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Benchmarking has a history of helping businesses compete in global markets. But these days, many companies are missing out on the opportunity to innovate due to an over-reliance on benchmarked metrics.

The practice of benchmarking was born in the 1950’s with companies like GE and Toyota. Then, what was in vogue was a process called reverse engineering in which companies examined competitor products to find out how to make their own products better.

In the 1970’s, a struggling Xerox took a cue from reverse engineering, but shifted the focus from product features to all the processes (including customer service) that drive success.[i] Since then, benchmarking has spread like wildfire—but so have its critics who call benchmarking a “virus,” and “a recipe for myopia, me-tooism and mediocrity.”[ii]

The problem is that while benchmarking is important—because it helps you keep an eye on the competition—it’s not enough. Benchmarked metrics merely skim the surface, and if you spend too much time watching your peers, you’re probably not allocating the resources you need to fully differentiate or innovate.

Customer service contact centers suffer the most from benchmarking’s shortcomings, using metrics like time-to-answer and first call resolution (FCR) as the golden mean for operational targets. And they often fall back on generic tools like SurveyMonkey to collect outcome metrics such as customer satisfaction (C-SAT) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS).

So what do you do instead?

Recognize that the customer experience is complex—more complex than an FCR rate or NPS score. Experiences consist of multiple factors, such as information, connection and timing, which break down into smaller elements like thoroughness of answers, proactivity of explanations and word choice. While benchmarked metrics can capture parts of this experience, and perhaps alert you when something is going very wrong, they won’t give you the nuanced information you need to demonstrate market leadership.

If you want customer service that differentiates your brand and builds customer loyalty, you must take a deep look at your company and customer interactions, and use metrics that compare your performance against your own brand promise. Every company has its own signature and opportunities to innovate. To make your company stand apart, you’ll need to demonstrate your signature—and this requires granular metrics.

The companies that are succeeding in today’s global marketplace are the innovators, so make sure you are challenging yourself beyond benchmarking. Make sure you are rallying your team to measure the granular details that really matter.

References

i. Canada. Performance Management, Alberta Finance. Other Performance Measurement Documents: Results Oriented Government. Alberta: 28 September 1998.

ii. Brierley, Sean. “Benchmarking Causes a Loss of Focus.” Finance Week. 01 June 2005.

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