Why Measure?

I’ve previously written about KPIs and making sure they relate to what is meaningful and are not just set because they’re expected – do that and they can have the opposite effect to what is needed.

A recent question in a specialist journal asked what quality measures should be established to come up with an overall score to ensure customer satisfaction: the responses spoke about a range of performance, product and service features to consider together.  As good as they all were, they were internal and overlooked what was really needed: customer satisfaction.  A customer is satisfied when the supplied goods or service meets (or exceeds) their expectations.  If we measure a wide range of factors and achieve a score of, say, 95% – what does it actually mean?  If it means meeting 95% of expectations it implies, or leads to, a lack of satisfaction.  Anything less than 100% is failure.  And, whilst we may strive for 100% (and Crosby’s zero defect goal) we recognise perfection is a stretch goal that we’ll rarely (or, perhaps, never) reach.  A composite measure is, at best, artificial and a compromise that may fall short of what is really needed.

That’s not to say don’t measure – but understand and then measure (and manage) what is real and important.  When I was part of a team establishing an industry sector supplier evaluation system we developed scores on a range of factors relating to quality, delivery, health and safety, etc.  Some clients asked us to develop a composite score: one number that allowed them to compare suppliers.  We asked which was more important: quality, cost, on-time delivery, documentation, after sales support, etc?  “Well, it depends,” was the reply.  So how could a composite ranking help unless it was defined for each supply?  At best, we could develop a range of scores but that could only serve to complicate matters.  We kept with our separate scores and encouraged each customer to decide what their priorities were for each use.

You need to know what matters to your customer and focus on that.  Remember that fail to meet on any expectation and you fail your customer; the best you can do is not fail on something that matters.

(Posted as a blog 4th April 2018)

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