Do you want a quick response while on the phone with customer service? Should you? A new book by Bill Price and David Jaffe, The Best Service is No Service, asks that very question. I haven’t read the book myself, so I’m referring to a review by David Price.
In theory, we should be living in a golden age of
customer support. Blogs and Web sites make it easier than ever for
consumers to reward good service and punish bad. Companies, for their
part, can avail themselves of sophisticated customer-service technology
and, thanks to the rise of Indian call centers, less-expensive workers. But reality hasn’t seemed to follow theory.
Nope, not by any measure.
When calling an 800 number, we expect to find ourselves in
voice-response hell. We dutifully follow instructions to key in a
10-digit policy number – only to be asked by the customer-service rep
for the same darn number. Waiting on hold for 25 minutes? Well, that’s
what speakerphones are for. A simple email query languishes for days.
We know there are exceptions… Southwest, Amazon, and Apple come to mind. So why the disparity? It comes down to management… or leadership.
Senior executives at most companies, the authors
believe, are simply in the dark. "The standard across most service
operations is to report and track how quickly things were done," they
write, "not how well they were done or how often, or why they needed to
be done at all."
Thus typical measures like "pickup within three rings"
or "email response within 24 hours" hide more about customer service
than they reveal. And the measuring is easily gamed.
Instead you should figure out why service is required at all.
The authors contrast these crude metrics with Amazon.com’s focus on
"CPX" – contacts per order, contacts per unit shipped, contacts per
transaction and contacts per customer. In other words: Don’t just ask
how long it took to help the customer, ask how often the customer
needed help and why. The goal is to avoid creating a need for a
customer to contact the company in the first place.
The goal is to work customer service out of a job… not get them to work faster to handle more service calls.
This reminds me of a very innovative company I visited over a decade ago, well before total productive maintenance became a core part of the lean lexicon. It was a large molding operation that paid its mechanics… when they didn’t work. If the goal was to keep machines running, then why incent the practice of repair? With the new compensation program, albeit difficult to implement in certain states with rigid labor rules, mechanics were paid on a sliding scale based on the percentage of the work day when they weren’t directly working on a machine. The response was immediate: preventive maintenance became the norm and the mechanics spent considerable time educating the operators in the proper care and feeding of the machines. Everything revolved around keeping them up and running. Putting off the inevitable simply created more pain later.
Are you measuring… and incenting… the creation of value to the customer? Or just how well you respond to problems?