Fair Work Commission (FWC) Commissioner Jennifer Hunt has lambasted Audi Australia for a lack of HR expertise, after a dealership service advisor at Audi Indooroopilly was dismissed because his customer service KPI score was in the bottom 50% of all Audi service advisors in the country.
While Commissioner Hunt described the KPI target as a “virtuous goal”, it effectively meant that the performance of half of all Audi’s service advisors across Australia would be considered unsatisfactory, which she didn’t accept.
The employee also wasn’t given an opportunity to respond to the reason for his dismissal, which Commissioner Hunt said was “demonstrative of an absence of dedicated human resource management specialists” at the company.
“For such a large organisation not to have some human resource management specialists is astounding,” she said.
‘Sustained improvement not seen’
The employee was expected to maintain a Customer Experience Marker (CEM) score of 4.5 out of five, however his daily CEM scores fluctuated between 4.1 and 4.5.
He was told if he didn’t maintain a 4.5 average on any month, the “first offence” would require him to devise his own action plan to improve. Two consecutive failed months would result in a performance review and help from management to improve the score.
The employee’s scores were as below:
October 2018 – 4.26
November 2018 – 4.24
December 2018 – 4.18
January 2019 – 4.29
February 2019 – 4.46
March 2019 – 4.48
In February this year, the dealership issued the employee with a “first and final warning letter” demanding an “immediate improvement” on his CEM results that were “under the national benchmark” (in the bottom 50%).
The employee was dismissed one month later.
The employer said it was because it had “not seen any sustained improvement” in his performance.
‘Inherent unfairness’ in customer service KPI
In his unfair dismissal claim, the employee submitted that his CEM score was not a key indicator of his performance and didn’t provide a valid reason for his dismissal.
The CEM scores, which the employee’s individual performance was graded on, were based on a survey of the entire customer service experience, which the employee couldn’t completely control.
“How satisfied are you with the quality of work carried out on your vehicle?” was one of the survey questions.
Commissioner Hunt found this was an “inherent unfairness” in the KPI as it measured the complete service experience and ranked it against the service advisor only.
“It is evident, therefore, how impractical a tool the measure is to objectively assess the performance only of a Service Advisor, not of the experience the customer receives relevant to the technical service of their car,” Commissioner Hunt said.
Nevertheless, the commissioner noted that the employee’s scores had begun to improve in February and March 2019, even though they weren’t greater than 4.5 and not in the top half of all Audi service advisors.
Performance measurement was mathematically flawed
Audi Australia had prepared the employee’s termination letter.
“In the termination letter he was informed that his scores had been under the national average for Audi Australia. I take that to mean that he was being measured as being in the bottom 50% of Service Advisors,” Commissioner Hunt said.
“If this was, as I understand it to be, a position supported by Audi Australia given the termination letter was prepared by the central HR support person, and the submissions supported by Audi Australia during the determinative conference, it could have the effect of the bottom half of Service Advisors within Audi Australia being considered to be performing unsatisfactorily.
“Simply because an employee slips into the bottom half of all Service Advisors does not mean that they are not performing their role satisfactorily. Mathematics requires that half of the employees will be in the bottom half.”
In finding the employee’s dismissal unfair, Commissioner Hunt ordered the Audi dealership to pay him $9,134.60 plus superannuation in compensation.