How many customer minutes have you saved today?
You care about your service organization’s performance, so you take steps to measure it and set goals for improvement. You want your organization to be “lean and mean” – to achieve the maximum productivity at minimum costs, so you look at the productivity part – e.g. measuring how many site visits are performed per technician day; and you look at the costs part – e.g. miles driven or work time spent per each task. Most service organizations have found a common factor which affects both sides: Time utilization. As utilization of mobile workforce’s time grows, productivity grows and per-task costs drop.
This is just common sense: If your workforce is sitting idle, or if it spends too much time driving and too little time at the customer site, there is a lot of room for improving service performance. It’s the same as improving workforce performance anywhere else – since you can’t store unused time for later use, just be sure to make every minute count, right?
Well, not exactly. In service, there’s more to “making every minute count” than measuring service workforce time utilization. It’s not just your time that needs to be treated as the valuable resource. It’s also your customer’s time – doesn’t it count, too?. Your call center may be excellent in quick and effective handling of customer phone calls, but how long did the customer wait until receiving this great service? Your service technicians may have the world’s best time utilization, successfully completing more tasks per technician-day than any of your peers, but how long did your customers wait for the technician to arrive?
This is hardly a new insight. Many service organizations measure average wait time on their call center’s phone lines, and they measure compliance with promised service “time windows”, because they are aware there are few things more irritating to customers than to feel that their time is not considered as important as the service provider’s time. They are also aware that when customers are irritated, they share their pain. While waiting, they’ll use Twitter or Facebook or some other social networks to tell the world how much they’re enjoying the wait. Later, they may decide to switch to another service provider – and if they do, they’ll probably let all of their friends know again. If you need convincing, just try this Twitter search to look for the words “waiting technician”. I just did this and found many results, of which I’ll quote a few that didn’t include expletives: “1 day service response was their claim. Five days and I am waiting for their technician”, “Waiting, waiting, waiting. The technician is running late. Ugh.”, and “Thanks . I spent the whole day waiting thanks to you, first for a technician who didn’t show up, then for a non-existent phonecall” (The original message had a well-known company name which I replaced by “”).
So if you’re measuring factors related to customer’s time, and if you’re doing your best to consider and improve these factors, then there’s nothing more to be said, right?
Possibly. However, here’s another angle to look at it. Many companies proudly advertise the number of customers they serve (e.g. the McDonald’s statement – “Every day McDonald’s serves more than 47 million customers around the world”). How many companies measure, let alone make public, how many customer minutes they save per day? Wouldn’t it be nice if service organizations were to compete on how well they save customer time?
Some may object that it is difficult to objectively measure how much time is saved. That’s a fair objection, but we can start by measuring how much time the customer spends waiting (this definition also requires substantial refinement, but this will have to wait for another occasion). We probably don’t want to use this number – saying “Our average customer spent 136 minutes waiting for our service last year” probably does not deliver the message that we wish to convey. However, how about comparing to the competition, or to some base line? The base line could be the industry average, or the performance of the same service organization in the preceding year. The comparison lets us put the number in perspective, as in “This is 54 minutes less than the industry average. What would you do in 54 minutes?”. And finally, we can multiply these 54 minutes by the number of our customers, and calculate how many millions of minutes we saved – remember: a million minutes is almost two years.
Imagine a world where service organizations continually strive to improve this measure and to prove to customers that they sincerely care about the customer’s time. The result will not be limited just to advertising campaigns. It will drive service managers to innovations. Some innovations we’ve already seen include real-time notification of expected service time (freeing the customer’s time until the technician is “almost there”); squeezing as many service tasks into one visit; and accelerating the service itself via selecting the most appropriate technician for each task. We can be sure that once such measures are closely tied to the concept of service excellence, many more innovations will follow.