Operations Benchmarks & Best Practices
Curt Barry: We started doing benchmarking studies back in 1996, and to date we've benchmarked a couple of hundred companies. Over the years, we've developed a series of benchmarks with our clients. People do want to know what others are doing. But how you define the data and then use them for comparison is the hard part of this.
The No. 1 thing people should do is identify the general areas to focus on for improvement, to either improve customer service and productivity or to reduce costs. A basic tenet of benchmarking is this: You can't improve something if you haven't measured it.
Kislik: When most practitioners
see surveys of what businesses are doing, they don't fully consider the comparability issue.
Barry: I agree that some of those studies I see put out by other consultants or by publishers are really not helpful, because they use averaged or summarized data. Data need to be detail-specific by company, so you can compare them to your company.
We publish detailed data in our studies by company name, so you're able to see which companies answered the questions, and get behind the numbers. That's the key to benchmarking. If you're an apparel company, you shouldn't compare yourself with just any other apparel company. You have to look at AOV [average order value], number of calls answered, number of contact center seats, length of call, number of line items per order, etc. These and other factors are the key drivers to those benchmarks.
Kislik: People tend to look for the big number in the sky. If they find it, they then think they'll know what to do to achieve it within their own organizations. That's just not true. Some of what ends up getting benchmarked isn't sufficiently defined as an activity. The units need to be comparable. For example, look at e-mails answered per hour. Are the e-mails closed-end, meaning they require merely factual answers, such as when will my order be shipped? Or are they open-ended questions, for example, how do I put two components together for this product?
- Liz Kislik Associates LLC