Can Hitting Quotas Hurt Customer Experience?

By Dave Murray – Senior Customer Experience Consultant, The DiJulius Group

Recently John DiJulius President of The DiJulius Group, wrote a great article titled, Make The One Thing The ONE Thing, where he shared how critically important it is for companies to know what their #1 priority is, and just as important create a system that is measureable and accountable. So when you know what that one thing is, you make it the ONE thing. You become obsessed with creating a system that has an applied metric that everyone in the company can monitor hourly, with real time feedback. What I know John was not talking about is when you have quotas that your Customer facing employees have to hit that actually hurt the Customer’s experience.

When hitting your goals can have an adverse effect on your Customers.

It is a pretty interesting question, once you think about it. So here is a real world example that really got me thinking about it. I was sitting on a plane waiting to depart for Chicago O’Hare airport. As is typical traveling to O’Hare, the pilot came on the PA to announce that we had a 30-minute ground hold from air traffic control, but they would do their best to make up some time en route.

On this particular flight, I was lucky enough to get a last minute upgrade into first class, so I had a front row seat for the following conversation:

Gate Agent: “We have one more passenger that is in the airport. We hope to still get him on the plane before we close the door.”

Pilot: “Well, we are in a delay, so it could be his lucky day.”

Gate Agent: “We still need to close the door in two minutes. The supervisors just got on us again about our on-time departure numbers.”

Pilot: “Well, we all know what happens when we anger supervisors!”

Two minutes went by, and the cabin doors closed. The cockpit door remained open, as we were still only about five minutes into our 30-minute delay. Another two minutes went by, and the pilot, flight attendants and I could see the late passenger arrive at the gate through the cockpit windshield.

Pilot: “Well, there he is…two minutes too late.”

Flight Attendant: “This is the last flight out to Chicago tonight. He is either going to be late for his meeting or not get home.”

We then sat at the gate for about 15 more minutes before we pushed back to begin to taxi for the runway.

So, I had two thoughts after hearing this exchange. The obvious first one is the title of this article – when are numbers more important than people? What is the tipping point of the human element being less important than hitting a quota? That is a difficult question for most of us to answer, and one we probably do not consider enough.

Secondly, in this case, the ultimate decision was made by a supervisor that was not even present, from an edict given earlier, and without knowledge of this situation. All airline employees in this situation were following policy, not guidelines.  Guidelines give our employees autonomy to make a decision in the moment…policies do not.

Here are some examples that come to my mind. First, from my call center days, the dreaded average talk time! Who ever thought this was a good idea? To put a maximum time for the call for your employees to target while interacting with your customer! Even if it is not a mandate, just to have it as a metric is sending a message to associates that “I should try and wrap this up in three minutes”, regardless of where the customer is in the process.  I often say, “In business, efficiencies often work against building relationships.”

Another example many of us are familiar with as consumers is going through the drive-through at a quick service restaurant. I understand that getting your meal hot and as fast as possible is important to the customer, but at what expense? At peak hours, it seems like an assembly line, where I, as the customer, feel more like part of a process than someone being served! Being rushed through my order and then being quickly moved from one window to the next, and most likely asked to pull ahead to a waiting area to wait for the order to be completed. Chick-fil-a was the first QSR to find a way to not only combat this issue, but also enhance the experience at the same time. During their peak times (which quite honestly typically lasts a lot longer then most of their competitors!) employees with iPads are outside to take your drive-thru order earlier than the normal spot in line. They are able to deliver a more personable, face-to-face experience to the customer, and effectively extend the line, making it feel much less rushed.

The Take-Away

I encourage you to think for a moment. Are there scenarios in your business where the numbers are currently more important compared to the people involved? If so, is this correct? Are there more factors that should be considered? Is it this way merely because we have always done it this way, and we are scared to think differently? Question two is this: Are there instances in your organization where policies are in place, but guidelines would be better for your employees and customers?

Think about the answers to those two questions. I’d love to hear your responses, and thoughts on the impact of your answers to your business relationships and bottom line. Please share with me on the comments section below, or at @daviddmurray on Twitter.

About The Author

Dave Murray

Dave is the Senior Customer Experience Consultant for The DiJulius Group and has helped dozens of companies create incredible systems that allow them to consistently deliver superior customer service. Dave’s experience has varied from leading call centers and front-line team members, to working closely with key partners and stakeholders.