14 Benefits of Enterprise Service Management

This is blog two of a four-part enterprise service management blog series. The first blog – The Perfect Storm Driving Enterprise Service Management – can be read here.

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While the use of IT service management (ITSM) by corporate IT organizations – to improve efficiency, effectiveness, control, and insight – has gained nigh-on global acceptance, many enterprises have yet to recognize that ITSM thinking, best practice, and technology is equally relevant to other corporate service providers.

If we jump back ten years, what is now known as enterprise service management was often little more than the use of the potentially-costly corporate ITSM tool in other business scenarios to get a better return on investment. These days, however, there are a number of compelling reasons for enterprise service management, with the IT organization assisting other business functions – such as HR, facilities, finance, and legal – to improve efficiency, effectiveness, control, and insight.

Selling enterprise service management to other business functions

Enterprise service management shouldn’t need to be a leap of faith by either the business as a whole or other business functions. Instead, the business benefits of enterprise service management should be articulated and sold.

These include:

1. Improved efficiency and reduced operational costs

Optimized processes, workflow, automation, and alerting can remove unnecessary manual effort and rework. This is added to when self-service and self-help capabilities are used by employees.

2. Self-service efficiencies and workload reductions

Employees can get to the solutions they need more quickly through self-help. Then this and the ability for employees to log issues and requests via self-service means fewer telephone calls to the service desk or the business function equivalent. The automated delivery of solutions and requests further adds to the potential labor savings.

3. A better ROI on the corporate ITSM solution investment

The more the people, and business functions, that use the ITSM solution, the better the ROI and per-user ongoing management costs. Also, depending on the business function systems that can be phased out, there is the potential for additional technology cost savings through business-function application rationalization.

4. Improved effectiveness

Using a fit-for-purpose ITSM solution for enterprise service management can help to ensure that all employee issues and requests are dealt with and, where possible, to agreed service levels. No more losing requests in personal email accounts or delays through the inefficiency of individuals.

5. Improved visibility into operations and performance

The use of ITSM technology lets staff and management understand what has been achieved and what hasn’t. It ultimately gives insight into the value that each business function provides and makes it easier for this to be communicated to customers and other business stakeholders.

6. Increased control and governance

Enterprise service management processes and enabling technology can be used to implement much needed internal controls and to provide insight into who did what when as well as higher-level reporting.

7. Better service and customer experience

Enterprise service management ups the corporate service provider game to better deliver against employee expectations across ease-of-use, self- service, service request catalogs, knowledge availability, and self-help, social or collaborative capabilities, anytime and anyplace access (to services and information), and people or customer- centric support.

8. The opportunity for improvement

Firstly, the increased visibility into operational performance from enterprise service management allows improvement opportunities to be identified. Secondly, the ITIL continual service improvement capability provides the mechanism for improvements to be managed and delivered.

9. Improved access and communication channels, plus more effective communication

Enterprise service management and a suitable ITSM solution bring a choice of access and communication channels including telephone, email, chat, self-service, alerts, and a broadcast channel via the self-service portal. Escalation and alerting capabilities also help to ensure that no ticket or communication goes unactioned.

10. Improved accountability, even across business-function boundaries

Not only does enterprise service management technology make it easier to assign and see responsibility and accountability within business functions it does the same across business functions. For example, some business services, such as the onboarding of new employees, require multiple business functions to work together to ensure that everything is delivered on time.

11. Better understanding of what services are needed and provided

Enterprise service management doesn’t have to be limited to support and change management. The ITIL service lifecycle can also be used to manage business function services from service strategy through to service operation, allowing greater insight into the services provided.

12. Standardization

This is not only business-wide, optimized processes but also a common way of working, a common look and feel, and a common service model for employees. It also offers the potential to provide a single point of service, no matter the service provider, companywide.

13. Improved collaboration within and across business functions

Not only does enterprise service management make it easy for work to be passed between individuals or groups, or to be worked on collectively, it also makes it easier for work to pass between different business functions.

Finally, there is also a benefit specific to the corporate IT organization. Not only is enterprise service management an opportunity for other business functions to benefit from ITSM principles and capabilities, it’s also an opportunity for IT to further demonstrate its business worth through its wealth of service management skills, knowledge, and experience and the provision of the technology to support business-wide service management.

This post originally appeared on the Freshservice ITSM and customer service blog site

14 ways to streamline and improve your customer support

For many corporate IT service desks, budgets are under pressure while end users and customers demand both increased efficiency and a better quality of service. Thus the streamlining and improvement of the service desk, and IT support overall, should now be a crucial part of any IT organization’s service desk strategy and roadmap.

However, finding ways in which to streamline and to improve the service desk can be difficult – especially when operating with limited funding and people. Thankfully though, innovations (and not necessarily new innovations) in the way customers communicate with IT or access its services, and new support technologies can provide an easier route to tangible service desk efficiencies and customer-facing improvements.

Many service desks already know they need to “do more with less”

A recent survey by the Service Desk Institute (SDI) – a professional body for anyone working in the IT service and support industry – highlighted the range of challenges that service desks are likely to face within the next 6 to 12 months.

Among these challenges was “facing a reduced budget and workforce,” but by far the most pressing concern for those surveyed was “facing the challenge of doing more with less.” This was the primary concern for 44% of respondents, scoring highly along with “updating current processes” and “embracing new ways of working.”

Addressing these challenges through customer-focused change

Streamlining customer support (i.e. making it work more efficiently as well as easier to access and use), along with taking a more customer-centric approach, is a realistic and viable way of facing these challenges as well as improving the customer experience service desks deliver.

There are already many approaches and technologies available to help corporate service desks in this endeavor, with many having their origins in the consumer support world. However, while these approaches and technologies are well-developed, and have been available for a considerable time, they are not as widely adopted by corporate service desks as they could or should be. As to why, well that’s probably a blog in its own right.

14 ways to streamline and improve your customer support

Below I list a high-level overview of 14 service desk opportunities. Subsequent blogs will dive deeper into each area – being written in the following order, unless readers post comments about the opportunities they would like to see blogs on first.

So here are the opportunities, and yes you’ll probably already be aware of, or even using, many of them but it’s good to see them as part of a bigger-picture view on service desk improvement:

1. Shifting left. This is moving support closer to the customer. And the closer it gets the more efficient, and hopefully less costly, it becomes. The shift to the left will use a number of the other opportunities listed here, and the SDI diagram below (from a new SDI report) is a high-level representation.

Shifting left and moving closer to customers

2. Using new ways to communicate. The service desk (or what was IT help desk) started with two primary methods of access and communication – the telephone and face-to-face “walk-ups.” Over the years it has evolved, adding email and web forms in particular. In 2015, however, there are a number of additional access channels to be considered, offered, and leveraged. These include social media, live chat, and self-service portals – with each offering different levels of customer service and a different cost profile.

3. Live chat. It’s instant messaging for IT, and it’s often used in conjunction with remote support technologies. End users might already use live chat outside of work to chat with friends or to quickly get product advice and support from an informed support agent – it can be a lot quicker than waiting in a telephone queue or for an email to be responded to.

4. Remote support. It’s exactly as it sounds – using technology to remotely connect to the end user’s device to support them remotely. Offering a quicker fix or the installation of new software, at a lower cost than sending out desk side support, and hopefully with a better customer experience too.

5. Self-service. The ability for end users to log their issues and to get access to new services themselves – but this is more than just an online storefront and shopping basket. Firstly, the real efficiency benefits will come from backend workflow and automation, and insight into demand and costs. Secondly, self-service can also include announcements, knowledge bases for self-help, online communities, password self-reset, and an access point for chat.

6. Service request catalog. Your IT service management (ITSM) tool might have a native service catalog but just populating it with IT products and services, then launching it to end users will probably not be enough for adoption success. Expect a long blog offering tips on this.

7. Self-help. It’s as simple as allowing end users to help themselves. It might be how-to guides, common fixes, workarounds for known problems, and even the use of YouTube videos for those that prefer visual rather than written assistance. Be warned though, self-help done badly can cause longer resolution times and a worse customer experience, at a greater cost to the business.

8. Offering a customer-facing knowledge base. It’s the backbone of self-help, created by a variety of people: internal technology experts, service desk agent resolutions, third-parties, and maybe even end users (say for unusual workarounds for new problems).

9. Knowledge management. Effective knowledge management will not only support the customer-facing knowledge base but also service desk agents and other IT staff – as it’s impossible for service desk agents, in particular, to know everything about every corporate technology. Sadly, struggling to source the right information when needed can be a real productivity killer wherever you work. And don’t expect knowledge management to be limited to the creation and use of documented knowledge articles – sometimes the best knowledge management is just knowing who to speak to and how to contact them.

10. Empowering super users. In the 1990s these were the people who used personal productivity products, such as Microsoft Excel, more than most and who could offer advice to less-frequent users. The same principle can be applied today, this time leveraging business application super users and the power of online communities. However, as with self-help as a whole, ensure that being a super user isn’t at the expense of the end user’s day job – especially if super users get more recognition for, and adulation from, being a super user than they do in their real role.

11. Social IT. This could be a number of things supported by a variety of social technologies. Such as private online communities or internal Facebook–like walls, via the native social capabilities provided by ITSM tool providers or third-party corporate social technologies. Ultimately it’s about providing additional access channels to IT support and hopefully quicker resolutions.

12. Gamification. On the face of it, it’s about making work fun – in this case working on the service desk or contributing to knowledge bases and communities. Look deeper and you’ll see that it’s really about driving the right employee behaviors and improving team performance.

13. Integration. Your ITSM tool doesn’t have to be a data island in a sea of corporate IT systems. Nor does it have to provide everything you need for IT support and IT operations management. What it does need though is to have the ability to integrate with, and to benefit from the capabilities of, other IT and business systems.

14. Getting more out of your existing ITSM solution. Pause to think for a minute about everything you asked for in your ITSM-tool RFP, and then everything you bought when you invested in that shiny, new service desk or ITSM solution. There must be so many capabilities that you’ve still to benefit from. Ask yourself why – is it not understanding what’s available, a lack of training, a lack of resources (financial or people), or that the capabilities while suitable on paper are just too hard to use in anger? With the first three you can look to better your service desk’s efficiency, effectiveness, and customer experience through a potentially minimal investment.

All bar points 4, 6, and 12 are explained in more detail in a new SDI Report called “11 Ways To Effectively Streamline Your Customer Support” which can be download from here. The SDI report also offers advice on three other improvement opportunities:

1. The principle of call avoidance

2. Lean principles

3. Automation

So please check it out to see how you could be improving your customer support. Also please look out for future blogs in this series.

 

This blog was originally posted on the Freshservice ITSM and customer service blog site.

What do companies really want from ITSM?

Over four years ago I posted a question on Quora – a question-and-answer website founded by two former Facebook employees at the height of the social media technology boom. It’s a site that I no longer visit (you might understand why when you get to the third section below), but I still get the odd email update to remind me that it still exists.

The question? Something as simple as:

“What do enterprises really want from IT service management (ITSM)?”

Well I say that it’s a simple question, in reality it’s a pretty difficult question to answer, or at least to get a consistent answer on. I provide exhibits A, B, and C below.

A. Sensible answers

The “sensible” answers ranged from the IT benefits of ITSM:

  • “Ensure the required level of availability and continuity of services” and other technical facets of improving IT service delivery
  • “Lower help desk costs through self-service” and other cost saving points
  • “Higher quality of service, faster response time, less downtime (real or perceived), open lines of communication to end users – all at lower overall cost to IT”
  • “It’s not enterprises who want ITSM; it’s the IT departments who have a need for ITSM to be able to perform their jobs in an increasingly complex technological environment”

To a laser focus on business-outcomes:

  • “To support the objectives of the business”
  • “ITSM provides a way for the business to better interact with customers, helps the business run better, and increases profitability”

Plus the two that I dive deeper into below.

B. Not-so-helpful answers

And then, as with any public arena available to people to write or cut-and-paste information, there were the regurgitated strings of management buzzwords that are often unintelligible on the first, second, and even third reading.

I know it’s wrong to point at things that were offered up by way of helping others, but do statements like this really help anyone:

  • “Enterprises really want that ITSM to deliver the services and values with respect to hardware, software, suppliers and processes so as to drive the business performance” and “ITSM offers an innovative platform that is cloud-based and highly flexible for mobile with an intuitive, beautiful, people-centric user experience that makes your whole organization more productive”
  • “ITSM is really a process-based exercise intended to line up the delivery into technologies services (IT services) along with needs from the business, emphasizing advantages to clients”
  • “Enterprises want out-of-the-box solutions to be taken during the process break down, based on ITIL approach”?

I personally think not.

C. The more “considered” responses

There were thankfully answers that make you pause to think for a moment. There were more than two, but I really like the following pair.

David Moskowitz, an IT consultant and mentor, offered up an interesting retort to other posts:

“I don’t think most (IT) organizations really know or understand what ITSM is or represents. If they did, the focus would be on customer outcomes and value, not anything measured or reported in technical-related language.”

David continued to add a layer of detail as follows:

  • “So the IT folks talk about availability and the business-side doesn’t care; the business side is interested in productivity and business process
  • IT folks talk about service desk costs, or incident response times, or problem analysis and the business doesn’t care. The business is interested in the impact IT has on productivity
  • IT (if it was really ITSM-focused) would be able to quantify the value IT provides to the business. How many IT organizations can actually do that?
  • What the business wants is for IT to support seamless interaction with customers, make it easier to get work done, provide a competitive differentiator, support business outcomes, and provide more business value. I don’t think most IT folks really grok that idea”

Later Charles T. Betz, an IT architect, strategist and advisor, offered up:

“I can define IT in terms of the history of computing (Babbage, Lovelace, Turing, et al), but I find it difficult to distinguish between IT Management and ITSM. With that said, in general, enterprises need two things from IT:

  • They need IT to qualify them to compete (or operate) in information-rich environments.
  • They need IT to elevate their performance above competitors’ (or other relevant benchmarks), to the extent that enterprise performance is based on excellence in managing information.

It’s an interesting point from Charles. A point that makes one think that we might be doing ITSM a disservice by differentiating it from IT-provision and management as a whole. I bet some of you were suddenly reminded of the “IT silo” mentality that we speak of much too often.

“It depends on who is asking the question”

This was said, or referred to, a few times, but does it really depend? Do we need to dumb down an answer or to answer in the context of IT versus a business context?

I personally think not, in terms of dumbing ITSM down – to quote Albert Einstein:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”

And having a different answer for an IT versus a business audience? The fact that we would try to do this is probably why we have so many different answers related to, and most-likely confusion over, what ITSM really means to enterprises.

Surely we just need something simple and applicable to all audiences? I’m not going to spend hours perfecting a definition but I’m happy to throw out the line that ITSM is:

“Improving business performance through better IT delivery”

Which I’d like to think also answers the question: “What do enterprises really want from IT service management (ITSM)?” And yes, I could have added in words and phrases such as value, business outcomes, IT services, customer-centricity, lower costs, IT services and service management, and fit-for-purpose technology – but does either a business or IT audience really need to know this in a high-level explanation? I would personally argue not.

So what do you think?

This was originally posted on the Freshservice ITSM and customer service blog site.

11 Tips For Reducing Service Desk Agent Stress

A GFI IT Stress Survey, of 410 US and UK IT professionals, has shown a rise in IT admin stress for the second year running.

It was identified that:

  •  “In the UK alone, there was an increase of more than 20% in the affirmative answer to the question ‘Is your job as an IT admin stressful?’
  • In the US, only a 1% increase was registered, but 2014 levels were already quite high and currently stand at 78%.”

Source : GFI 

The latter in particular is a great statistic to know, but sadly not a great statistic for those who work in a corporate IT organization.

So what should IT senior management be doing about employee stress and its cause? However before answering this, we need to quickly look at why they should be concerned about stress. In my opinion, management, IT or otherwise, should be focused on the fallout from stress: a high employee churn rate and the cost of training replacements, dwindling performance levels and then the lower performance levels of new replacement staff, or the adverse effect of “unhappy” or unmotivated staff on the customer experience.

Starting to dealing with service desk stress

For me, like dealing with an addiction or anti-social behavior (and no, I’m not admitting to anything), the first step is to recognize that there is (potentially) an issue. That IT service desks in particular can be a stressful work environment. The second is to look at the root cause, or causes, of the issue, i.e. to look beyond the symptoms themselves. It sounds a little like problem management and the 12 tips expand upon this thinking.

As to the root causes of stress, the GFI survey has kindly already done some of the initial legwork but don’t assume that the causes will be the same for your IT organization. It could quite easily be something else such as the physical work environment or interdepartmental inefficiencies and friction.

GFI survey results: the main sources of IT worker stress

Interestingly the usual “holy trinity” of generic IT-pain and stress – insufficient budget, not enough staff to do the work, and unrealistic timeframes for both IT support and projects – aren’t the main culprits here. Instead the top two causes are:

  1. Management
  2. End users

 

Source : GFI

I assume that there was no choice related to the adequacy of IT processes or the technology used to support IT operations – two other commonly-quoted barriers to IT efficiency and effectiveness, and consequently to IT worker stress.

So people, not process or technology, are the main cause of IT worker stress

Again, there could have also been another option here, this time to flag co-workers as a cause of stress. Nonetheless the fact that management is the largest factor, followed by end-users is interesting. In some ways it’s surprising, but in others it’s not.

If you think about the aforementioned causes of stress – such as insufficient budget, not enough people, and unrealistic timeframes – these are most likely highly-influenced, if not directly influenced, by management, i.e. management decision making and the level of support are a big factor in successful service desk operations. And of course, end users drive volumes and the general workplace experience. As per my previous blog – Service Desk Improvement: 7 Tips For Managing Customer Expectations Better – end users might arrive at the service desk with a less-than-positive impression of IT. And who likes dealing with upset or angry customers?

So working on a service desk can be a tough job anyway – high volumes, which might lead to long days, and potentially less-than-friendly interactions – before we start to look at the root causes of stress.

Some other key findings from the GFI survey worth noting

The GFI survey also reported the following:

  •  In the US, the number of respondents experiencing stress-related illnesses increased slightly, to 27% from 25% in 2014
  • 38% of US IT staff regularly lose sleep due to work pressures; this goes down to 30 percent in the UK
  •  In the US, almost 50% of those surveyed said they work between 8 to 20 hours unpaid overtime per week. In the UK, the number rose from 25% in 2014 to 28% in 2015
  • In the UK, when asked if a career change was being considered, 68% of UK IT pros replied “yes” in 2014. In 2015 this number shot up to an incredible 89%. In the US the number went from 78% in 2014 to 81% in 2015
  • In the UK, 26% of respondents said that their work has strained or ended a relationship with a loved one or a close friend

This is enough bad news, so what can corporate IT organizations actually do about it?

11 tips for reducing service desk agent stress

There’s nothing new or innovative here – there doesn’t need to be. Instead these tips are logical and grounded in common sense. The important thing is to use them to do something tangible about service desk stress levels or the service desk working environment per se:

1. Recognize that stress could be an issue

Either for you as an individual or your service desk team. If you aren’t in a position (of power) to deal with this yourself, flag it to someone in IT who is (or your HR department).

2.  Find an internal owner for the issue

An owner who can ultimately bring about the required change. There’s no point in doing all of the necessary groundwork for positive change if whatever is planned fails in execution.

3.  Look to existing employee measurements for evidence of stress

This could be the regular corporate employee satisfaction survey, sick absence levels, or the service desk staff “churn” level. Compare the service desk statistics to the rest of IT and to the company as a whole. The last time I looked the average corporate employee-churn level was 7% but ask your HR department what it should be for your organization’s industry sector and for specific IT functions including the service desk (of course this figure will also ebb and flow with the economy).

4. Look for obvious, and less obvious, signs of stress with individual employees

While your service desk’s overall stress levels might be considered okay, some individuals might be suffering in silence. Ask your HR department to share, or advise on, the latest HR research on the signs of stress. This might include things like a drop in personal performance, increased sick absence, increased anger or emotional upset, or complaints about an individual from colleagues and customers (so also look to the text-based responses to low-scoring customer feedback responses).

5. Recognize that different people handle stress, or stressful situations, differently

Again employ HR experts to offer insight and maybe also to help create, manage, and review any assessment activities.

6. Conduct additional, anonymous service desk agent surveys

Try to get a true picture of the service desk working environment, stress levels, and possible causes. Also allow people to name themselves if they wish to be open and/or to get help.

7. Conduct formal exit interviews

The employees leaving your organization are a great source of free consultancy (with caveats around the reasons for leaving, e.g. if they were underperforming). So don’t let that free consultancy escape your organization unheard.

8. Don’t assume that all the issues are people-related

Service desk agent feedback might highlight that the service desk processes, or the IT service management (ITSM) tools that support them, are a cause of frustration, delay, rework, or the other reasons for people leaving work later than they should in an evening.

9. Don’t assume that you know the root cause or causes of employee issues

Before creating multiple choice options in a survey, speak to a number of “open” employees about what makes their job harder than it needs to be – you don’t even have to mention the word “stress,” just look for their ideas on opportunities to make their work life easier.

10. Act on the survey!

It seems a silly thing to state but I imagine that many employees think that internal surveys are often something that “seems to be the right thing to do” but rarely leads to real change. I know I’ve completed my fair share of these doomed surveys in the past and plus it’s difficult to get busy people to complete any form of survey these days.

11. Realize that this isn’t a one-time thing

Once you address the main key causes of stress, or discontent, no doubt others will rise, or be born, to take their place.

So, there you have it – My 11 tips for reducing service desk agent stress.

The survey might not reflect your organization’s stress levels but it’s at least a good launchpad for a related conversation. If you subscribe to industry analyst firm content and advisory – firms such as Gartner, Forrester Research, etc. – download their “happy workers = happy customers”-related research to add to the cause. Reducing employee stress might not only benefit the affected employees.

Remember that I’m in no way an expert in the “matters of HR,” so please don’t take all my points to heart without consulting, or even better involving, your company’s HR professionals. And who’s to say whether your organization will eventually do anything about it, but it’s worth a try rather than suffering in silence. Especially if your best service desk agents are leaving, taking their skills and knowledge with them.

There you go – What would you add and what would you disagree with?

This piece was originally published on the Freshservice ITSM and customer service blog site.

Service Desk Scripts: When Great Customer Support Turns Bad

This blog is about a personal customer support experience with a very successful online retailer and what IT support organizations can learn from it. But don’t get me wrong, I love this retailer and I’ll often pay a little bit more to buy an item from them for the convenience, in particular the “1-Click” feature, and the comfort of knowing that the post-sales support and customer service will be great.

This is of course in the context that things rarely go wrong with my purchases from this retailer. But, when they do, I know that they won’t quibble over a replacement or refund. The only exceptions being issues raised after 30 days, when they consider the manufacturer responsible. Although, I’ve always imagined that, if the manufacturer failed to play ball, the retailer would step back in to resolve the issue.

So the retailer gives me great service (and often great prices) and I keep going back. However, a recent support experience with them reminded me of the need for greater “intelligence” in, and empowerment of, IT service desk agents when dealing with end user issues.

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It started with amazing customer service

I’d bought a large and heavy item from the retailer three months earlier – it was larger and heavier than me which is saying something. It was delivered vacuum-packed, so while the weight was an issue in moving it the size wasn’t.

Unusually it had taken me three months to finally admit that there was something wrong with it and I wondered what I could do. I didn’t expect them to give me a refund as I’d used it for three months. But I didn’t want to contact the manufacturer as the online customer reviews told stories of customer support issues, and I imagined a protracted conversation around what was wrong with the items and the available recourse.

Instead I chose to contact the retailer – hoping that they might at least give me a partial refund to put towards a replacement. To my surprise, they offered me an immediate replacement item – it was efficiency and customer service at work. However, I “chanced my arm” and stated that I’d prefer a refund to buy an alternative product. It was quickly given, and I bought a replacement – from the same retailer of course.

But then things started to go wrong, despite the continued efficiency and customer service from the retailer’s customer support.

Returning a large, heavy item should have been easier

As per the retailer’s policy I needed to return the faulty item. In case you were wondering, it was a mattress that required two people to bring it downstairs – so there was no way I could take it to my local post office to return it. Nor did I have a bag large enough to put it in. A quick email and the retailer was straight onto my issue – they had arranged a collection. Let’s call it collection #1.

Collection day arrived and I was looking forward to getting the monster item out of my way. However the driver took one look it and said that it wouldn’t fit it his van. Another quick email to the retailer and another collection, collection #2, was arranged. Collection day # 2 came and, you guessed it, the driver said that the item wouldn’t fit in his van.

Now I’m not a patient man when it comes to people wasting my time but for some reason, I guess it must be my love of the retailer, I didn’t get angry. Another email and the retailer arranged collection #3, this time with the logistics company that originally delivered it. Plus they requested two delivery people such that I wouldn’t have to help carry it to their van. Things were looking up.

Collection day #3 arrived, as did the two delivery guys. It all looked great then, as I was filling out the paperwork, one of the delivery guys said “We can’t take this, it’s not in a bag.” You can imagine my fake smile before another email to the retailer asking that it be collected as-is, i.e. with no bag. There was no reply but collection #4 was arranged. Sadly though, it was a repeat of collection attempt #3 – they came, they saw, and they went away empty handed. I could just about see the funny side of this still – thankfully I’m a home worker otherwise I’d have needed a lot of days off work.

I emailed again and the retailer said that I should put it in a bag – even though I’d mentioned that there was no bag before collection #1 and again before collection #4 and hadn’t been an issue. The retailer couldn’t provide one. However they would refund me for what I bought. One purchase from them later I’d some plastic sheeting to wrap the monster item in and, thankfully, collection #5 was successful.

Some point along the way I was given a £5 goodwill payment, a nice thought but I’d have paid £50 at that point for the monster item to be out of my house. I’d have also paid more than £50 not to have wasted so much time on the issue – time’s money as they say.

Oh and the icing on the cake – where I have to admit to getting a little angry – a week after collection #5 the retailer charged me for failing to return the item. Yet another email from me, this time a complaint for them to resolve this – which of course they did, as efficiently as usual.

The learning for IT

The retailer’s customer support staff were following the standard returns process – give refund, arrange for the item’s return. They were doing their job and probably hitting their individual and team targets. However, while they were efficient and polite they weren’t actually helping.

It’s no different to what can happen in IT. Imagine an IT support scenario where an end user has had three new hard drives fitted to their laptop and is awaiting a fourth – it never should have come to this (and it has happened). The end user is now rightly furious, not some much about the unreliability of the technology, but the fact that they’ve lost productivity due to the recurring issue. Someone should have broken the cycle – they should have understood that pursuing the same solution wasn’t working and then tried something different. In this case providing a new laptop on the assumption that the issue was with something other than the original and three new hard drives. It was the intervention I made when faced with this angry end user.

To do this, service desk agents need to have a certain level of “intelligence”and capability that goes beyond telephone etiquette, the ability to read a script, and an understanding of how to use the service desk tool. They need to be empowered to use their initiative as needed, rather than blindly following the script, without blame or them failing to meet call handling targets. Unless, of course, hitting service desk efficiency targets is more important than helping end users get back to work.

And it’s not just about the end user, customer service and productivity, perspectives. What does it cost the service desk to keep following scripts when they don’t work? In this instance, service desk and then desk side support people costs, plus the new hardware costs. Add these to the lost productivity of the affected end user and the service desk’s replace, replace, replace approach has to be a more costly. Service desk scripts can save money but they can also cost – and not just in terms of IT costs. The important thing is to understand when a script won’t work or isn’t working, in particular when the script-following is making things worse.

So do your service desk agents behave “intelligently”? You never know, they might do if you let them.

This piece was originally published on the Freshservice ITSM and customer service blog site.

Managing Customer Expectations – Part Two

In my previous blog post, I talked about the impact of consumerization on customer expectations and looked a little closer into the varied expectations your customers may have from your service desk. In this concluding second part, I’d like to examine a few practices used by customer service leaders and suggest a few practical tips that you can use to  manage those previously discussed customer expectations.

To set or not to set formal end user expectations?

It’s not unusual for service desks to communicate the associate service level when sending out the post-incident or post-service-request-logging email. Which is great, but only if the customer reads the email from top to bottom. After all, who has time for that these days if an email looks to be an automated response?

Is it enough? Well I guess it depends on how many chase up calls and emails your service desk gets. And what sort of feedback you get in customer satisfaction surveys if you ask about resolution times or the service desk’s general efficiency. I’d personally bet, based on what I’ve already said about consumerization, that it isn’t enough.

Learn from customer service leaders

It’s so boring to hear so many examples of how Amazon does the whole service experience thing – but they do do it so well:

  • Pre-sale: You have a choice of products, user reviews to consider, explicit pricing, and delivery options (which then become expectations) even before you commit to purchase
  • Post-sale: If something is faulty they send you an urgent replacement and give you 30 days to return the defective item – so a minimum of waiting and downtime (if the purchased item is an immediate means to an end)

However, the Amazon service experience is so much more than this:

  • Notifications: If you require them, Amazon will send you notifications of impending dispatch, dispatch, and impending delivery
  • Real-time transparency: If the chosen delivery agent is DPD, say, then you also get an estimated time slot for delivery. Plus you are able to follow the driver on their route (as per the image below). Hell, DPD even tells you the driver’s name. And guess what, it works as well on your mobile device as it does on your desktop.

freshservice_customer_expectations

It’s all very 1984 but it does offer a great service experience, to those that want it, and raises the bar for other service providers – consumer or corporate.

7 tips for managing customer expectations better

So what can a corporate service desk do to better manage and deliver against customer expectations? Here are few practical tips that specifically relate to this blog’s content:

  1. Take a moment to think about the service experience that your service desk currently provides. Is it all about throughput volumes and reducing the time spent on tickets? Are service desk agents dealing with IT or customer issues? Ask customers what they think, especially employees that no longer contact the service desk – there could be a very good reason.
  2. Set agreed service levels that meet both IT’s “expectations” for handling issues and requests, and the customers’ expectations of delivery (with obvious caveats around cost, capability, and capacity). How many of your service desk service levels were set based on industry best practice, or a finger in the air by IT, rather than agreeing what is most suitable across your customer base?
  3. Use the available technology within your service desk or IT service management tool to best advantage, particularly to enhance access channels. You’ve most likely already paid to use it, so look to leverage capabilities such as chat, self-service, self-help, and communities to improve the service experience.
  4. Communicate service level resolution or delivery dates as much as possible. Not just in emails but also during live communications such as telephone calls and chat. Where possible, also alert end users to the expected timeframe when they’re using the service request catalog or self-service incident logging capability.
  5. Encourage customers to self-check their incident’s or service request’s progress using the self-service capability. This can be done as part of the initial contact or even when they contact you again for an update via email or telephone.
  6. Listen twice and talk once – thanks to Suresh GP for reminding me of this one. Ensure that the service desk agent is resolving the real customer issue not what they think the issue is (often based on available scripts). In my opinion, it’s one most common reasons for prolonged calls and inferior customer experiences.
  7. You’ll most likely never be an Amazon but at least recognize and consider the art of the possible when it comes to superior customer service.

Well, that’s a quick list of tips and I didn’t even touch on the customer-centricity side of things. If you want to read about that, then please click through to this blog: “Make Sure Your Technical Support Is Technical Customer Support”

This piece was originally published on the Freshservice ITSM and customer service blog

Managing Customer Expectations – Part One

There’s no doubt that service desk agents have a tough job – people only ever want to speak with them when they’ve an issue or if they want something. Then these customers have expectations around speed of response and delivery for both incidents and service requests, and a sense of entitlement in the case of service requests. For incidents, the end user/customer might already be annoyed, as their technology isn’t working and it causes them issues, before they call or contact the service desk via other means. For service requests, the sense of entitlement might be at odds with internal provisioning policy or financial status – they are going to get a “no” rather than what they want or need. So no matter how helpful, and efficient and effective service desk agent is the customer might not be in the best state of mind to appreciate it. A quick resolution will help, but what happens when the fix or the service delivery takes longer than expected? We get into the realms of managing customer expectations.

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Consumerization is driving up employee expectations per se

While many IT organizations still worry about the “consumerization of IT” and managing the risks associated with employees using their own devices, applications, and personal cloud services in the workplace, there’s a bigger issue related to consumer-service-driven expectations. These expectations, based on how we are treated as customers in our personal lives, can only raise the proverbial bar for corporate service providers, including the corporate IT organization and service desk, around service-based attributes such as:

  • Ease-of-use and access when engaging pre- and post-purchase or issue
  • Self-service, including service request catalogs and knowledge availability for self-help
  • Social or collaborative capabilities, including chat for both pre-sales and post-sales support, and communities
  • Anytime, anyplace, any device access to services, information, and help
  • Customer-centric support

So how well is your IT organization and service desk meeting these consumer-driven expectations? And if you have a self-service capability are your customers actively using it?

Expectations around access channels

These consumer-driven expectation can relate specifically to service desk access. The service desk of old, or what was probably called “the IT help desk,” started with two primary methods of access and communication – the telephone and face-to-face “walk-ups.” Over the years, service desk technology and its use has evolved, adding email processing and online forms next. In 2015, however, there are a number of additional access channels to be considered, offered, and leveraged by IT. These include social media, chat, and self-service portals that can offer incident logging, service catalogs for ordering, and self-help via customer-facing knowledge bases – with each offering different levels of customer service and, importantly for IT, different cost profiles. You might wish to introduce, or maybe have already introduced, these newer access channels to save money but you shouldn’t underestimate how much they are now an expected facility by your consumer-affected employees.

Expectations around service

How fast does your service desk respond to, and resolve, incidents and service requests? If it’s a first contact resolution then this point is mute, but for the other 30-50% of incidents and the majority of service requests (depending on the IT organization), the customer will have expectations around the delivery. Most likely expectations that are unrealistic – based on their consumer experiences rather than the agreed service levels. Nonetheless they are the customer’s expectations. These unmet expectations aren’t just another potential nail in the corporate service desk’s coffin (based on poor end user perceptions) they’re also the creator of additional work – as customers repeatedly call, or email, the service desk to get an update of when their issue will be fixed or their requirement fulfilled. And let’s not forget whether end users are treated as customers (their expectation) or just an asset, or employee, number. It’s all part of the service experience.

In the second part of this blog post, I’ll take a closer look at the practices of customer service leaders and explore how you can manage these customer expectations with a few practical tips.

This piece was originally published on the Freshservice ITSM and customer service blog