overhead” rather than long term ways to both market their products, and retain customers. Call center activities are also easy to measure, so it’s easy to see how companies go astray. Here’s a measurement example.

The Acme Computer Company set up a call center to provide support for people who bought their computers. They saw the call center as a potentially expensive enterprise that would eat into their short term profits. Their concern was to process as many help calls as possible, with as small a staff as possible, so as to keep call center costs as low as possible. They decided to measure their “success” by evaluating their call center personnel on the basis of how many calls per hour they processed. So, of course, that’s what they measured. They measured things like average time spent on each call, and of course, how many calls each person “handled”.

So, what did employees do? What did these measurement techniques say to the employees?

Call center employees did exactly what one would expect. Since they were being measured by these criteria they did what they were asked. The number of calls handled went up, and the average time spend on each call dropped. Which of course is what the company wanted.

Where’s the problem? By using these measurements and only these measurements, it was clear to employees at the call center that the company didn’t care if the customers were satisfied, or even had their problems solved. There were no measures to track those very important outcomes. So, they rushed through the calls, and the majority of customers were discouraged and angry, because from their point of view they wanted solutions. Lots of lost customers.

What you measure gets valued. Measure the wrong things and employees will act accordingly.

Author: Robert Bacal

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