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Are You Using the Right Metrics?

Posted by on November 7, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Companies today live by metrics and measurements. In order to improve performance, you must first know your current baseline so that you can measure progress.

Metrics are important in today’s highly competitive global business climate, but many senior managers can sometimes lose sight of the performance forest for the metrics trees. Corporate leaders can become too reliant over a particular set of metrics while never stopping to ask, “Are we using the right metrics?”

This month’s Harvard Business Review featured an article written by Office Depot’s President, Kevin Peters, who discovered first-hand that his company was not focusing on the right metrics to improve customer service and drive increased sales.

Based on his own incognito visits to 70 stores in 15 states over a several week period in 2010, Peters found out that Office Depot’s current customer metric scores were correct, but that their scoring system was not. “We were asking the wrong questions.”

Peters said that his company had been grading store managers and associates with questions such as: Are the floors clean? Are the bathrooms clean? Are the shelves fully stocked?

Based on his own field analysis and random interviews with customers, Peters felt the company should be focused more on whether a customer walks out of the store without a purchase. And if so, how could they improve the in-store experience to reduce the no-purchase rate?

As Peters describes the office products business, “This is not a browsing industry – people are shopping with a particular purpose in mind. If they don’t make a purchase, something has gone wrong.”

Customers told Peters that they care more about knowledgeable associates and smaller and easier-to-navigate stores. He also found that associates were not asking the right questions of customers. For example, instead of asking, “How are you today, and are you finding everything okay?” associates should be asking, “What can I help you find today?”

In response, Office Depot recently instituted a simplified sales process called “ARC” – Ask, Recommend, Close. They have also sought to shrink the size of their stores, coupled with a greater focus on the in-store experience.

The bottom line according to Peters is this, “If you think your company is doing well with customer service, ask yourself, ‘Am I really sure?’ Do I know what the customer experiences?”

Make it a point to challenge your own corporate metrics on a periodic basis to ensure you are asking the right questions. Otherwise, your company may find itself racking up some very nice scores, but taking the wrong test.