The Core Dump

A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures

[By Nic Lindh on Thursday, 12 February 2004]

The carrot and the stick

There was a thread on a mailing list where a person was complaining about slow turn around on tech support emails from a certain company which shall remain nameless here. This response is pretty intriguing:A friend of mine who works on the web team was complaining he wasn’t gettingany bonuses because he takes the support tickets in the order they are generated. Apparently most techs farm through and pick the easy tickets to bring their numbers up (for cash bonuses), and leave the more difficult or time-consuming request for other people. Basically, if it isn’t a 5 second fix it’s gonna sit there awhile.Nice to see that the cash bonuses are generating a true team spirit, isn’t it?This kind of system where a non-appropriate metric is put in place is also why when calling certain companies’ tech support lines you’ll be “accidentally” disconnected a lot. The techs are gauged based on their average call times, so by “accidentally” being disconnected from the caller, the techs will bring down their call times and thus look better to their managers.The only true way to gauge the performance of support techs is to pour over the call or email logs to find out which issues they were facing and how they solved them. But that’s qualitative research, which doesn’t break down into nice charts in PowerPoint, and further requires that the managers know how to do the jobs of the people they are supervising. Qualitative research like that is also very time consuming.So companies will keep using artificial quantitative metrics which break down nicely into charts and reports. Sure, they’re measuring the wrong thing, but look at that chart! Woohoo! Call times are down 14%! The team rocks!Incidentally, if you find that you keep getting “accidentally” disconnected no matter which company you’re calling, it’s because you’re a complete pain in the neck, and the techs are “accidentally” disconnecting you hoping you’ll call back again and get another tech out of the pool. This way they can live in the hope that they won’t have to deal with you any more. Of course you’ll be even more of a pain in the neck after being disconnected, but that’s hardly a problem for the tech who disconnected you, now is it?

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