Is Your Efficiency Killing Your Effectiveness?

The advent of the quality movement has morphed into efficiency spawned by cost-cutting.  However, to be efficient doesn’t mean you are being effective.

Customers want you to be efficient because costs get lower, but not at the expense of effectiveness.


Efficiency needs to yield to effectivenessAs a service organization — or even as a manufacturer — you have products and services that make the life of your customer better, easier and/or more fun.  You could say your reason for existence is to  achieve this.  The actions of service organizations  seem to indicate a lack of understanding of this simple fact.

OK, still confused?

Let’s take the Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system that customers have to go through with service organizations.  You know, the push-button or voice activated greeting you get.  Customers hate them.  Rarely do you find a menu of options that makes any sense to a customer.  Frustration ensues.  Misroutes are notorious with an IVR system.

It doesn’t end there.  Customers often have to give their name, account number and other pertinent information to the IVR and when the service representative answers they ask the same questions.

If customers hate them so much, then why do service organizations use them?

Because they assume they make their organization efficient.  If any organization wants to make a customers life easier, better and/or more fun — they wouldn’t put in an IVR.

One other word about IVR and customers.  I did some internet research for a survey about how customers hate IVRs.  Most of these surveys are done by — you guessed it — the ones that sell IVRs. One blog promoted with delight that only 66% of customers hate them.  They found this encouraging.  I am not kidding.  Could you find  any other product with a 34% approval from customers that still exists?  Beside politics?

Service organizations happily keep buying these modern marvels despite there ineffectiveness.  Technology is treated  this way in general.  Say the word “technology” and people swoon over having to get one.  Then it becomes “just keeping up with the Joneses.”

There is a constant push to move customers to “more efficient” channels to conduct business.  This is done in the name of reducing costs.  IVRs are one category, and websites are another.  But something is lost.  The interaction between a customer and an organization becomes less intimate.  Building a strong bond does not come from CRM systems, it comes from relationships  through front-line workers.

In the end, effectiveness has to beat out efficiency.  Being effective means doing what increases the chance of doing what is important to customers.  The financial, mechanized approach won’t get you there.

Take a look at your organization as your customers see it – our 4-day workshop has been called “an awakening experience.” You will understand the customer view of your organization and take inventory of the assumptions, beliefs and perspectives that drive performance. Tripp Babbitt is a service design architect and organizational futurist. His company helps service organizations understand future trends, culture and customer. The 95 Method designs organizations to improve the comprehensive customer experience while improving culture and management effectiveness. Read his column at Quality Digest and his articles for PEX and CallCenterIQ. Reach him on Twitter at or LinkedIn at


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