To benchmark or not to benchmark—is that a question you’re facing? If you oversee call centers or work frequently with metrics, benchmarking to determine how you measure up against best practices is one of the most popular tools used. By comparing your metrics to industry metrics, you clearly see opportunities for improvement, and you have a standard by which to set improvement goals.
Not everyone agrees benchmarking works as it’s intended, however, and in tight economic times, you may be wondering whether it’s worth the cost to hire a company that will compare your numbers to your competition, will sell you benchmarking reports, or will work with you on a consulting basis.
Benchmarking is sometimes cited as not containing proper data, using too little data, not ultimately delivering the business benefits touted. Additionally, those who object to benchmarking cite that what works as “best practices” in one call center or industry may not be applicable in a similar environment elsewhere.
Benchmarking is an investment …
To be clear, benchmarking is a time and monetary investment. When you hire a company, you’re paying for research time, travel costs if the consultants come to you, and the final database costs incurred once you’ve incorporated benchmarking into your daily procedures. You’ll also be given a sizeable data set to sort through and implement, adding to your already busy managerial load.
Yet, you want to improve, right?
If you want to see how your company compares to the best practices in the industry and those of your competitors, and if you’re striving to reach that world-class reputation in customer service, benchmarking has a place. Companies that provide benchmarking services state that the practice will help your company:
- Establish an objective baseline of performance against your competition.
- Determine your company’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Create an actionable plan for improvement.
- Move forward in the process for Call Center Certification of Excellence or other certification programs.
- Uncover barriers to change. Just as seeing how your cholesterol levels compare to others in your age/gender group can motivate you to work on your diet and exercise régime, understanding your KPI data can help you motivate and focus your group.
- Put a dollar number on performance gaps. For example, if you’re trying to capture the management’s attention, showing that a performance gap of 1.5 minutes per call (compared to your competition) translates to an additional million dollars in yearly excess cost, you’re more likely to receive approval for your improvement initiatives.
Is everyone benchmarking?
You may be wondering if there are benchmarks on benchmarking—so to speak. Is your competition benchmarking, for example? Is it a widespread practice that should be a focus for your organization? The 2010 Global Benchmarking report surveyed 450 organizations in 44 countries and found the following benchmarking trends:
- Informal benchmarking was used by 68% of companies surveyed.
- Performance benchmarking was used by 49%.
- Best practice benchmarking was used by 39%.
- Of the companies that were not currently benchmarking at the time of the survey, 60% indicated they were likely to in the next 3 years
- The top main benefits of benchmarking, in order of importance, were:
- Improved performance of processes.
- Understanding what how other organizations operate.
- Addressing major strategic issues.
Consider benchmarking as one part of your metric-gathering process
Whether or not you choose to work with a benchmarking company will most likely be based on factors including budget, time, goals, and the willingness of your organization to invest in the practice. As with all metrics, benchmarking can be extremely useful when you work with a reputable company that doesn’t simply apply a blanket approach, but rather guides you in applying the results to your practices. Additionally, consider benchmarking as one necessary cog in the wheel of streamlining your customer service training. When you see the areas you need to improve, you can be efficient by focusing your training on those targeted areas. Just as you don’t want to only focus on one metric as a means to improve your operations, you’ll have a more holistic program if benchmarking works in conjunction with multiple metrics and an actionable strategy for improvement based on data.