This winter my vacation plans changed from the normal routine for the first time in 15 years. Previously, every winter break had been the annual “family and friends” ski trip to North Conway. This year however, my oldest daughter decided to go to Guatemala with her husband, my 18-year-old took a trip with friends to the Dominican Republic, and my son took the overtime offered at work. Who knew that, as a result, I would end up on a journey that would make me question my expectations around customer service and customer experience?

Cuba and customer service

After some discussions with my friends, we opted to take some cheap flights to visit other friends and to “experience” Cuba. The country and people are beautiful, but one thing became quickly apparent – that the concept of customer service does not exist there. As my friend in Cuba, Leonel, put it: “Customer service, yeah we don’t know that term here.”

When interacting with restaurant or hotel staff, you frequently simply get the response “I don’t know” or “No you can’t do that.” Staff were certainly pleasant, and it wasn’t a bad experience, their words and actions just didn’t get me the outcome I wanted. Thus, not only did my service interactions lack customer service – they also lacked effectiveness, i.e. I didn’t achieve what I wanted or needed to achieve through the interaction.

I’m sure Cuba isn’t alone in this respect, I’m just used to travelling to locations where customer service is an accepted norm.

And now we have a focus beyond customer service – customer experience

My Cuba trip really got me thinking.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve traveled the world talking about creating great (customer) experiences through digital transformation. Yet, what good is a great experience, if you can’t achieve the outcome you desire? It begs the questions: “Does great customer service translate into a great customer experience?” and “Does a great customer experience result in great customer service?” And beyond this, is effectiveness more important than both?

In the 2015 PWC study on digital transformation, the second highest-rated item on the agenda for digital transformation, at 25%, was improving customer experience (the top at 45% was market growth). So yes, CEOs are recognizing that improved customer “closeness” and engagement requires a new set of technical capabilities that will keep their customers digitally “connected.” With this not surprising in any way to those of us working in the IT service management (ITSM) space.

But where does “effectiveness” come into play here? Is it taken as read that whatever we do will be effective so we’re now focusing on making it a better experience?

How does this translate into your view of customer engagement?

Me? I appreciate the wise words of Tamara Ingram, CEO of J. Walter Thompson, “…though technology has changed everything, what really remains the same is understanding human truth and connecting human truth to content that engages and motivates people…”

Marketers have built an industry around using engaging and motivating content to create digital experiences.  In my webinars on self-service, I’ve called out that IT can learn a lot from marketers on creating the same type of engaging and motivating experiences, and that in order for your self-service to deliver a true experience it must:

  • Be appealing and pleasant to interact with. It must look great across all devices, with responsive design, and be exceptionally intuitive.
  • Deliver more than just request fulfillment. Also provide communications, reporting, and other insightful pieces of data that motivate end users to come back.
  • Make this the point of interaction and drive engagement:
    1. Don’t send an email with an attached or embedded knowledge article. Send a link back to the knowledge base.
    2. Don’t interact on email, send a link to start a chat session with an analyst.
    3. Provide kiosks or large tablets in front of the service desk to use as education and engagement points, hand-in-hand with the end user.

The human truth behind self-service request portals is: if end users didn’t need to use it, then they wouldn’t. So if they must use it, make it a great experience while delivering the service.

Balancing operational effectiveness and customer experience in 2017

As we embark on our journey through 2017, I’ll be looking to hear thoughts and opinions on what’s becoming more important in your organization and its culture.

Will creating amazing customer and end-user experiences be the hallmark of your 2017 ITSM legacy? Or will the quantifiable measurement of business effectiveness take reign?

Well, one thing is for sure. Thanks to my Cuban vacation, I can see that in a culture where innovation and individuality are repressed you are certain to get an experience – not necessarily the one you expected – and are also likely not to get the effectiveness you need.

What do you think about balancing experience and effectiveness? Have you found your organization leaning to far towards experience at the expense of effectiveness?