Time to Smile: The new killer internal Customer Experience metric?

While support executives have made great strides in making sure our teams think about the customer first, this way of thinking runs smack into reality when we reach across internal departments to get an issue solved for a customer. The further away you get from people who interact with customers on a daily basis, the more likely you are to go from a personal, emotional connection with a customer and their issue to an ‘escalation’ (read: interruption from my ‘real’ job) that has to be dealt with.

There is an interesting metaphor I read in the new book, Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation. He refers to it as the ‘handle and the suitcase‘, and it could be adapted for our use.

“Imagine an old, heavy suitcase whose well-worn handles are hanging by a few threads.”  The “handle” of that suitcase are the defining principles, phrases, processes or mantras that we rely upon, believing they will be enough.  “The suitcase represents all that has gone into the formation of the phrase: the experience, the deep wisdom, the truths that emerge from the struggle.”

“Too often, we grab the handle and – without realizing it – walk off without the suitcase.  What’s more we don’t even think about what we’ve left behind.  After all, the handle is so much easier to carry around than the suitcase.”

Perhaps it is time for a better way to describe the ‘handle’ as we hand off between internal groups. Every handoff is a drain on customer satisfaction, employee energy and productivity.

Ready for what could be the killer internal Customer Experience and Customer Success & Support metric?

Time to Smile:
The total elapsed time between when a customer has their ability to use the product/service interrupted  to the time they got back to a happy state.

With Time to Smile as the ‘handle’ that is passed on when a customer’s issue needs move between groups, it will much easier for all to remember that the focus is on the customer, not our current, more impersonal measures. Yes, I’m looking at you “Time to Respond” “Time to Escalate” “Time to Relief” “Time to Mitigate” “Time to Resolve” “Operating Level Agreements” and “Service Level Agreements“. It’s time to rest – thank you for your service in getting us this far.

The ‘suitcase’ in this context is everything that contributes to sharing of knowledge between teams to minimize the Time to Smile for the customer.

Consider this example from the customer support perspective:

Time to Smile for the customer = 0.5 hours in customer support (getting context and initial troubleshooting with customer) + 4 hours internal to customer support (recreating the problem and researching possible solutions) + 24 hours in engineering (by the time they were able to get to the root cause and answer)  + 0.5 hours in customer support (as we close the loop with with the customer).

If you are keeping score, that is: 29 hours to Time to Smile. Each group may be meeting their internal agreements for how soon they did what they needed to do, but it is shocking when it is seen in context of the overall Time to Smile.

So what should you do?

Socialize and track this emerging measure and see if it changes behaviors.

Learn more and discuss practical ways to implement emerging measures like Time to Smile. Do this by joining the conversations in the Open Customer Metrics Framework (OCMFgroup.org) group in Linked In. More about OCMF.

If this interests you, reach out to us. We will show you new ways to look at your business and specific ways to take those insights and make a difference for your customers, your employees and for your own career.

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