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Lean Service – Part 3 – Practitioner, Measure Thyself…

13th October 2012 No Comments

Looking at some of the principles of Lean Thinking to see what we might be able to apply to the customer service environment has led me down some fruitful paths. Today, I was at the supermarket and was faced with a poster that said this:

If you have a waistline more than 32″ you are overweight at any age“.

It was a government agency health warning. Even in my very fit early twenties, I would have been two inches over this measure. It’s clearly incorrect. Oh wait, the 32″ referred to women, the male measure was 37″ waist. Oh wait, the 37″ waist measure is a proxy for Body Mass Index (BMI), but the distribution around the middle is a better indication of dangerous distribution (ok, It’s a deliberate tongue twister, with a statistics joke).

Which leads me to the Third lean principle I’d like to explore in brief:

3. Measures are derived from “the work” (sic)¨ – or “measure; measure flows; measure outcomes – but think about it’.

There are different perspectives “out there” on how we should measure, what we should measure, and even if we should measure. Are measures to be taken from the “piece work” (i.e. widgets made per hour/ calls answered per hour); from process pieces (right person contact per hour); or from outcomes (money collected/ agent/ hour)?.

Some consider finance and budgeting measures at the customer service front end to be wrong full stop. It can encourage gaming of the system by it’s participants in order to “make the numbers”. It happens. Some consider any ROI measures for future customer service initiatives to be misconceived because these ROI calculations tend to be “validating a decision you’ve already made” (i.e. future realizable ROI is notoriously difficult to establish prior to a project). But ultimately customer service, customer contact, and customer engagement have to “deliver financial value”. The question is what do you measure to establish this fact? Are our measures essentially equivalents of “32″?

The lesson is take care of what you measure, you might just get it. I would be interested to know for instance what the other system effects of focusing on First Time Call resolution as a metric might be? Mark Tamis has an interesting customer service failure example of where you might phone your Telco due to a broadband failure, receive an appointment booking in the first call, and yet everything under that metric is wrong.

Finding out what matters is what matters.

Let me give you one real world example. When moving from one system of collecting Net Promoter Scores to another, a major organisation found that the NPS fell for no other reason than the automation. “Hey, we didn’t automate to watch our NPS fall” might have been the cry, but in fact, they weren’t actually getting a real NPS score before due to some agent based bias errors in the previous methodology. This anomaly spurred the company in question to drive down “in to the detail of this thing” and get granular at the Interaction Level.

What they found was that measuring “our company’s NPS told them next to nothing about what they could do to improve it”. Getting down to the “customer- company agent/ employee interaction” level drove out a whole new set of data that surfaced issues it was not aware of and which could be actioned.

They found out what matters in the Interaction that later, would show up in Brand values.

So here is my endpoint about measuring “work pieces” vs measuring “process flows” vs “measuring outcomes”: be reflective. Figure out why you measure things the way you do, and figure out what thinking led you to this belief. Then, set up a hypothesis, and test it.