Service Request Metrics Killing Customer Satisfaction

24th March 2014

Although I’ve run a very small IT "department" once it was nothing on the scale of the companies I’ve generally worked for. As scale increases and the number of people in support increases the measure of time from job opened to job closed is a metric that many management types enjoy using. The idea is that the so-called Service Request is made by someone needing help, the support person responds and helps (hopefully) and then the SR is closed.

Over the years I’ve been on the receiving end of support calls many times as I’m sure most other people have in one context or another: telephone companies, internet service providers, IT departments and human resources just to name a handful. Recently though there have been two incidents that have made we somewhat disenchanted with the concept.

Without going into too much detail, the SR was raised automatically by the system when the initial email was recived by their support system. From that point it sat until someone picked up the SR and then they responded by email with an answer but they ended their email with: "SR is now closed."

Really? I never said it was closed. The information provided in one case didn’t solve my problem and in the other case didn’t even respond about the original subject! It simply can not be solely up to the SR responder to close the SR assigned to them without the originators consent. Essentially this allows the service provider to close out whatever SRs they choose to improve their own metrics whilst simultaneously solving no problems whatsoever.

On a separate occasion I was asked upon near-completion of a phone call, "Have we successfully answered your reasons for calling today?" The answer was actually no since the action was for them to kick me across to a different department in the same company. Upon saying this the response was, "They will assist you further but we have successfully answered your reasons for calling today." No longer a question. I guess my opinion didn’t matter?

Of course their company clearly tracked SRs differently through different departments hence "New Accounts" let’s say and "Technical Support" would have their own SR tracking systems that quite possibly didn’t even talk to each other. The problem with that is that the individual department managers only care about their own SR closure rates and from a customer satisfaction perspective we’re interested in how the company performed overall in responding to our query.

If you’re going to use SRs in a large organisation and you don’t want to kill customer satisfaction then A) For multiple departments track SRs with a top-level SR that traces the total amount of time across all departments and B) Only allow closure of SRs with customer consent.