David Segal’s “The Haggler” column in the 2/12/12 edition of The New York Times covered a few horror stories about U.P.S., all of which had one thing in common: a customer’s package was lost, and U.P.S.’s customer service was useless. The haggler conservatively estimated that if U.P.S. is truly exceptional at keeping track of packages (only losing 0.05%), then every day U.P.S. bungles about 8,000 deliveries.

8,000 mistakes a day means 8,000 upset, confused customers and 8,000 calls in to U.P.S. customer service. Segal spoke with one U.P.S. rep who was “extremely helpful” and several who were “pointlessly brusque”. Other customers spoke with Segal about their U.P.S. travails and had a similar ratio of helpful to useless service.

Customer Service Metrics: A Broader Scale

Now, I’m going to extrapolate: If only one out of several calls (let’s say 1/3) was helpful, that means U.P.S.’s error rate when it comes to these critical conversations is 67%. How could a company with an enviably low error rate for deliveries have such a high error rate when it comes to a key, memorable customer conversation that happens 8,000 times a day?

Here’s why: Apparently, U.P.S. Managers don’t consider the “hazy conjecture” and inconsiderate care their team gave Segal to be a problem. If they did, these frustrating conversations wouldn’t have happened—or, at least not 67% of the time.

Most companies simply don’t recognize the importance of customer interactions. They think that with the right software and generalized metrics, they’ve got things covered. In fact, according to a much quoted Bain & Company study, 80% of companies believe they deliver a “superior experience,” but only 8% of customers agree.

What We See

In our customer service evaluations, we find that poorly designed surveys yield inaccurate information. And this is often the source of staggering gaps between executives and their customers.

What’s the solution? U.P.S. needs to change its perspective. U.P.S. managers need to turn their gaze away from averages and take a closer look at their actual interactions. After all, by definition, averages obscure the details.

If we had a U.P.S. exec’s ear, we’d tell him/her that they need to study their customer interactions with fresh eyes and different metrics. That means metrics that more realistically capture the lived experience. If they did that, they wouldn’t have to learn the weak points of their customer experience by reading The New York Times.

As always, snaps to The Haggler for giving a voice to the actual customer experience!

Categories: Customer Service Evaluation
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Written by the analysts at Interaction Metrics, we highlight the latest developments in the fast-changing world of CX.