"What should we 'build for' to help reverse poor customer experiences?"
Fragmented. Unpredictable. Inaccurate. Inconsistent.
These are just four adjectives that customers use to describe poor services, which really gets very close to the heart of how they feel. Other words include manual, uninformed, complex and confusing, among other varieties of adjectives with negative connotations.Today, adjectives to describe the satisfaction of a customer can come in the form of stars. Customers can simply provide a rating from one star to five stars. How satisfied customers are with a product or service is often determined by the number of stars associated with said product or service. In fact, prospective customers often base their buying decisions on the number of stars they see next to the product or service. The more stars, the better the product or service in the eyes of the prospective customer. Amazon, travel sites like TripAdvisor and car ride services like Uber know this because they’ve taken the time to understand the power of satisfied customers. Customer reviews are critical to their business success because they embrace a customer-centric service mentality.
If customers are using negative adjectives to describe your IT services or giving you poor ratings, then something is gravely wrong, and your processes don’t inherently have a customer-first orientation. If this is the case, then why not take a step a back and understand what your customers are seeing?
Why is this so important? Because there’s nothing more pleasing to a customer than a good experience. Also, if they have a bad an experience, they won’t hesitate to let the world know about it.
Laying the groundwork: useful definitions for IT service
Let’s define what a service is. As per ITIL, a service is something of value you do for someone, and all they must do is receive it. So, if what you’re providing is not of value for someone and they must work hard to receive it, then you’re not providing a true service. For example, when you hire someone to cut your lawn, you don’t take turns with them on the mower. And, if it breaks, you don’t make a run for parts.
Service Owner is another useful definition to know for establishing the groundwork for success. A Service Owner is the one who owns the service or services, and has visibility into what the customers see. Now you could say that’s easy – if I am the person who provisions the database, then that is my service and I control it. Simple, right? But what if that is just one element of delivering a complete computing capability in support of a critical, tier 1 application? Who owns that compound service?
It’s important to note that a Service Owner is not a Technical Delivery Manager, which is what most IT organizations have today. True Service Owners are accountable for managing a service throughout it’s entire lifecycle. The role of a Technical Delivery Manager (what most do today) is much more limited in scope with an inward focus on execution, not understanding and providing what the customer really needs.
You can see what the customer needs, as a Service Owner. You must have the customers’ perspective top of mind to do your job effectively every day. Service Owners ask a much broader range of questions than Technical Delivery Managers do. While a Technical Manager is more concerned about application availability, pending threats, status of incidents and requests, the Service Owner oversees the outcome the customer really wants: end to end service. Service Owners ask questions such as:
- Who are my customers?
- What do they want / need?
- Are my customers happy?
- Are they maximizing the benefit of my service?
- How can I improve my service?
Reversing poor IT service
A service starts and ends with the customer, full lifecycle, from request to outcome. IT operations are naturally siloed: technical outcomes, or sub services, that are part of an end to end service, loosely linked together. Ultimately, this often means that the providers deliver a technical outcome; and there can be many of them. In this environment, providers are unable to understand what the end objective is, have limited visibility into what other providers are doing, and receive no meaningful feedback on their performance in relation to the customer’s outcome. Worse yet, because of this, it is difficult to find anyone who truly owns the service outcome end to end. What this creates is a service operation that lacks a clear provider alignment with the customer – which defeats the true purpose of a service.
This is very frustrating for IT too. IT staff by and large are extremely customer centric. However, they are hampered in meeting customer expectations by their siloed work processes, because the way work is done makes delivering end-to-end services very difficult.
Figure: Examples of adjectives customers use to describe poor services.
Here is a fresh perspective on what an IT Service is and how we might better describe success. Think about the negative adjectives I mentioned earlier: words like fragmented, unpredictable, inaccurate and inconsistent. Now think of the other side of the coin with this question: What could we do to drive outcomes that are the opposite of these adjectives?
In answering the previous question, another question soon follows: What should we “build for?” There are six “build for” categories we can use to address the negative adjectives. These are customer centricity, consistency, ownership & manageability, governance & compliance, improvement and innovation, and efficiency. As an example, if customers tagged a service as Inconsistent, follow this formula: “Build for” + “consistency” = “improvement.” If executed the right way, your result should be a more consistent service.
Note that it takes work and a true understanding of customer perspectives to achieve results. Over the next several blog posts, I’ll dig in deeper into each of these “Build for” categories to help you prepare for successful outcomes.
About the Author: Don Casson is CEO of Evergreen Systems, an IT consulting firm helping medium to enterprise public and private sector organizations to dramatically transform their IT operations. Don is a frequent writer, blogger and presenter, and has delivered over 50 webinars on topics in Service Management, including IT and shared services.