Why you can’t “measure” customer service
Of those businesses that understand about the primary importance of customer services, many are trapped by people who should know better into worrying about how they measure customer service. Here are some questions to ask people who make an unreasoning emphasis on this.
1 Who are you going to ask about “customer service performance”? Surely the only source of data you have for this is customers. However, having them complete survey forms you design will inevitably introduce bias into the responses.
2 Assuming you had an independent body conducting research, how would you ensure that a statistically significant sample was found? By statistically significant, I do not just mean the total number of respondents, but also their spread across market sector, location and any other relevant attributes.
3 As there is no way of forcing customers to respond, you are left with those who will volunteer. These will be from two groups: those that really like you and those that really don’t like you. Neither can be relied on to give “accurate” responses. Few others will be bothered to do something that is not in their interest. Offering inducements will, of course, lead to bias anyway.
4 Why restrict the survey to customers? Surely the service provided to those who are not customers is even more important to the growth and success of a business (cf Zappos).
5 What are you actually measuring? Satisfaction? That is an awfully nebulous concept, one defined differently by different people. If you provide me with a level of service that I am “satisfied” with, someone else may be dissatisfied with the same level of service (to the extent that “the same level of service” is a meaningful phrase).
If you’re “measuring” something that can actually be measured, such as response times, you still have to define what is good and what is bad; you will still find that different people have different ideas of what good and bad is; and you will have no way of compensating for delays not in the control of the company.
6 I think there is a difference between “customer service” and “customer service performance”. I’m not sure what it is, and that’s a problem. Which is actually the thing to study?
I suggest it is not possible to quantify customer service (performance) in any meaningful way. Any numbers are largely arbitrary and at the mercy of bias, misinterpretation and misunderstanding. I suspect the idea of quantifying this has been developed by people who would like to believe it is possible to do this and it appeals to people who would like to do this. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it is a con, but it does betray a failure on the part of some people to see the wood for the trees.
The perception of customer service is not a rational, logical thing and therefore it cannot be quantified. Because customer service is, by definition, about human relationships, it can only be described in terms derived from the emotions and, if you can manage it, from intuition—in other words the domain of emotional intelligence.
© 2015 Jeremy Marchant . image: Free images