Monthly Archives: October 2011

On Metrics and Employee Confusion

There’s an excellent post from Bob Champagne discussing the misalignment of strategy and metrics. I frequently seen this practice in employee objectives and evaluation as well as in job postings. It is not uncommon to see an enterprise software company talk on one hand about concepts such as knowledge creation and future call avoidance and on the other use low-complexity call center metrics, such as after call work and average call length. In this situation, employees will always veer towards the objectives that pay them more, either financially or in management praise or both. Conclusion? Take time to develop your metrics based on your strategy and objectives. Ask yourself how you would behave if you were faced with the choice and do not assume your employees will act differently.

Who Are You Serving?

Every once in a while we encounter a discussion that attempts to apply concepts from the consumer environment to the enterprise, without giving much thought to the differences between the two. I wanted, therefore to share an academic paper (pdf) I came across recently, that does just that – analyze the differences between the consumer and enterprise environments. The paper is called “Outsourcing Services to other Firms: A Framework for the Analysis of Consumer Satisfaction” and was written by Roland Böettcher and Marco Gardini.

the paper makes several important distinctions, chief among them is the distinction between the roles different individuals play in bringing an enterprise service transaction to completion:

“…individuals consuming the service and perceiving the quality most likely are not involved in the purchase process, i.e. in decision-making with respect to provider selection and price-quality trade-offs.”

The paper proposes a simple model for understanding the different roles:

This model, in turn, helps us understand the source for discrepancies in service negotiation, design and delivery between B2B and B2C interactions:

and identifies three potential gaps that can impact customer satisfaction:

  1. Definition Gap – Between the customer’s expectation and the negotiated contract
  2. Design Gap – Between the vendor’s contractual commitment and its ability to provide service
  3. Delivery Gap – Between the contractual commitment and delivery performance

Many support managers are intuitively familiar with these gaps and understand how they are created. Formalizing the definitions gives us additional information towards resolving them.

How to Irritate Your Customers Without Even Trying

Evernote is an innovative service that allows users to clip webpages and other files, tag and store them centrally, and then search and access from anywhere. I have been a paying user for a long time and am generally pleased with the service. But, two problems make it inconvenient for me to use the service in certain situations.

I tried to get evernote’s attention to these problems multiple times, and received no acknowledgement, until today when I posted the following on one of evernote’s facebook threads:

“Two questions, 1. when will pdf clipping from safari return? and 2. when are you going to fix the stupidity that focuses on the notebook’s top when moving a note from the middle? This makes organizing information tedious and annoying. I am a paying customer using the mac client, and I find that evernote’s service is non-existant. I have been asking these two questions for a long time and never received a response or even an acknowledgement. Too bad to see excellent technology being undermined by dismal management practices and too much success too quickly.”

The response came a short time later:

“Sorry for your frustration. We are definitely hearing all of the feedback and try to acknowledge all of it as it comes in. Regarding your specific questions. 1. We don’t have a date on this, unfortunately the recent Safari updates has caused some issues with our extension. For a more in depth discussion and explanation you can check out our forum. 2. This feature requested is noted, thanks for passing along. We appreciate all of your support, I assure you we are hard at work continually improving Evernote.”

So, what’s wrong with this response? Many of us have written similar ones over the years. Well, I am glad you asked:

  1. Evernote say they try to acknowledge all feedback. Well, either they don’t, or they fail miserably at that. In any case, not a word about doing it better in the future
  2. Sending users to their forum with no pointer to a specific discussion or record. If there is information in that forum that’s relevant, please post a link, or better yet, summarize it here. After all, forcing customers to switch channels to get a response is one of the poor practices discussed in my previous post
  3. There is no indication of any timeframe or intention to solve the problems
  4. despite this, they end with an assurance that they “are hard at work continually improving Evernote”. Employees’ hard work is between them and their management. Customers pay for functionality and service, and could care less if they are delivered by people sitting by the beach on a tropical island while sipping drinks with little umbrellas

So, evernote, you received some free advice. Will you do anything about it?

Are You Making Your Customers Work Too Hard?

Over a year ago, The Harvard Business Review published an article titled “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers” (caution – pdf, subscription required). In this article, the authors make the observation that improving service beyond a certain point does not necessarily increase customer loyalty and retention. The authors continue to state:

“Reps should focus on reducing the effort customers must make. Doing so increases the likelihood that they will return to the company, increase the amount they spend there, and speak positively (and not negatively) about it—in other words, that they’ll become more loyal.”

To meet customers’ expectations, reps should anticipate and head off the need for follow-up calls, address the emotional side of interactions, minimize the need for customers to switch service channels, listen to and learn from disgruntled customers, and focus on problem solving, not speed.”

The Corporate Executive Board has made the article available, together with an evaluation tool, allowing organizations to assess their own performance on various customer effort criteria. But, the tool evaluates the systems and processes and does not provide

However, thinking about the article, we can quickly realize that there are several ways in which customer support organizations can make their customers work too hard:

  1. Repetitive requests for information, of for the customer to recreate the problem
  2. Multiple attempts at fixing the problem
  3. Insufficient and infrequent feedback to the customers requiring them to follow up

Taking the two into account, it is easy to see the need for an “effort index” that will measure the ongoing effort customer support requires of customers in order to resolve cases. Seems like a topic for a future post.

Have you implemented CES measurement? Are you aware of anybody who does? What’s your impression with it? Do you see the need for a more detailed effort index bases on enterprise support criteria?

So You Think You Can Delight Your Customers With Break Fix Service?

[This post touches on a few aspects of service theory and is therefore a little more academic than usual.]

I have, for a long time, supported the position that it is impossible to delight customers in a break-fix service setting, but to understand the reason for that, let’s first review the definition for delighting customers.

According to service theory, customer expectations for service quality span a range, called “zone of tolerance” (very good ppt presentation detailing the concept here). The low boundary of the zone is “adequate service”, or the minimum level the customer will accept, while the high boundary is “desired service”, the best level the customer can imagine. Now we all know that customers expectations for service are derived from their prior experiences, so even if we do a good job at delighting customers, our job will become increasingly difficult with time as expectations will rise in accordance with prior service experiences.

But wait, didn’t I say earlier that it is impossible to delight customers with break-fix service?

I did, and here’s the reason:

Some time ago I wrote a post discussing the ways customer support protects and expands customer value. You may recall the point made there, that break-fix service should be focused on restoring the product to delivering its expected value. Now, we can safely assume that for our customers desired service is having the product work flawlessly, then the inevitable conclusion is that delighting customers with break-fix service is not possible.

Do you try to delight your customers? Are you successful doing that? If so, I’d love to hear from you, and from everybody else as well.