Not too long ago, I went to a major pharmacy chain on a Friday night during rush hour to pick up some prescriptions. I waited in traffic, waited in line at the pharmacy, and then waited again in traffic before finally arriving home. I unpacked everything and discovered they left out a prescription. Frustrated, I checked the app and saw the prescription was in “filled” status. They just missed it. This wasn’t the first time this happened, and it always seemed to occur at 5 p.m., during rush hour.
I decided to go back the next day rather than spend any more time in traffic that night. I told myself it could have been worse: I could have received and taken the wrong drug. But that thought pissed me off even more. I tuned the whole thing out with a plate of food over whatever I was binge-watching on Netflix that night.
Think about the last time something like this happened to you. Maybe it was your local fast food restaurant. Maybe it was the dry cleaners. Whatever the case, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, and if it happens often enough, you might end your patronage with that business. That’s what happened to me; I recently stopped using this pharmacy and switched to a mail-order service.
What do we minimize when we put metrics in place? Usually, it is the user experience.
Sometimes these issues occur simply as a result of human error. But often they occur because there is some other force in play — like metrics. Consider fast food chains. Years ago, they used to have a timer at the drive-through indicating how long you had been waiting on your order. Doubtless there was a metric in place measuring employee output. In the case of pharmacies, there is likely a metric in place for how fast a prescription can be filled or how many prescriptions are filled per hour, etc. These are called performance metrics.
What happens when you put a performance metric in place in a retail environment? What happens when you place a metric on user engagement in a social networking app? How about metrics in the health care system or anywhere else for that matter?