Gaming the Metrics

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Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
Companies love metrics, our readers love metrics, and we love to report on metrics. But for metrics to have value, the numbers behind them need to mean something. An increased customer satisfaction score should mean an increase in customer satisfaction, but in reality it only means an increase in the score. Whether that correlates to increased satisfaction among customers depends on how the statistics are compiled and analyzed. In many cases, the tracking systems companies put in place are far from perfect.

Companies love metrics, our readers love metrics, and we love to report on metrics. But for metrics to have value, the numbers behind them need to mean something. An increased customer satisfaction score should mean an increase in customer satisfaction, but in reality it only means an increase in the score. Whether that correlates to increased satisfaction among customers depends on how the statistics are compiled and analyzed. In many cases, the tracking systems companies put in place are far from perfect.I've encountered three instances of employees possibly gaming the system their company put in place to track their efficiency. The most recent was by far the most egregious. I was in the drive-thru of a national fast food chain. After handing my money to the cashier, I waited a few minutes for the food but when she came back to the window she didn't have it ready. Instead of saying "it will be a few more moments," she asked me to back up behind the yellow line, and then pull forward again. The person who was with me looked perplexed, so I said "just watch the timer up there." At the time she asked me to back up, the clock was at more than two minutes and blinking red (never a good sign). When we pulled ahead again, it reset to zero and we had our food before it hit 15 seconds.

It's possible that the employee was scamming the company in some other way (I've never worked in fast food so I don't know exactly how the order systems work). More likely, she was concerned about her average wait time and wanted to cut it down artificially. I'm not mentioning which chain it was and where the restaurant was located because I admire her creativity. She's certainly not alone in trying to get around metrics put in place by management.

When I bought a new car in 2007, I was given the typical satisfaction survey to rate the salesperson. Instead of mailing it to me after the fact, though, I was given the survey in his presence and asked to fill it out immediately. I was also told that if I didn't give a perfect score, he wouldn't get credit for selling the car. Talk about pressure. Not long after I was on the phone with a call center, and every time the agent had to look something up they would ask me to call back in five minutes rather than putting me on hold. It's possible they were trying to cut down on wait times.

The point is that no matter what metrics you put in place, don't over-rely on them. There's a temptation to create a system that relies entirely on data put into computers and analyzed on big spreadsheets and dashboards. At the end of the day, though, the numbers don't tell the whole story. It's just as important to create a culture where employees feel their responsibility is satisfying the customer, not strictly adhering to arbitrary metrics.

EXPERT OPINION
EXPERT OPINION