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Target Typology: how are your measures & targets understood?

Published on 27 April 2020

Target Typology: how are your measures & targets understood?

The most frustrating part in dealing with targets is that they are often misunderstood. Ask someone what constitutes good performance against a particular target. You are likely to get either several conflicting responses or an explanation that misses the point of the target or even promotes negative behaviour instead.

Types of Target
Best practice means being aware of all the key metrics in use; make sure there is a clear, shared definition and one version of the truth. Then define what good looks like and what variances need calling out. For instance, when someone talks about a 90/24 service level for emails, we know that it means 90% of emails to be answered within 24 hours. But what constitutes good performance? Are we saying that the aim is to hit EXACTLY 90%? Is achieving 92% better or worse? What do we do if we achieve 88%? Do we hold inquests into where the 2% was lost or do we consider it to be close enough? 

Target vs Tolerance
Targets are often mistaken for tolerances and this creates confusion. Setting an Adherence target of x% drives the wrong behaviour if considered a target. Do we REALLY want agents to be non-adherent for 10% of their day if they could achieve more? Do we REALLY want agents to sacrifice customer experience to achieve 100%? We are actually working with a ‘tolerance’ or allowance, based on AHT, customer experience and other factors. The same can be said for sickness – a target of 5% can be construed as an opportunity to have 5% sickness. We could be driving advisors with no sickness all year into using their ‘sickness allowance’. In truth, we allow a tolerance of 5%, rather than setting a target.

Stretch targets  
We also see aspirational targets, meant to help people to push beyond current boundaries. Every step towards these is a gain. The problem comes if it’s seen as a failure to not achieve these; people will become demotivated. Make sure that any targets you set are achievable; success builds belief and can lead to further success. 

Watch for bad habits! 
Here’s another type of target we hear about. Someone may say they use an 80/20 service level, ‘because this is an industry standard’. In fact, this is an ‘industry habit’ and targets should never be standard, since organisations and departments are so different. For instance, the standard for emergency 999 calls will be higher. It may be different for sales or service or transferred calls. Watch your customers’ expectations, understand the needs of your organisation and customers and set the right target or tolerance accordingly. Don’t let customer service be compromised in order to deliver a target that isn’t fit for purpose. 

Unintended consequences 
We can also set targets by accident. For example, an organisation may believe it doesn’t target average handle time (AHT), but advisors think they do! Perhaps AHT is built into dashboards, often with league tables, then managers are challenged on productivity and pass this on. If people aren’t clear about how to use metrics appropriately then targeting can be introduced through the back door. All metrics needs to be defined and what happens if we do not reach them (or if we exceed them) needs to be explored and mutually understood. Take a moment to reflect. What target types do you have in your business? What behaviours or outcomes are these driving?

Learn more about target types with our virtual learning box set:

This article was first published in the 2020 Best Practice Guide - 2020 Vision: Crystallising your knowledge

To download a full digital copy of the Best Practice Guide, click here

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