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For Sale: Customer Feedback (Part 1)

Posted on July 19, 2016 , by Steve Bernstein
For Sale: Customer Feedback (Part 1)

You want to show management that you are a valued employee and produce results that contribute to your company’s growth.  You’ve got an idea. How about offering a bounty to customer-facing employees for achieving excellent service.  You can run a survey process and bonus those employees that get high scores.  After all, “What gets measured gets done” as they say, so let’s bonus employees that are doing a great job.
Money talks; problem solved….right?feedback metrics
Not so fast. If people are motivated by money then they will do what they can to maximize compensation.
Recall from the previous blogs that every KPI has a numerator and a denominator. Here’s the link to one blog that talks about this.
So we’ve learned that response rates matter. However, if I’m compensated for high scores, I can manipulate either the results up or down.  This happens on both sides: the company/vendor side and the customer side.

The new telephone game

Let me give you an example from the vendor side. You call customer service. You hit a couple of keys on your phone’s keypad to get you to the right place. You get a message explaining you have a wait and you are now enjoying some bad hold music. 8 minutes later the music abruptly stops and you hear a click.
Then a tone.
You got disconnected.
Actually, no you didn’t. On the other end of the line is a company that is probably compensating its reps based on something known as Average Handle Time (or AHT). What this means is that a rep is graded based on how long they spend on customer service jobs. The equation looks like this:

(total talk time + total in-call hold time + total post-call time)
                        Number of calls handled

AHT is in many ways a useful management tool: it helps managers keep tabs on how many hours are being worked, helps them make staffing decisions, plan shifts and so on.
What it doesn’t do is differentiate simple calls from complex, high-involvement ones. This penalizes reps who are efficient but may also take longer calls to help customers through complex problems. If they take their time with you and spend time on your problem, they can be punished for it.
Back to your call. What happened is the rep that took your call was likely on a long call prior to yours, putting their AHT metric out of whack. So your rep figured out a way to get it back on track. Make a really short call (less than a second) to compensate.  See how the game works?
That company’s scoring system just got manipulated.
If they wanted to know if their AHT score was being messed with by call center agents, they should also measure the percentage of curiously short calls.  One KPI isn’t enough.
Are bonuses based on AHT enough to drive “customer centricity” anyway?  At the end of the day employees do what they think their manager wants them to do. Recall the adage, “What’s interesting to my boss is beyond fascinating to me.”  So unless the customer service boss is consistently talking about “customers” then this bonus is as useful as an ejection seat on a helicopter.
Plus, unless the bonus given is life-changing, don’t expect the result to be work-changing.

I’d rate me a 10, shouldn’t you?

Now let’s look at an example from the customer’s side. You take your car in for servicing. When the job is done you head to the counter to pay. The person at the computer begs you for a 10. They explain “Only tens count”. Translation: give 10s or don’t bother.
Although the person at the counter was very friendly, the service had you waiting longer than expected.  You don’t think they deserved a ten, so you don’t bother. Maybe they just lost a solid 8 or 9. Or maybe the company just lost out on an opportunity to turn around a negative experience and understand what was preventing a “10” while also controlling any word-of-mouth consequences.  Either way, the service-adviser just talked you into lowering their response rates, which we know is *not* a good thing.
And that’s just one example.  Consider other ways of manipulating feedback: maybe email addresses are “accidentally” misspelled or blank, important contacts are missing from your CRM system, or  certain “status” fields are incorrect. Whether you are in B2B or B2C environment, customer-facing personnel can work for your feedback and improvement efforts, just as easily as they can work against your program.
What is that you want: 10’s?  Or do you want genuine improvement? If you want to escalate your career then you ought to focus on results that accelerate profitable growth.  Just getting 10’s isn’t sustainable.  But genuinely focusing on results such that more and more customers tell all their friends and colleagues how great your company is will certainly get the CEO’s attention.
Stay tuned for part 2 and we’ll take a look at some ways to help measure and achieve what you really want.