Manage the Service Not the Number

Metrics and analytics are both essential and fun; they provide a way for us to improve our operations and to completely geek-out about our work.  They provide fascinating insights into every aspect of our business and help guide us down the best paths – for this I am eternally grateful.  However, in this age of eternal assessment and instant numbers gratification, we can be distracted and forget that it’s not the number we’re managing. It’s easy to get caught in the euphoria of wallowing in good news, and it’s equally easy to use bad news as an excuse to yell.  However, the most important aspect of getting our hands on these numbers must be using them as a tool to improve upon the results.  The margin between where you are and where you want to be is where the magic happens – if you understand what it is you’re seeing.  Customer service measurement is especially challenging to manage because there is often so much human touch involved.

Here are some basic recommendations for organizations at all stages of customer satisfaction measurement; they are good reminders about what you should be seeking to gain from these tools.

Step 1 – Do you have a good survey and sample size?  There are a lot of ways to measure, and finding the one that fits both with your business and with your target market can be tricky.  Deciding whether to call, invite them to call, email, etc. is tough.  How immediate is the request?  Is it random or is every customer invited to participate?  Even more importantly, establishing the number and type of questions to ask is critical.  There is a lot of bias in surveys, so finding a balance between enough information and too much information requires (in my opinion) professional services.  Avoid attempting this on your own – it’s as foolish as trying to be your own attorney because we have blind spots when it’s personal.

Step 2 – Do the results provide enough detail to manage the margin?  First, you have to know what portion of your margin you think you can improve upon.  Then, you need to have enough information about the reasoning behind your ratings to implement change.  This part is essential so I’ll repeat – you must be able to identify the problems so that you are not left guessing or making excuses for why you are struggling to achieve the results you have in mind.  So make sure your survey is effective and change it if it’s not!

Step 3 – Do you have accountability for the results?  If you have a system internally that works across departments to effectively and synergistically manage results and change you are ahead of the game because this is where things often come to a finger-pointing, screeching halt.  A truly customer-centric organization will see the metrics as an opportunity to solidify collaboration without fear of blame and where cooperation is inherently promoted.

What kinds of surveys do you find to be most effective?  Does your organization have a particularly great strategy that is providing results?  Please share!

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