Benchmarking, why not?

I was going to write a benchmarking post, and then discovered that it was written for me already.  So, back to the drawing board – I will try to add to an already well written article.

Consulting clients, and  some of my bosses (mainly those with marketing background) when I was in the corporate world, keep asking “what’s the industry benchmark?” or “how are we doing against IBM / Oracle / HP / CA / new-competitor-de-jour?”.  My answer was always and remains “I don’t know, I don’t care, and neither should you”.  Here’s why:

  • You never know what you are benchmarking against.  Customer support, unlike finance, has no GAAP equivalent, and the results are not audited.
  • Suppose you knew the benchmark and the way it is measured, now what?  Your decisions will remain the same with or without this information
Here is what I always advise clients:
  • Ask your customers what other vendors are doing that they like, or don’t like.  Understand the differences between your organization and other industry participants.  Know your capabilities and the boundaries your company will not let you cross 
  • Study the industry’s practices and achievements, adapt, emulate and copy shamelessly what makes sense for your operation and your customers like.  Avoid everything else (“IBM / Oracle / HP / CA / new-competitor-de-jour are doing it this way” is not good enough reason to implement anything, but a very good reason to study it
  • Know your own performance and always work improve the parameters that matter to your customers, your employees and your management
  • Customer satisfaction is NOT a benchmark, it is the feedback loop confirming that your customers appreciate the efforts you are making to improve

Last, have faith in what you do and be aware of the gap between cause and effect.  So, not everything you do will immediately manifest itself in the metrics, and certainly not in customer satisfaction results.

What’s your experience with benchmarking?

4 responses to “Benchmarking, why not?

  1. Great! Just reposted this on I don’t have anything to say other than, you’re right.

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