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Can You Measure Service Quality in Time?

Car_rental_2Bill Hogg, author of the blog Customer Service that Astonishes recently posted about a new initiative by Avis to provide rental service in three minutes or less. The program, launched in Europe, provides preferred customers with a stop watch when they enter the door. If Avis doesn't complete the rental in three minutes the customer receives an apology followed by a discount voucher for a future rental in the mail.

Bill's went on to ask the question, "Can you reduce service quality into a time equation?"

It's a worthwhile question, as many companies measure quality in their contact centers based on the average call time. Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are often held accountable to a number of "quality" metrics including average call time, number of holds, average hold time, or calls per hour. Service quality, however, can't be reduced to a simple set of metrics.

A client recently hired our group to provide an objective assessment of service quality in their contact center. However, they wanted to limit the assessment to calls between five to seven minutes in length. To agree to the request would undermine the legitimacy of providing an objective assessment of the customer's experience because it would eliminate a significant number of customer experiences that fell outside the time constraint.

I have regularly witnessed client's internal quality teams who will not listen to calls that are less than a minute in length or longer than ten minutes. However, a 30 second call could have been a significant customer experience if the CSR had hung up on the customer to reduce their average call time. A call that went on for fifteen minutes may be time consuming to assess, but it could be an important call to analyze to find out why it took so long to resolve the customer's issue.

Quality customer service must be measured by more than just an element of time or a numeric metric. Avis might rent me a car in three minutes, but if the Avis agent is rude, they give me the wrong class of car, or I am overcharged then I am certainly not going to be satisfied. Make sure you are measuring all of the service elements that are important to your customer.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and Elliott Cable


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Excellent points and these are items that must be remembered. It is so interesting that many desire to measure the experience with ROI. Yet too many organizations fail to review 3 vital elements:
1. Hire Right - Too many organizations place too many CSRs into positions for which they lack the skill set or do not like the job.
2. Training- based on resarch from our firm and numerous others not enough training is conducted for CS personnel to ensure success. OTJ training is rote and does not work, the only manner to ensure ROI is proper process training.
3. Passion - You simply cannot teach this it is innate. CSRs have it or they don't and clients can read right through the apathy of an organization.

These are the three most vital elements of the CS Experience not measuring how quickly one moves through a line.

Exceptional points raised in your post.

Drew Stevens
Drew Stevens Consulting

Thanks for the comment, Drew. I appreciate your points. While I agree that you can't teach passion, I believe that you can create an atmosphere in which people can become passionate because of the contagious spirit in which a company carries out its customer service mission.

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