The Problem with Bullshit Metrics

Posted by mitch on September 11, 2010

I bought a drill from Sears on their web site yesterday.  Buying online meant a small $7.50 savings, so I opted to buy it online with “Store Pick-up.”

At 9:20 am this morning, I got an email from Sears saying my order was ready for pick-up.  I went to the store around 2:00 pm in the afternoon.  If you’ve never picked up an order from Sears, it works the same way as when you buy an appliance in the store–you go to the Merchandise Pick-up area and scan your receipt at a kiosk.  This puts your name in a queue and your name appears on a TV monitor.

In this particular instance, I stood waiting for 4 minutes and 30 seconds.  A guy came out of the warehouse and called my name.  He said, “your order will be out in just a second,” and then he closed my name out of the queue.

I stood and waited.  In fact, I waited for 30 minutes.

I had enough time to see that Sears has a large poster in their waiting area.  This poster was about their customer service metrics.  It indicated that in the last 30 days, 100% of their customers didn’t wait more than 5 minutes.  (This poster was in the style of those “Accident free for X days” posters at other venues.)

So there’s at least two scenarios here:

  1. Sears staff members are lying to management.
  2. Sears management has a policy to lie about their metrics to customers.

Presumably there’s hire/fire or bonus incentives around these metrics for someone in the chain of command.  In any event, honesty about metrics is critical to evaluate your business.  Lying to yourself and your customers about your metrics leads to wrong decisions internally and insults customers.

While I was waiting, another fellow was waiting for a patio set.  He observed that he had been “served” in under 5 minutes, moved out of the queue, and yet he had to wait another 10 minutes.  He saw the monitor and I made sure to point out the metrics poster, so that he got the full experience.  This was a fellow of retirement age who (probably) wasn’t drafting a blog post in his head while he was waiting.  But he wasn’t impressed with the overt lies.

Be careful how you apply metrics in your business.  You might get the numbers you want, but will your customers get the experience you thought those numbers reflected?

Tags: , , , ,