Don’t worry, be happy … or not

Scott Johnston’s column from April 29th asserts that Aurora has become decidedly unhappy lately. You can read it here:

If you’re wondering how to measure where Aurora lands between “our town” and “sour town” you’ll be happy, or not, to know that the town actually has a tool for this and it’s called “Happy or Not”.

That’s right the 4 button Simon game installed in the loby of Town hall is actualy produed by “The World’s Leading Company for Customer and Employee Satisfaction Improvement” and you can see their website here:

The names implies a binary choice yet there are 4 buttons to pick from to sum up your entire customer service experience.

The whole dumbing down the collection of customer feedback reminds me of the hospital scene in Mike Judge’s 2006 satirical science fiction comedy Idiocracy:

Basically you hit an arcade button and this “Totally wireless, self-standing, kiosk coupled with an intelligent, cloud-based, to-the-hour reporting and analytics software.” sends your button click into a glorious customer service vacuum to be tallied with all the other button clicks to provide metrics.

This Bloomber TV piece suggests that Happy-Or_Not’s services “are implemented as a key performance indicator and a management tool with the host claiming that the solution “provides
meaningful results”:

Okay, so let’s see exactly what Happy-Or-Not spits out in the way of a report. Here is a snapshot of what was captured from the town’s unit on Wednesday April 29th:

10 responses in one day: 100% positive.

So now the question is what integrity is there to this system?

Given that this is an open system and anyone can push buttons what would stop staff from potentially entering feedback to sway the trends to the positive?

Given how each button press cannot be restricted to a unique individual what stops someone from pressing the button several times?

According to this slideshare I found: it appears that there is an algorithm built in with a pre-set registration delay that prevents sequential button presses:

That delay is 5 seconds, so if you’re standing at the unit and pressing buttons it will register a selection every 5 seconds.

It will have definitely captured some interesting results from my use over the handful of times I’ve used it, because, well Calvin says it best:

Most survey systems have far greater controls in place to insure the integrity of the data they are collecting so recognizing the inherent issues with the set-up I started inquiring as to what strategy this unit serves and how it ended up at town hall.

Apparently this device has been operational since March. It was funded by Customer Service Capital Project at a total cost of $1200 and is under the umbrella of Building and Bylaw Services which oversees Access Aurora. They consider this a low cost tool.

When I inquired about the project’s objectives I was told that this tool was selected because the Town of Aurora has to develop a customer experience plan as part of some “Excellence Canada” certification.

The Town currently has Bronze and in order for it to be considered for Silver and pass the accreditation process they need to have a minimum of 3 years of tracking and feedback.

And there you have it.

The town needs to collect meaningless KPIs as a requirement for some meaningless merit badge, not unlike the waste diversion targets that influenced staff’s endorsement of the Clear Glad Garbage bag scam.

Not seeing a case study showing the use of Happy Or Not in another government setting outside Aurora I was told that Newmarket has three devices in use, but no other government organization inside the 24 countries that these units are in service could be referenced. Likely because it is an ineffective tool for a government setting.

Not convinced that this initiative was in any way linked to the town’s strategic plan I inquired as to how staff saw a connection as the answer I received was that it is directly to the strategic plan in the goal of supporting an exceptional quality of life for all and specifically in objective #5 – Strengthening the fabric of our community through the development of a customer service strategy and implementation plan.

Okay so implementing a meaningless data collector such as Happy-Or-Not is the result of the town’s “Customer Service Strategy and Implementation Plan”, then I guess I have to read that.

So I type “Customer Service Strategy and Implementation Plan” into the search bar of the Town of Aurora’s website and I get 119 results.

Spoiler alert: The top 15 do not include a link to the plan.

I was informed that Council was involved in approving the customer service strategy and implementation plan and that staff will be reporting to Council with information regarding Access Aurora status and activity.

So the feedback loop will effectively be closed then right? With all the meaningful KPIs that ensure community needs are met.

And to think, it can now be achieved without any human contact.

Hold on a second.

Back on page 18 of the October 11, 2011 edition of The Auroran when the whole “We Can Help” Model of Customer service was being dicussed along with the $3/4 of a Million pricetag for related projects over 3 years we read the town’s Director of Bylaw Services Director state that the last thing the Town would want to lose is human contact:

That’s exactly the purpose of Happy-Or-Not, to divorce human contact from the process of evaluating customer service levels, and in a way that is unable to determine unique human input.

Instead what is harvested is a bunch of mashed up key button presses, but it’s enough for the town to get a Silver medal with everyone else paying the freight.

So are you happy or not?

If you don’t know the answer the town will be more than happy to provide you with onw in the form of a number.

Watts on your mind?

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