The Deviation of Engineering KPIs
Engineering KPIs such as retainability (drops) and accessibility (blocks/coverage) are focused on because they are supposed to mimic the customer experience. Or at least they "were" supposed to mimic the customer experience. As engineering performance in these areas became the measurement of team success, an interesting line of deviation may have occurred. There's long been the hidden philosophy of RF engineers that a customer can't drop a call if they can't make it, that network quality will improve if there's only good coverage, and that if a customer hangs up first it isn't a drop. It's these philosophies that lead to poor engineering decisions for the actual customer experience.
A colleague recently renewed some focus on improving the market coverage for customers. Interesting thing happened, the number of measured customer dropped calls increased 15% which is rather drastic in today's networks while the number of customer complaints in the area decreased 50%. Similar experience five years ago where a network connection quality parameter was changed that increased the dropped calls in a market almost 20%, but increased the customer satisfaction rate by almost 30%. What each change took was unique in today's wireless networks. It took some high level management support to go forward with the changes against the will of the majority of engineers.
Engineers are typically smarter than the average bear when it comes to breaking down the numbers. They can determine the way to beat pretty much any system. High number of drops on a cell, reduce the footprint. Too many drops on a network, lengthen the time of bad quality allowed before a drop. High number of handover failures, delete the neighbor. These types of decisions are made everyday in network optimization. All of these types of changes typically improve the overall network engineering metrics, however over time and compiled together slowly degrade the customer experience.
Not that most of the engineering KPIs today are bad KPIs, they just seemed to have deviated from the actual measurement of the customer experience. The solution most likely is not to add new KPIs, rather focus on the basics of the customer experience (Coverage & Quality) and ensure there are strong tools, processes, and oversight from management to make sure the customer is the measurement.
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