The problem isn't really with the fact of the metrics. It's with the way they are interpreted. Rackspace, a company that prides itself on what it calls "fanatical support," uses metrics but weighs them carefully.
"We don't view how much time a tech spends on the phone as more important than customer resolution," explains Max Thoene, vice president of fanatical support at Rackspace. "If one of our support reps takes eight hours to answer one ticket but that customer's issue was resolved and the customer is happy, that was a successful day. We would say to the technician, 'Man you had the tenacity to stick with it!' And hopefully the customer is very satisfied."
It would be a pipe dream to think that every call could go that way and the company would stay in business. People are expensive. A call that takes eight hours to resolve is a problem. But I think I read somewhere recently that a problem is just an opportunity in work clothes -- and that's how Thoene sees it.
"We would look at that call and try to learn from it. Problems like that are great learning opportunities," he says. "It's frustrating to be faced with a difficult problem. But in resolving it, we all learn. And when we do find a solution, everyone is giving each other high fives and feeling good."
Maybe tech support and customer service centers would benefit from keeping in mind something that a wise man (namely Mark Twain) pointed out quite a long time ago: "There are three kinds of lies: Lies, damn lies, and statistics."
Got gripes? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.