How Good Measures, In Isolation, Can Be Bad

by Stacey Barr |

Call centres and technical support and help desk managers love to measure their staff. The belief is that when they can measure someone, they will have more control over the performance of the person or the work. But the control is an illusion…

Recently I was travelling for work, and tried to use my broadband wifi dongle with my Windows Surface. It just wouldn’t work, so I contacted my provider for some help, using their online chat service. (I used my mobile phone as a hotspot for internet access, just in case you’re wondering how I did this without the dongle working).

The whole experience was a complete drain, and went absolutely nowhere.

It took the technical support officer almost an hour to ask me questions and check things in my account and get me to update software and such. They took several minutes to respond between comments, which I suspect is because they were working with several chat sessions concurrently. They didn’t seem to read or understand my question, they discussed irrelevant aspects of my account, and asked me to do the same things over again. Almost an hour, with no resolution.

I was tired and running out of time, losing faith, and feeling exasperated. So I said I had to go. The officer kept saying ‘wait a minute’ and ‘let me try something else’ and was not willing to let me go. Still with no resolution, I had to abruptly end the chat session.

Since that day, I figured out, with a 3-minute google search, that the dongle I had was not compatible with my device. Simple as that.

This experience made we wonder what drove the technical support officer to be so insistent and so willing to keep me on the chat for almost an hour. My guess is that they were held accountable to a specific performance measure. Which of the following do you think it was, based on their behaviour?

A. Customer Satisfaction With Problem Resolution

B. Resolution Speed: Average minutes to resolve problems

C. Resolution Rate: % of problems resolved in first contact

My guess is that it was measure C, Resolution Rate. The officer was not focused at all on my satisfaction, since they didn’t pay enough attention to the actual problem I had. They weren’t at all focused on speed, since they continued to drag out the chat session for an excessively long time.

There’s nothing wrong with measuring Resolution Rate; it’s a good measure. But when any good measure is focused on in isolation, other important performance results can easily be ignored and deteriorate.


What behaviours do your measures invite people to practice? Are these behaviours in support of other important performance results, or to their detriment?

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