Tail Of The Dancing Rat: Exposing Services to User Scrutiny


Metrics are all around us, all the time. In fact, some of them are pervasive we forget that they’re metrics. 20 or 30 years ago, if you were in the mood for something to eat you might go to your favorite restaurant or you might ask a trusted friend for a recommendation. There were some books on best places to go, but they tended to be specialized.. best cheap eats, best French food, most interesting décor. In Europe patrons had been choosing restaurants nearly a century based on the Michelin guide. I know what you’re thinking, doesn’t Michelin make tires? Yes they do. Early in the history of the motor car Michelin looked for ways to get people to do more traveling, so that they would need more tires. They came up with the idea of providing motorcar enthusiasts a book about the excellent restaurants of Europe that were… somewhere else. Burn a little rubber, have a very nice lunch, everyone is happy! In 1979 a husband and wife team, who were both corporate lawyers and spend a lot of time in restaurants, had dinner with friends and talked about alternatives to newspaper restaurants reviews. And thus was born Zagats. As consumers we now regularly turn to the metric resources from Consumer’s guides to the annual JD Powers survey of cars. Numeric comparisons help us make our buying decisions. We may not always buy the absolute top rated product because price or some specific aesthetic concern may be more important. But, if we read that the object of our desire is unreliable, poorly built or the service is horrible… we usually look elsewhere.

However, these ratings are often about things we directly experience: price, weight, length of warranty, etc. Other product aspects may be harder to experience directly.  If you’re lucky. Things like, restaurant cleanliness. New York has always had health inspections, but you only “experienced” restaurant closings when there were severe violations. Their inspection results were probably posted somewhere, but I don’t ever remember seeing them. Well that all changed when, after a restaurant closed for the night, someone pulled out their phone and make a video through the front window. When it hit YouTube it went viral. The video showed… how should I put this?… vermin frolics, the rodent rumba…OK, dancing rats! But this restaurant was recently inspected and passed! Naturally, this inspired more people to forward more videos and it looked like this was not an isolated incident. This raised a lot of questions about the value of this not very public inspection process.

Eventually the city responded with a new rating system with letter grades, that now MUST BE POSTED IN THE FRONT WINDOW! As I write this, these ratings have recently been posted for most restaurants I go to. Until these ratings were posted, I didn’t even know how highly I would value this information. Before, if I had to choose between two restaurant metrics it was usually about the food rating; if one had a rating of 28 and another has a rating of 23, I might choose the lower rated one based on the type of food or the décor. But when I stood in front of two restaurants where one had a health rating of “A” and the other was rated “C”, I REALLY gave that rating some thought. What I thought was, “C is passing right.. but what exactly is wrong with this place?” I went to the “A” rated eatery. Metrics do matter to me. Would this matter to you?

What about your organization? How much information do you track, and how much of that information do you make available to your users? If you have a real-time multi-shift production environment (a document center, copy center, receptionists, corporate library, research group, desktop support, etc.),  you should consider the similarities to a service organization like a restaurant or hotel. End user experiences are based on a combination of factors (the room you’re given, the server you’re assigned, specials on different days) that may be controllable… if you only had some key data (which rooms are best, when are discounts given, best travel times, off the menu specials, etc.) Should you show your users ratings by shift or location (on-time delivery, number of errors, customer satisfaction ratings, etc.)? Should you even give ratings by individuals? That’s a difficult decision, but when you show individual ratings you will be amazed how quickly the lowest rated improve or move on.

Individual ratings are not possible or not desirable in your environment? That’s OK, what about applying examples from Hotels.com, Travelocity and other hotel services? They tell us secrets about getting better service. So, why not:

  1. For real-time services, publicly post the current queue. Let everyone know the key metrics, such as how long a wait, how long until work starts on the next job, etc.
  2. You probably have patterns to your work, times when the queue is regularly the shortest. Post a chart about “best times to submit work”.
  3. If your service has special capabilities, but only on certain shifts, tell everyone that they get a special level of service/faster turnaround at those times.
  4. Give frequent users the option to be a “club member”. Club members are the users that  you call when you have an unexpected lull in work. Maybe you even have a platinum club that gets special treatment when you have available resources.

Give it some thought. The more that you share your internal rating with your clients, or let them know when and how you can serve them better, the more you can improve the perception of your services. It’s also an opportunity to get your organization behind a change you want to make. Of course, there are risks about showing your problems and service gaps. But the greater risk is that if your organization lacks transparency, problems tend to grow. Usually because issues have not been identified as problems. Let that go on long enough and you get bad health inspections and dancing rats. Get out in front of your issues, and build the good will of your users. And that’s my Niccolls worth for today!

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This entry was posted in Best Practices, Decision Making, Delivering Services, Improvement, Continuous or Not, Unique Ideas and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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