Could too much measurement be preventing the delivery of great customer service?

Tape measure

We are increasingly able to quantify and connect up our lives. We can now measure and monitor:

How many steps we have taken today.

Our average heart rate.

How well we have slept.

The temperature at home even when we are not there.

We can even ask our fridge to tell us whether we have run out of milk or when things are past their ‘use by’ dates.

Moreover, with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) where many, many more objects and devices will become ‘connected’ our ability to measure and monitor even more things is set to grow exponentially.

Now, many people are excited about the possibilities that this offers as it could and should allow us to make changes, pre-empt problems and make improvements in both our personal and business lives.

However, I often find myself wondering about how much measuring and monitoring is too much and if, like in The Observer Effect, all this data and measuring and monitoring has an impact on us and how we behave.

Given that, I was really interested to learn about a new study that was recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research called The Hidden Cost of Personal Quantification. It was conducted by Professor Jordan Etkin at Duke University who took a closer look at the impact of ‘personal measurement’.

Through a series of six experiments, Professor Etkin found that whilst measuring an activity can increase how much of it we do, at the same time it can it also reduce our enjoyment of that activity.

Professor Etkin, in the study, says that

“By drawing attention to output, measurement can make enjoyable activities feel more like work, which reduces their enjoyment. As a result, measurement can decrease continued engagement in the activity and subjective well-being.”

Now, whilst the experiments were only undertaken with a small group of American undergraduate students, they do raise some interesting questions about how and what we measure and the impact of that measurement.

But, what if we put aside the implications for the many consumer measurement applications that are out there and consider if the principle i.e. ‘measurement increases an activity but decreases engagement and well-being’ applies similarly to current management practices and how we manage and engage employees.

Moreover, if we monitor and measure too much in the workplace are we in danger of taking the engagement out of the work that people do? And, could that undermine what it takes to deliver great service?

Yes, more might get done because it is being measured. But, if the measurement of an activity also decreases engagement and well-being of employees then, surely, that should lead us to question the quality of the work that is being produced and whether it is as good as it can be.

What is clear is that whilst the study does not offer definitive proof of the impact of monitoring and measurement on human beings, it does raise some interesting questions about what we measure and the impact it could be having on the people we rely on to deliver the great service and experiences that we long to deliver. That in itself is worth thinking about.




This post was originally published on my column here.
Photo Credit: Andy Magee via Compfight cc

4 comments On Could too much measurement be preventing the delivery of great customer service?

  • Sadly, that’s what happens when we get too focused on measuring… too focused on the number than on the activity or the action that moves that number. Or the why behind it.

  • An interesting perspective Adrian, not one that I would discount but I think there is a more pressing problem. That is very simply that we spend lots of time and effort collecting more and more data and make fewer and fewer decisions.

    Russell Ackoff once famously said that “The less managers understand their business the more variables they need to explain it.”

    • Hi James,
      Thanks for sharing the Russell Ackoff saying. Does that imply that the signal to noise ratio is getting worse?


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