Recently, I had cause to write to a Government department to ask a question. I knew my query was in good hands as soon as I received an automated reply advising me of their service level agreement for replying to correspondence within a 15 day target…
Today I received their reply (within the specified time frame). The sequence of events that followed prompted me to set about scrawling more of my childlike drawings, which I present to you below:
So the outcomes of this debacle are as follows:
- Avoidable waste.
- Avoidable cost.
- Unnecessary effort.
- My query remains unresolved.
- Aggravated customer.
But most importantly of all from the department’s perspective – (yes you’ve guessed it)…
- Their 15 day correspondence target is met!
I’m sure their next non-reply will also meet the correspondence time target. You see, this sort of situation is a good example of what happens when real purpose (i.e. answer the question!) becomes supplanted by a de facto organisational purpose (i.e. get the customer out of the department’s hair within the specified correspondence time target by any means necessary).
Furthermore, from speaking to the nice lady who phoned me back (but who was unable to help), it would appear that their service level agreement might well have been drawn up without any understanding of the proportion of failure demand in their demand profile which keeps them so busy that it routinely takes up to 15 days to reply.
I offered some solutions to improve the customer experience and save them loads of time, effort and money. You may borrow these ideas if you like…
- Answer the question / solve the problem first time round if you can.
- Learn what is in your demand profile – don’t just assume it’s all value demand.
- Identify the failure demand and waste that is present then remove / prevent it. (See point 1).
- Use an email address that allows customers to reply directly!
- Get rid of that silly target.
And here’s what my alternative model might look like…