Are Customer Surveys an effective Performance Assessment Tool?

Determining what tools to use to assess how an employee’s performance should be evaluated can be tricky for employers. In some professions and industries, it can be an easy decision. For example, employees in sales can be assessed based on the dollar amount of sales each month, or employees in manufacturing can be assessed on the quantity of items produced. In professions and industries that primarily provide customer service, the decision on how an employee’s performance can be evaluated becomes tricky.

Customer service cannot be quantified like sales and production. For these professions and industries, employers may choose to rely on customer feedback to evaluate employee performance. However, employers risk the employee making an unfair dismissal claim for using this method if the way customer feedback is collected and evaluated is not carefully considered.

This was shown in a Fair Work Commission (the FWC) case where an employee’s performance was assessed based upon the responses to the company’s customer service surveys.

Mr Kris Brennan v ASG Brisbane Pty Ltd T/A Audi Indooroopilly [2019] FWC 7630

Mr Brennan was employed as a Service Advisor for Audi Indooroopilly. Service Advisors are the contact point for Audi customers who require or want mechanical work for their vehicles. Mr Brennan’s performance was assessed using the average score of the five-question customer service survey, known as the Customer Experience Marker (the CEM). Mr Brennan and the other Service Advisors at Audi Indooroopilly were required to have a CEM score above the national average for each surveying month. In February 2019 Mr Brennan received a first and final warning letter. The warning letter set out that if Mr Brennan’s CEM score did not improve, his employment may be terminated. Mr Brennan’s CEM score continued to be below the national average. On 22 March 2019 Mr Brennan attended a meeting with Mr Nicholson, Aftersales Manager, who provided Mr Brennan with a letter of termination.

When determining that Mr Brennan was unfairly dismissed Commissioner Hunt disapproved of the requirement for the Service Advisors to have a CEM score above the national average. Commissioner Hunt set out the following deficiencies in relying on the CEM:

  • not all customers completed the customer service survey;
  • the questions in the survey concerned the overall service received by customers not only the service and delivery of services of the Service Advisors;
  • there could be a multitude of reasons for a low CEM score and not just for reasons caused by the Service Advisor;
  • requiring Service Advisors to be in the top 50% of all Audi Service Advisors disregards the fact that 50% of Service Advisors must be in the bottom 50%; and
  • just because a Service Advisor was in the bottom 50% of all Service Advisors did not mean that the Service Advisor’s performance of their duties was not satisfactory.

Commissioner Hunt held that there was no valid reason for dismissal due to the deficiencies in relying upon the CEM score for evaluating Mr Brennan’s performance. Mr Brennan was awarded 12 weeks wages minus two weeks for the payment of notice he received on his termination.

Tips

Employers should be aware of the deficiencies when relying upon customer surveys to assess employee performance. Not all customers will complete customer surveys. Those that do are usually customers who have had a negative experience and wish to lodge a complaint. There is also the risk that when completing the surveys, customers may be influenced by other factors or services received and not just the services provided by a particular employee.

Customer surveys should be used with caution to assess employee performance. They should not be the only assessment tool used when evaluating employee performance. Relying only on the customer surveys risks the chance of a successful unfair dismissal claim resulting in compensation for the terminated employee.

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Jessica Hatton

Jessica graduated from the University of New England in 2018 with a Bachelor of Laws and Bachelor of Business majoring in Human Resource Management. Jessica was admitted as a Solicitor in July 2018, and following her admission, Jessica practiced in property law in Tamworth, NSW. With an interest in employment law and human resources, Jessica moved to Sydney in 2019 to join PCC Employment Lawyers. Jessica has gained experience in a wide range of workplace law areas, including employment contracts, Unfair Dismissal matters, General Protections Applications, Workplace Investigations, Enterprise Bargaining, corporate governance, and discrimination.

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