Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Perfect Service Quality Loses Customers

I'm going to start by relating a recent set of customer service interactions. Please understand that everything I say is my interpretation of things. This is opinion, not objective facts (but that's the whole issue.)

Jogo Canada a Winnipeg games store that I frequent. I probably go in there 4 to 5 times a year, and I'll spend between $40 and $200 a visit. A couple of weeks ago I'd stopped in to pick up a birthday gift for a friend. I grabbed the latest Settlers of Catan expansion, knowing she was a fan of the original game. Unfortunately her husband had the same great idea. No problem, I decided to keep it, and inquired if she'd tried Starfarers of Catan. She was intrigued, so I promised to pick it up for her in replacement. The weekend before last, JP and I returned to Jogo to do just that. When we walked in the door, the clerk sitting behind the desk asked us if he could help us find anything. In my opinion it didn't sound like he was happy to see us, so I declined, indicating I knew what I wanted. I walked over to the section where the Catan games were, but could not see it. At this point I said that I was looking for Starfarers, but I didn't see a copy. The clerk, brusquely (again, in my opinion) informed me that it was there. I replied that I saw two copies of the expansion to Starfarers, but no copies of the actual game. His reply was something to the effect of "Oh, that's all we've got." By now I was very displeased with the whole interaction. I felt that the service was completely unfriendly. I made one last attempt, asking if they had any coming in. The clerk stated that they were concentrating on other areas, but that I should try the Explore Store in the mall. At that point I left. For good. I won't be going back to Jogo.

Fast Forward one week. Having not had time the Saturday of the Jogo visit, JP and I hied off to the Explore store. There were two clerks behind the counter, neither of whom said a thing to me as I entered. I walked over to the strategy games section, grabbed a copy of Starfarers, and went to the till. The one clerk asked if I found everything, and rang up my purchase while the other clerk bagged it. I probably exchanged no more than 20 words with them but both were friendly. I'll go back to the Explore Store.

So why did I start by saying that "Perfect Service Quality Loses Customers"? Well, based on a 'Quality checklist' approach, I will bet that the Jogo clerk would score much higher than either of the Explore Store Clerks. Let's look at the objective facts. He greeted his customer when they entered and offered assistance. He never said 'no' or 'can't' but rather phrased things in more positive wording. He offered alternatives. These are exactly the type of objective behaviours that end up on Quality Checklists.

He followed the process of customer service, and lost a customer.

The clerks in the Explore Store barely interacted with me but they left me willing to return. I don't know if they had any steps they were supposed to take, but they were friendly.
Process is irrelevant. It doesn't matter if you do the right things, if those right things don't have the desired result. I'm guessing that the Jogo clerk was taking the steps he'd been taught to serve a customer. However the result was a very bad taste in my mouth. I went away displeased, so I won't return.

I spent a few years as a Quality Analyst. I know why the industry creates checklists and focuses on behaviours that can be objectively rated. I also know that none of that creates good customer service.

So what's the answer?

Toss out the checklist.

Ignore the score.

Talk about results!

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Manage by the Same Numbers?

Becky Carroll over at Customers Rock! posted an article about marketing and customer service that got me thinking. Now her main point is about the impact that both marketing and customer service have on a brand, especially if each communicates a different message (think about the difference between your ISP's ads and what you experience when you call them).

However, the comment that got me thinking was when she noted:
Yet too often, marketing and customer service are managed separately in a company or organization, they don’t speak to each other, and they don’t have common metrics (you know, those things that drive the behaviors?).
In the context of my previous post on managing by the numbers, this is an important addition. When subsets of an organization have the same outputs, both groups need to be managed by numbers that are based on solid and consistent methodology, clear definitions and common understanding.

But do we think of these subsets as having the same product? Think about your Line Managers and your Training Department? Both groups share employee satisfaction and productivity as metrics. Yet Training will often be judged based on units delivered, pass rates, and often 'customer' satisfaction surveys (I could do a whole post about the wholly ineffective ways that training groups 'survey' learners to determine how 'good' their training is.) Line Managers will be judged by productivity, attrition, employee satisfaction, and so on (and don't think the way these numbers are 'created' wouldn't be worthy of a few posts as well).

I think an organization that measured its operational and support groups with the same scorecards would have some very interesting results.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Manage by the Numbers

About a year ago, I made a post decrying the way people ascribe meaning to numbers. Well it seems Tom Vander Well over at QAQnA thinks along similar lines. He is specifically looking at the world of call quality, but in my experience the flaws he points out are epidemic in today's business world.

People want to hear the number. "What's our market share percentage?" "What's our employee satisfaction index?" "What is our customer satisfaction score?" But businesses really need to know the meaning behind that number. Saying you have 100% of the market doesn't mean much if your market is for left-handed tent stake hammers. Having an employee satisfaction index of 5 is useless if the survey was conducted by managers walking around and asking employee's if they are satisfied with the company. Believing that 95% of your customers are satisfied doesn't mean much if your churn rate is 50% a month.

I believe that companies desperately need to learn to use business intelligence more effectively. The first step of that process, though, is to understand that a number only has meaning when it is arrived at by a solid and consistent methodology, is based on clear definitions that bear some relation to common sense, and when everyone using that number understands the methodology and definitions.

Otherwise, you might as well take Tom's suggestion and just use the same report forever.