The Look of Customer-Focused Measurement

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By Chip R. Bell and Ron Zemke

Chances are pretty good that your company already measures a number of things about the service delivery systems you manage all or part of. Just the same, it is a good idea to stop, step back from your system for a moment, and ask yourself whether your current measurement is driven by customer parameters or internal technical specs. To make sure the former, not the latter, energizes your measurement efforts, use these three general criteria for auditing—and perhaps improving—the customer focus of your service delivery system.

1.    1. Your measurement should reflect your “purpose.”  Nothing makes your service vision—your purpose—more real to your frontline employees than measuring what you’re doing against customer-focused norms.

If your service promise is for “timely deliveries on all shipments,” and your customers have told you that means “24 hour turnaround on all orders,” measure that. But don’t just look inside. You’re not done until the customer has taken delivery, so be sure you also measure the customer’s perception of whether or not orders are arriving “in a timely fashion.” Even if you’re dead solid certain that a customer’s order came and went in 24 hours—and 24 hours is twice as ytimely fashion, the customer is right and you are wrong.

Remember: For the customer, perception is all there is!

How can you be 100% “on time” but wrong about being timely?

First, the 24-hour standard is your technical standard, not the customer’s. To the customer, “timely” is a perception, not a measurement, as it is to you.

Second, “timely” or “on time” to you typically means when the order goes out your door. To customers, those same words may well mean the time the order comes in their door, is on the shelf in their warehouse, or is in hand, and ready for distribution  or use in their system.

Not your problem? Wrong!  If your customers believe there is a problem, there is a problem—whether you think it’s real or not. And you’d better have a systematic way of finding out about it. Your measurement system has to tell you about  the  problems customers are perceiving, and as soon as possible, not just comfort you with statistics about your adherence in your own technical standards.

2. Your measurements should measure customer quality, not just technical quality. There is a vital difference between the two.

Technical quality is the measurement of all the mechanical and procedural things that must go right if your system is to work effectively and efficiently. Technical quality measures are internal indicators of your delivery system’s specification-driven performance.

Think: down time, order waiting time, order assembly time, back order volume, order turnaround time, shipments per hour, time per phone call, and similar measures.

Customer quality is the performance of your service delivery system from the customer’s point of view. It is the assembly of elements that are important to the customer, as judged by the customer. These are the elements that are directly observable by the customer and that most directly determine their satisfaction with your service delivery system.

Think: ease of contact, order correctness and completeness, timeliness of order arrival, courtesy and empathy toward people dealt with, look of the package upon arrival, understandability of the bill, and similar subjective impressions.

Technical quality measures are important to trouble spotting, problem solving, and the smooth and cost-effective functioning of the system. Customer quality measures  are important to customer delight and attention and to system improvement and priority system.

Measuring What Matters to Customers

Whether they’re designed to gauge quantitative or qualitative service dimensions, your customer-focused measures are meaningless if they measure the wrong things. Make sure your survey questions assess the service factors that customers believe are essential to winning their loyalty, not performance areas that market researchers or line managers assume are critical to keeping them coming back for more.

Excerpted, with permission of the publisher, from Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service (Third Edition) by Chip R. Bell and Ron Zemke. Copyright 2013, Chip R. Bell and Ron Zemke. Published by AMACOM.

About the Author(s)

Chip R. Bell and Ron Zemke are coauthors of Managing Knock Your Socks Off Service. Bell is a popular keynote speaker and the author of 19 books, including Wired and Dangerous, and is the senior partner and founder of The Chip Bell Group, a consulting firm specializing in customer loyalty. Ron Zemke, founder of Performance Research Associates, is a world-renowned leader of the service quality revolution.