Operations: Two industry veterans share their insights on using Benchmarks & Best Practices
A catalog executive suffers from no shortage of metrics to watch for: from average order value to e-mail inquiry turnaround times to indirect labor costs to number of calls answered in 20 seconds or less. The real questions, though, are how to use the numbers, and if the metrics even are appropriate to track for your operations. Comparing operations solely on numbers can be misleading. Is it better to establish a set of best practices and then hold your staff accountable to them?
Donna Loyle, editor in chief of Catalog Success, asked two catalog operations experts for their thoughts on such questions:
Curt Barry, president of F. Curtis Barry & Co., a Richmond, Va.-based multichannel customer contact and fulfillment consultancy. The firm conducts benchmarking and best practice implementation via ShareGroups in disciplines such as contact centers, fulfillment centers, inventory management and finance.
Liz Kislik, president of Liz Kislik Associates LLC, a Rockville Centre, N.Y., company that specializes in management consulting, organizational change, customer service management and employee development.
Barry and Kislik shared their thoughts on the most effective way to use external benchmarks (operations benchmarked against other companies), internal benchmarks (benchmarks set within your own company) and industry-wide best practices in a catalog/e-commerce operation.
Catalog Success: What are the best-case scenarios for using external benchmarks?
Liz Kislik: I think the real issue about external benchmarking is that people just want to find out what other companies are doing and then compare themselves to that. In the process, they’re either trying to identify best practices to follow, or compare and justify their current practices. Or else they want to take the data, so they can go to some group within their own organization and shake them up.
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.