Service desks have been measuring customer satisfaction for about as long as there have been service desks. If their reports are to be believed, satisfaction with individual transactions has been consistently quite high, while overall satisfaction—when measured—has been somewhat lower. One reason for this is the lack of satisfaction in IT performance as a whole. IT has been slow to deliver the systems and services businesses need. So what about customer service excellence?
Enter cloud and other third-party service providers from stage left
Now that those systems and services are readily available from so-called cloud providers, often bypassing the organizational purchasing process and simply using a credit card, business units are acquiring technology-driven services they want with or without any IT department involvement (“Shadow IT”). Rather than dealing with a monolithic “customer,” i.e., a business, those responsible for service and support are dealing with individuals or line of business units.
Although the ITIL definition of the customer as “the person or group who defines and agrees the service level targets” is still applicable, those services and levels are being defined in multiple ways with multiple providers for multiple people. These changes are also taking place within the context of increased scrutiny through social media. So how does this impact customer service excellence?
But the five elements of customer service excellence still apply
In spite of these changes, individuals who make up business organizations will continue to turn to the service desk for support. The five elements of customer service excellence all play a role in the service desk’s response:
- Insight – Understanding customer needs and requirements and making capabilities clear
- Culture – Navigating the organization’s way of getting things done
- Information – Transparency and the free exchange of information with customers
- Delivery – Meeting and exceeding customer expectations and business goals
- Quality – Consistently delivering on promises made to customers
The complexity of the relationships between the service desk and its customers demands better communication, collaboration, and knowledge sharing. Of course, one of the best ways to know whether or not your service is successful is to monitor customer feedback. But there’s another step, and it’s the one so many service organizations miss: Act on the feedback. Of course no organization can do something with every suggestion, but organizations that are not achieving service excellence generally have an annoying habit: they ask for feedback and then ignore it.
Don’t ask customers for their opinion if you’re not going to listen, assess, and improve service and customer service excellence accordingly.
Then automation enters from stage right
As the relationships between and among the service desk and its multiple customers become more complex, automation is beginning to make some headway. Although self-service knowledge has become more popular, many of the knowledge bases created are not written from the customer’s viewpoint, and have suffered in terms of adoption. Cognitive systems can play an important role in providing non-human assistance in finding the right information for customers without engaging frontline support in repetitive, non-value-added interactions. If Level 0 is unassisted support, Level 0.5 is where automation begins to assume useful duties in support.
Is all of this customer service excellence work worth it, or does service management just back away from customer relationships and leave things at “good enough”? It’s up to your organization to decide.
Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. In addition to many other lists, he was named one of the “10 ITSM Experts to Follow” by BMC Software, and one of “The Top 50 Customer Service Experts of the Decade (2010-2020)” by Nextiva in May, 2020. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his former role as Group Principal Analyst at Informa Tech, he acted as in-house subject matter expert for HDI and ICMI, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business.