Thursday, March 29, 2012

How Am I Doing?

There is an age old management axiom that goes, "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it." Having more than just a feeling, subjective or anecdotal feedback is critical to knowing how performance is being perceived.

This is particularly important in places where you directly interface with your customers, internal or external. Of course when you are buying service you include in the provider agreement or contract certain performance guarantees. These service level agreements are targets your providers must achieve or suffer some financial penalty. For example, your data communications vendor must provide better than 99.5% availability or accrue credits equal to the cost of one day of service for every tenth of a point below.

If your business involves providing services to your customers, you may have SLAs that you must live up to or your customers will either penalize you or worse, vote with their feet. Satisfaction levels will be pretty evident and easy to detect. You are likely to invest in software monitors which will alarm when response times degrade or systems become unavailable.

The question is how to know if your internal customers are happy? They may be a captive audience and incur no direct costs for the infrastructure you provide. How do we tell if their level of satisfaction is increasing or falling out of bed.

One solution I would recommend is to periodically issue a survey. The absolute level of satisfaction at any one point is less important than knowing if things are improving or need attention. Continuous polling will provide the raw data you need for a proper analysis.

At one large company where I was in charge the help desk software was configured to automatically poll a person once their trouble ticket was closed. The survey would gather just a few facts such as whether the problem had been resolved in a timely manner or to their satisfaction. Were staff members helpful and courteous. Were multiple calls required or was it resolved on the first go around.

The surveys that were returned were aggregated and used to produce scores which were reviewed monthly. Ratings could be reviewed by type and frequency of problem. This allowed us to highlight areas where the software could be improved or training was needed. Surveys also provided a measure of productivity of the help desk staff. Consistently low scores and negative comments for usually researched and addressed accordingly.

The high level statistics were posted and shared with staff, management and the company. Everyone knew their feedback was important and that we were genuinely concerned with the level of service we provided to them.

Similar techniques may be used for business analysts, developers and training staff. If you take the time to ask people for feedback, collect and process this information, you will always know exactly where you stand.

Captain Joe

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