Don’t panic. It’s the advice that the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy offers in its very first chapter. No matter what Arthur Dent had gone through (a lot, given that his home world had been destroyed and that he was forced to travel with the alien who stole the girl he was talking to at the last party on Earth), the advice from the guide was the same. Don’t panic.
We’ve all been in the situation as a customer support or services manager. We compile our metrics and find that one of the key support metrics (maybe one of the keys to our bonus) has crashed. Maybe you anticipated it. Maybe it came as a surprise. Regardless, you are in a position where one of the cornerstones of your performance isn’t performing. What should you do?
Three steps to get past the crash
- Take the guide’s advice. Don’t panic. Many support managers take swift action when they see a drop in a key support metric and overcorrect. Your metrics don’t live in isolation (see my blog on metrics blinders for more on this topic). Adjusting your metrics takes time. It’s a lot like adjusting the temperature of the water in your shower. Don’t turn the hot or cold taps too far because it takes a minute or two for the mix of hot and cold water to change. The same is true for metrics. The team has to do its work for a while after you change goals or priorities to see real changes.
- Start by looking inside your organization to determine what might have caused the drop in your key metric. One of my favorite podcasts is called Manager Tools and one of the host’s favorite sayings is that managers should look for the root cause of a problem “in concentric circles around his or her own desk.” In customer support, managers often feel like they are not in control of their own performance. But they are.
- Look at your metrics – what you been focusing attention and organizational effort on?
- Look at your communications and rewards – what have you been talking about and recognizing?
- Look at your recent projects – how have they changed the way the team does its work?
- Look at your tools – are they helping or hurting your team’s performance?
- Only after you have looked inside your organization for causes of your crash should you start looking at outside forces: new releases, lots of new customer onboarding, a big bug that affected a lot of customers.
After you have gathered your data, take steps to address your challenges both inside your organization and outside it. But remember, metrics are never isolated. They depend on and interrelate to one another. If you push on one, there will be an impact on another.
What we need as service and support managers is a small, focused set of measures that will drive real value for our company and build projects that drive these measures toward a common goal. That’s what we are building with TSIA, a common set of measures that is generally accepted and that can provide real guidance for support teams. We would love for you to join the effort and our Metrics LinkedIn group!