Everything we do here at Evergreen Systems starts with our experience as customers. Two years ago, we began taking note of the elegant self-service experiences offered by the likes of Amazon, Apple and Google, and wondered why our IT Service Management customers can’t have the same thing.
We began challenging our core thinking around ITSM, and as a result began looking at everything we did from the customer’s point of view, rather than putting IT first. Steve Jobs may have said it best: “Technology is nothing. You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology — not the other way around.”
This is customer-centric ITSM at its best. It means focusing on preventing incidents in the first place, rather than handling them piecemeal as they develop. It also means making the customer happier and lessening the workload of our IT professionals. But perhaps most importantly, it means adhering to ITSM best practices and seeing IT management services as end-to-end value chains, rather than separate, disjointed silos.
Finally, when we build beautiful, stable and predictive IT service platforms, we enable customers to self-serve. Nobody does this quite like Amazon.
What’s So Great About Amazon?
After becoming the world’s largest retailer in 2015 (finally outpacing Walmart), Amazon achieved a market value of $228 billion. To put this in perspective, Apple has a $522 billion market value and they’re the most valuable company in US history.
Success isn’t enough to make Amazon unique, though. One of the most interesting things about them is that it’s exceptionally difficult — but also rarely necessary — to get anybody from Amazon on the phone.
Another key fact? 30% of people research products on Amazon. That’s more than Google!
Amazon also knows how to gamble, but they do it iteratively and carefully. Not everybody knows this, but Amazon Prime was a big gamble. Amazon believed customers hated paying shipping costs, but they didn’t know just how much. So, to help both Amazon and Amazon customers mitigate the cost of shipping, they came up with Prime, which encourages more buying and in turn offsets the “additional” costs of each purchase.
This is a great example of rethinking your business from the customer’s perspective. And proves that what is really important to your customers may not be that difficult for you to address.
In short, Amazon has fully mastered what it takes to create a comprehensive customer experience.
How to Create the Best IT Service Management Experience?
First, don’t make the customer do our work. Everything the customer needs to understand, choose and use the service should be there on the page, arranged logically to facilitate the process. For every given page, the experience should be complete and fully thought-out from the customer’s perspective.
This is very hard for IT to do well because of the way work is organized into silos. If a service requires passing through several silos of IT (as it often will), the handoff between silos may not be a smooth one, and you might have to deal with redundant requests and processes. There may even be different cultural perspectives on what a customer is, and what your quality of service is supposed to be. To be truly successful the way Amazon is successful, every service experience must be engineered to be complete.
Step 1: Build a Beautiful Customer Portal
Start with the obvious — improving the customer’s IT experience. Your initial self-service portal and catalog can be operational in a month or less. There are bound to be some rough edges during the first few iterations, but as long as customers know you’re listening to feedback and making incremental but meaningful improvements, they’ll be patient with you.
For some businesses or organizations, merely implementing an easier way to make or track IT requests is a huge win.
Step 2: Build a Basic Service Taxonomy
As you begin to think about the kinds of services you might want to offer, a logical step is to think about how you might organize and manage your services consistently. This means building a solid, basic service taxonomy.
At Evergreen Systems, we built our taxonomy models in a simple and inexpensive mind mapping technology called X Mind, because it’s great for working with a group. But you can certainly find other tools that might fit your unique needs.
Step 3: Pilot Some Key Services
We find that IT in general has a lot to learn about designing and delivering truly “customer-centric” services. As a result, we believe the best way to learn is iteratively, using small steps. Remember Amazon Prime? That began its life as a pilot program with an uncertain future.
Piloting new services can be accomplished by building three to five example services or requests that are good candidates. These will usually be low-complexity and high-volume.
The truth is, while each IT silo might have specific services to deliver, most often they’re part of a larger combined service offered to the customer. Using a pilot rather than production approach to introducing services is a great way to both lower the perceived risk and open your team’s minds to working better together.
Step 4: Build a Services Factory
When we have a handful of services, they can be built and maintained individually. But what about when we have hundreds? In cases like these, we need a consistent, production-like approach.
This means developing a “services factory,” which we use to manage services over their useful lives. Let’s look at the flow of work in a services factory:
- Consider — This is your demand or intake funnel.
- Build — This is where you actually construct your service.
- Modify — At this stage, you update or make changes to a service during its useful life to meet your customer’s ongoing needs.
- Retire — This is where the service no longer offers value and is removed from the active service catalog.
A key point to remember: while IT is most often intensely focused on the Build stage, the customer experience really begins with Modify and continues throughout each of the other stages. If you’re not embarking on each stage with the customer in mind, the end result won’t meet their needs effectively.
Here are some possible next steps.
If you’re interested in our advanced Self-Service Catalog and Portal, it’s now available as a fully functioning, self-service demo. It’s fun and easy to use, and we’ve already received over 600 sign-ups for it. You can get your own login on our website and be using it in five minutes flat.
Or, perhaps you’re considering a broader Service Catalog initiative but aren’t sure where to start. Evergreen offers a private, one day Service Catalog Workshop onsite at your organization for up to 15 attendees. We can educate your team and help you create a common language and direction, saving months of effort in consensus building.
Finally, if you would like a copy of our Services Definitions Dictionary, Service Taxonomy Guide or our Services Governance Guide, just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll be in touch!