What defines success?

One of the people who attended my session asked a very interesting question that I had never really stepped back to think about: what defines success? They were curious about what metric should be used to actually define the success of their department, of their agents, and of the service they are providing. The question is really interesting because it isn’t one that people ask that often. Companies are always concerned about making their service better, but it is very rare that they actually step back to think about what will define the success of their service changes.

Don’t try to count everything.
One of my favorite quotes is “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” The quote (which is falsely attributed to Albert Einstein) sums the idea up pretty well — there are both quantitive and qualitative aspects to most complex things in world, especially in customer service. It’s pretty ignorant to dismiss one and not the other. Keep in mind that there are things which you simply cannot measure objectively or consistently and there are things that can be measured that don’t really matter.

Concentrate on bottom-line numbers.
I consider a bottom-line number to be something like customer satisfaction. If customer satisfaction is high, the other numbers (call time, hold time, etc.) don’t really matter. The idea is that good numbers for the secondary numbers (things like call time, hold time, etc.) bring up the bottom-line numbers, but that isn’t always the case. For example, a company can have super high customer satisfaction scores and still have an average hold time around 10 minutes. What that data set suggests is that the hold time is worth it — customers are getting great service once they get connected. The data set also says the customer base is fairly patient and willing to wait extra time for better service. Other bottom-line numbers can be a mix of employee and customer satisfaction, Net Promoter (see this post), percentage of repeat purchases, etc. Which number you decide to use is a fairly individual decision based on your company, customers, and product / service.

Collect lots of data.
Statistics experts say 10% is the magic number and everything over that is basically unnecessary. That’s great for them and I am sure the theory is well supported, but I personally disagree. Even if you aren’t counting the data or agonizing over it, I think customers appreciate it when their opinion is asked and hopefully, considered. It shows the company is trying and is actively asking for feedback. Even if you don’t survey a sample that is more than 10% of your total customer base, collect data about satisfaction and success at every step (post-order, post-phone call, etc.).

Feel free to change.
Perhaps the most important part is not to feel restricted once you make a decision. You’re allowed to change your mind and measure your success on another metric that might be more representative of or more appropriate for your business. There is no one size fits all solution and that’s fine.

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One Response to “What defines success?”

  1. Stark County Law Library Blog said:

    Mar 12, 08 at 8:51 am

    “What Defines Success?”…

    From the blog: “One of the people who attended my session asked a very interesting question that I had never…