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Please STOP Measuring Transactional CSAT!

     For the better part of two decades, I have bristled against using Transactional Customer Satisfaction scores (CSAT) to measure the performance of Customer Service Case Managers (Incident Managers, Incident Analysts, call them what you will – I mean the people who wrangle the support resources to resolve customers’ incidents and solve their problems). Until recently, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why, but I had quite a strong reaction against it.

     I could go on for hours (and have) about the inherent drawbacks and inaccuracies of measuring CSAT…
     Who responds to surveys but the very happy and the very unhappy?
     Even if you do get abnormally high response rates – like 1% or greater – pretty much everyone else is doing so from obligation, is generally indifferent and just wants to get on with their day.
     Even if you do apply analysis to separate the wheat from the chaff, you’re still inconveniencing and annoying your customer with surveys.
     Even if you do stumble upon the ideal concoction of alchemy, sorcery and truly extraordinary luck, the best you can hope for when applying hard numbers to performance of soft skills, is to generate a one dimensional, pallid representation of a complex, richly-flavored human experience…

     I am a process engineer at heart… Not just in my career, but across every aspect of my life – and I have been for pretty much my entire life. Measuring a person’s performance on something as subjective and woefully flawed as CSAT deeply offends my sensibilities.
     This is the argument I’ve been making against CSAT measurements throughout my career, but there was something more than that – something much deeper. What I’ve finally come to realize is that, regardless with what level of fidelity you may capture CSAT, the concept itself is fundamentally flawed and actually results in driving customer satisfaction in the wrong direction.
     Measurement drives behavior drives performance... What does measuring Transactional CSAT drive?

Moments of Truth

     Throughout any customer interaction, we encounter a number of opportunities to influence the outcome of the interaction. These “Moments of Truth” are the points in time that make or break any service experience, therefore any service organization. Moments of Truth in a service organization lie, overwhelmingly, within the hands of Customer Service Professionals – and, more often than not, they occur when the customer is already in a difficult, vulnerable position. For better or worse, Case Managers are the face of the organization in the customer’s eyes. The reputation of the entire organization rests squarely upon their shoulders.

     Using CSAT surveys and the like to gauge the quality of a service engagement (and holding those scores over the heads of Customer Service Professionals) starts with a perspective that has proven, time and again over decades, to ultimately lead to failure.
     All transaction-based service interaction metrics – CSAT not being the least of which – belie the entire premise of what a Customer Service Professional is. It reinforces the notion of the Service Desk as an entry-level position, filled with transient employees (or a dead-end job) and undermines any effort to transform the Service Desk as a potential career destination.

     The most crucial skills required to be a successful Customer Service Professional all revolve around building relationships. A quality Customer Service Professional is an advocate for the customer. They have to be able to understand the situation the customer is facing, but anyone with adequate language skills and minimal training can do that well enough. Far more critical than that is exceptional interpersonal acumen.
     If I were to profile my ideal Customer Service Professional, it would look something like this:
•   Personable
•   Places a high degree of importance on honesty and integrity
•   Highly focused and detail-oriented
•   Empathetic
•   Intelligent
•   Exceptional communication skills
•   Secondary education in Psychology
      o    Yes, really!
•   Calm under pressure
•   Confident and assertive, without being arrogant

     The ideal Customer Service Professional should be seen as just that – a professional!
     Far too often, and for far too long, organizations have focused on remediating service failures as quickly and cheaply as possible. They stock their service desks with overworked and underpaid entry-level personnel (or far worse, outsource it to cheap clearing houses).

     Let that sink in for a moment…
     The people hired to be the face of your organization to your customers, at the most critical moments that define your relationship with them, have roughly the same professional profile as the person working at your local coffee shop.

     Don’t align them to your own service and product lines – align them to your customers. They should know the customers intimately. They should understand their business models and customers. They should understand what’s important to them.
     When a customer calls, they should reach someone they have a relationship with… someone they trust… someone that will serve as their advocate, and will work to wrangle the resources and skills required to satisfy their needs.

     The ideal career path up and out of a Service Desk should not be into a technical role – it should be through whatever Customer Success/Trusted Advisor/Customer Experience Management structure your organization has in place.

     We shouldn’t measure CSAT to try and tell us how our Case Managers are doing – we should hire Customer Service Professionals with the appropriate skills and experience to tell us how our customers are doing.

October 08, 2015, 09:30:32 am

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