Why keep chasing the wrong Goose?

This is the 2nd article on Goose-chasing in Customer Services. The Goose represents The Goals that we pursue in our lives dedicated to excellent customer service experiences. As Goals are usually defined in metrics and targets that we aim for, that’s what this blog sequence is (mostly) about. If you want to follow the Goose-chase, please hit the RSS-feed button in the right column of this blog.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article : Why are we chasing the same goose? In essence this article is about the copy-paste-without-thinking-behaviour that is common in Business life. Copy-paste of tools and metrics that then become goals instead of means to create value for customer and company.

In this blog I will focus on one “most wanted” Goose in Customer Service Contact Centers: accessibility of the call center measured in percentage of calls picked up within X seconds (most referred to as SLA, which is technically a wrong term, but for understanding I will use it here too).

The consequences of the choice for Call-SLA as a primary customer service metric is that the company focus is on achieving just that. Anything else is of less importance. This is a big waste of money and scarce resources and is destroying the Customer Service Experience.

Allow me to illustrate with a scenario:

TV-consumer-watch-dog program hits hard on company: product sucks, service sucks, nobody can reach customer service and company does not meet own promises! Broadcast with a studio full of complaining customers. The next morning tabloids take over the story, featuring other complaining customers. From thereon it escalates within the company. Even the Executive Board comes in and wants to see results. The first qustion asked: what are the KPI’s used? And Call Center Management comes up with Accessibility, AHT, Quality Monitoring Results, Customer Satisfaction (and probably First Time Right / First Contact Resolution, but with the remark that corect measurement is difficult). All show rather poor results.

One can predict what follows: The company starts with fixing these “old” KPI’s. This is what they know and understand. And this is what they can explain to the outside world. Call SLA comes first (the easiest one). Worst case: they start making call-back appointments to meet a certain SLA (to show to the outside world). These call-back can never be met and the problems starts getting biger and bigger.

After a few months Call SLA’s are much better, but still Customer Satisfaction has not increased, maybe even a small decline is seen. AHT might have increased due to an influx of new Service Respresentatives. Quality Monitoring needs to be picked up again, because resources have been tied up in training of new CSR’s. First Contact Resolution actually showes no change. Why is this?:

High call SLA’s do not correlate to high customer satisfaction or loyalty. “Effectiveness” and “Ease of use” in Customer service do.

There is only a very limited relation between high call SLA’s and customer satisfaction and even smaller (to none probably) relation with Loyalty. We know this actually, but still the vast majority of contact centers follow the Call SLA daily as their primary metric. This has some consequences:

  1. Far more resources are working on Forecasting, Workforcemanagement & Traffic management compared to resources working on Analytics to find out about the Voice of the Customer (VOC) and how to reduce volume: Whole tribes of specialists are at work every day to do whatever they can to come as close to a guarantee to deliver the SLA all the time. Some even focus on SLA-consistency (get it right in every 30-minute interval). These resources are usualy hard to find and quite expensive, because they have one great asset: they can analyze numbers. These resources are well equiped to perform VOC-analysis, that can result in true optimization of your efforts. If the resource is scarce, where would you put it?
  2. Recruitment is focused on bringing numbers, not human beings that deliver great customer experiences: If we are under pressure to meet SLA’s (because of a crisis or just an increase in volume) it is likely that recruitment will not be done in a proper way, that you know you get the right people in. If the target is set to hire 100 new Service Representatives in the shortest possible timeframe, that’s what you’ll get. (If you would have added the requirement: that meet our job-description requirements, it could be different). As a consequence you have hired a lot of new people that will pick up the phone, but will not like speaking with your customer and solving their problems. So, what do you get?: more dissapointed customers and service representatives that will leave you in the short term.
  3. Training & Coaching resources are wasted: With the entire focus on meeting SLA, training departments are overloaded with training and coaching of new resources and later on the replacement of these new resources. There is little to no time to focus on improving quality, reducing 2nd line questions etc.  

Think of the total costs of ownership of the choice to have Call SLA as the primary metric: HR, recruitment agencies, advertising companies, trainers, ICT, system engineers, call center manager, assistants to call center managers, planning, supervisor etc etc.. They all have been working (at best together) on getting these new people in and meeting the SLA. People that did not add any value to your company nor the company-customer relationship. And that for a metric that does not add value to consumer and business too.
Most of you who read this will say: Yes, I knew that already. Yet, still we see most companies chase the wrong goose, in normal times, but specifically in difficult or crisis times. As an example for how important we still think the call SLA is: please see the Dutch Accessibility Research-report (Sorry: Dutch only). This is published every year. No Call Center Manager really wants it. I bet that most companies with below average scores on accesability will put great effort not being in the lower half of the list next year.

I just wish they do not do it the “easy” but the “effective” way. So what should they do?:

Next week I will write on What Geeze you should be chasing? A more in depth article on what truely matters to customers in Customer Services. Until that time, please leave a comment or question if you want. Let’s get the discussion going.

The killer customer service or loyalty metric does not exist

metricsHappy with your Customer Satisfaction score? Don’t be! Here’s why:

Cash is King – Profit an Opinion

Even the one metric (profit) that we all acknowledge gets challenged. This quote reached me through Twitter, from a person following a Financial Management for Non Financials-course at that time. It is as much a true statement as a false one. Having a bundle of cash but no activities to work with it does not make business sense. On the other hand Profit actually is an opinion, since the annual profit-statement depends on a few rules that we set to calculate profits. If we change the rules (or go to another country) with the same revenue and costs you can have different Profit. Hence my opinion that the quote above is as much true as it is not true.

The same goes for metrics that try capture Customer Satisfaction or Loyalty. Any metric you choose can be true or false. And one thing is for sure: The killer metric does not exist! Let me explain:

CSAT nor NPS are exclusively “right”

In my experience lots of companies have very decent to even good Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores (in The Netherlands for example scoring 7,8 , on a scale of 10, is considered a good score). Nevertheless also companies with little to no growth or even little to no profit score as high as this or higher. The conclusion can be that these CSAT-scores do not provide any insights to improve your business performance. I am inclined to go with that conclusion. Are you?

A similar discussion is still going on in respect of the NetPromoterScore (NPS) that tries to capture Customer Loyalty. I will not dive into that discussion here. If you are interested just hit this link.

Changing the rules of the game

Back to CSAT: I experienced in my carreer great improvements through measurement (and acting upon) CSAT:

When I was working for Center Parcs as a Management Trainee, almost 15 years ago, this company had a long history of great CSAT scores. Even for the Dutch the scores were high: high eighties where no exception. Still “we” experienced a decline in bookings and (F&B) spend during that time (and it where the growing years), so something had to happen.

Center Parcs introduced a new CSAT metric that focussed on Top Box scores. They spend some time investigating what customers really cared about and came up with a new CSAT form on which customers where no longer asked to score on a scale of ten. Per question the customer only got 4 options: “-/-” or “-” or “+” or “+/+” and they told “us” they would be measuring on percentage of Top Box (the “+/+”).

Without changing your play

As nobody in the company really thought improving service was possible, little changed in the beginning. Of course management started a program to explain and drive what they where looking for (I’ll get back to that later), but most people where convinced that service was already at the highest possible level. Until the first results came in: week after week a dramatic under-performance compared to target (I really do not know the exact scores anymore, but I remember the turmoil).

Now it became clear to everyone that something needed to happen, that “management” was not just saying somethings about creating great and new experiences (Center Parcs did not invent experience management, but the became quite good at it already sometime ago), they actually meant it. And then it happened: sparked by the Leadership-team and local management, all employees got involved in the process of creating new experiences. Simple low-cost experiences as well as high-value investments, throughout the company. Experiences that did not only surprise the customer, but also generated increase in bookings, on-site revenues and profits.

What gets measured gets done

My conclusion: CSAT (or any other metric you choose) will not work as a killer metric if you remain satisfied with mediocre or even good scores compared to competition (or common understanding). When you’re stuck at that ceiling, be creative, challenge everything you already know and take it from a different angle. Re-invent the metric that works best for the situation you’re in.

It may well be (and it is likely to be so) that Center Parcs at any time has hit the ceiling of this new “killer metric” too. And this will happen to you too, or has happened to you already. Don’t just sit around and wait untill you are hit by revenue declining and/or customers leaving or staying away. Dive in and create a follow-up metric that will work for you there and then.

Killer metrics do not exist, they are company specific and should evolve with it!

Where are you at?