Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Metric Is Not the Goal

Yesterday at the supermarket, I received the card shown at the left along with my receipt. Christa was doing her job, making sure that customers knew that there was a survey and an associated contest. Many businesses run contests or offer other incentives to increase their survey response rates. It's not a great practice, but it's not uncommon, either. So far, not optimal, but acceptable. The problem begins with the words, "If you were HIGHLY satisfied with your experience today..." which implies that if I wasn't highly satisfied, I shouldn't bother completing their survey.

The goal here is clearly not to gather useful information about the store, the brand, the merchandise or the service. The goal is clearly not improvement. The goal for Shaw's is to have a high score. They've made the metric their goal.

The metric is not the goal: The metric is there to help you measure your progress toward your goal.

The goal shouldn't be to get a higher score. The goal should be to improve.

Shaw's does have an ongoing problem that was clearly evident in my shopping experience yesterday: They consistently run out of sale items early in the sale. My stop yesterday was prompted by a phone call from my spouse, who said, "If you're passing by Shaw's, they have X, Y and Z on sale today and tomorrow." I did get X, and Y, but they were out of Z, in every flavor and type. It's a three day sale, and I stopped in on day two

For the record, my first "real" job back in high school and college was in a high volume supermarket chain, where I started as a bagger, became a cashier and then went on to the customer service desk and later became a department manager. I know the difficulties of predicting demand for sale items, and I can forgive the occasional miss. In this case, I was surprised Shaw's had X and Y because they are so often out of sale items.

So, I decided to go online to the survey link for two reasons: a) Because I wasn't going to give them a 10, and b) Because I had something to say - stock more sale items.

But I did not complete the survey. Not because I knew that Shaw's isn't interested, but because they immediately wanted to make it about the checkout and the cashier, not about the complete experience of shopping at Shaw's. Not about any improvements I might suggest. Not about the quality of their brand products.

Shaw's, your customers can give you very valuable information. They can tell you about problems you may have overlooked, for one thing. But more than that, they can help you improve your products and services, and in doing that, win more customers in the bargain.

Are you listening, Shaw's? Well, no, you aren't; you're busy checking your score.


  1. I suspect that the score is used in their reward structure. Again not uncommon (although wrong in my view), but a clear attempt to influence the outcome.

    Chase the feedback, not the score.

    1. That's it: Chase the feedback, not the score. Well put.

  2. It is frustrating when sale items are unavailable. When this happens to me, I go to the customer service desk and ask for a rain check. I know this doesn't solve the issue of getting the sale item immediately, however it does give you a guarantee that you will get the item at the sale price when it is restocked.

    1. Yes, rain checks are available. But that puts the onus on me, the customer. I need to wait in line, get the rain check, save it, and remember to bring it back. That's not really where the work belongs. If you offer something, you should have it.

  3. I've come across this [sadly] all to often. Reminds me of a Dilbert strip: