Service or Torture?

Be careful what you measure…

BMW serves as a good example
of a company that measures service vs.
providing it.   But many companies fall
into this trap.  Does yours?

Here is an example of what I mean:

My last car service:

  • I felt bullied by the sales and service people when they told me, as they do each time, that I “have to give them a 5” when the survey people call.
  • That is not service for me.  It’s gaming the measures for them, (and torturing me).
  • In my last car service, they failed to reset some system.  A warning light came on, and I was forced to go back.  It really screwed up my day.
  • When they realized it was their fault, I got only a cursory, “sorry about that”.
  • After telling them, “you know, when the survey people call, I am not going to give you a 5 this time” and giving them several opportunities to make it better – “is there something you would like to do for me to improve my experience”? – there was no response.
  • I then gave the low scores on the phone survey – by the way, the survey taker/process is designed only to ask the questions, not to offer any service when someone is upset.
  • Later I got a call from my service guy. It was clear he was forced to call me to follow up on his low score. But the call was about him giving me a hard time because I got him in trouble. (more torture for me)
  • As much fun as that was for me, I decided to give them another opportunity.  I said to him – “actually I was going to call you because I need two other [small things], can you help me?”
  • Now here was a chance to provide actual service, when no one was watching or measuring.  He assured me he would call me back later that afternoon to let me know if he had the part so I could stop by on my way home.
  • I never heard from him again.

Do your measures and service processes serve your customers or torture them?


Do you measure the speed of closing problems?

This is a very typical measure.  But it’s important to understand that this measure can cause you to ignore customer problems, because your service staff is motivated to close out problems quickly, vs. take the time to actually fix them, because spending that time would result in a poor measured result.

So you end up with a backlog of problems that could have been fixed, unhappy customers, and sparkling measures for speed of closing problem reports.

Instead try:

  • Measuring the number of problems whose root cause has been resolved.
  • Or measure the number of customers who report their problem has been solved to their satisfaction.
  • Or look for customers who have multiple open issues, or issues open for long time periods and just call them!


Is your service staff trained in following service processes or in providing service?

In my example above, at every step, people were correctly following a process, resulting in my getting more and more tortured.

Customer service people who are trained in processes often delight in not-helping customers when they confident they are correctly following the process.

This is particularly infuriating to customers who want to be made to feel like someone at your company cares about the suffering you are inflicting.

Instead try:

  • Training people on the right triggers to throw out the process
  • Then have them ask “What do you think we should do to make this better for you?”
  • And give them the ability to act.

Another idea:

Involve your customer service people in creating great service.

In the BMW example I would have each dealership manage a contest for their service team to get together and come up with three new ideas for how to provide outstanding service.  You could pay $1000 each for the best 10 ideas.

Instead of putting $10k into a survey, where you have sales and service people training the customers to give the right answers, which are of no real use to you anyway, you could be motivating Actual Service!!

The existence of the contest alone would inspire thinking about service, and you get much better ideas when you involve the people who actually do the work in coming up with the best way to improve it.

Getting it Right

Look at what you measure and then look at the dark side of it.
If you were going to game the measures to come out looking good what would you do?
What non-intended result would occur?  Because it will…

People like to make customers happy.  Let them.

At the very least, if you are not serious about providing actual service, don’t torture your customers with surveys and processes that only annoy them, and give you a false sense of your greatness.

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You can find Patty at, follow her on twitter or Facebook, or read her books RISE and MOVE.

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