3 listening posts every IT support team should have

Have you ever come across the word “omphaloskepsis” before? It means “contemplation of one’s navel”. Yep, navel gazing. Excessive contemplation of oneself at the expense of a wider view.

IT support teams can be a bit guilty of that. Over-contemplating processes and tools. You want to improve service so you look at your processes and use ITIL as a source of inspiration. And you look at your ITSM software and use its capabilities as a source of inspiration.

But if you want to improve service – in any way that’s meaningful to your customers – you have to look outward too. You have to understand what your customers think of the service you provide. Where do they need you to improve? Getting feedback from customers is critical to improving service.

But how do you go get feedback in a way that balances the cost of gathering that feedback (and intrusion on your customers time) with the value you derive from it? Every support team needs three listening posts, or ways of gathering customer feedback. Let’s look at each one:

Listening Post #1 – Transactional Surveys

Transactional surveys are the surveys you issue when you’ve closed a customer’s ticket. When you close a ticket your ITSM system should send an email to the customer asking them for feedback on their experience. This real-time feedback is ideal for:

  • Coaching support team members. For someone in a customer-facing role, there’s no feedback more relevant and powerful than that from the customers they provide service to.
  • Proactive alerting of (dis)satisfaction issues, giving you a chance to turn a bad experience into a positive one and avoid costly (in terms of both effort and reputation) escalations.
  • Providing a more holistic measure of service quality than just time-based response and resolution SLA measures.
  • Identifying themes in verbatim feedback to identify and prioritise performance improvement initiatives for your support team.

Avoid making these rooky mistakes:

  • Don’t spam ‘frequent flyer’ customers with too many survey invitation emails.
  • Make sure your customer knows which ticket they are being asked to provide feedback on.
  • Ensure you can link customer feedback to a ticket number so that (1) you have the context for the feedback and (2) you can segment your feedback analysis based on data in your ITSM system (e.g. which customer department is most unhappy?).

Listening Post #2 – Relationship surveys

Relationship surveys are more generic surveys, usually issued once a year to all your customers.  They ask customers for feedback on what you’re doing well and what you’re not doing so well. This feedback will be based on their collective experiences, in contrast to the transactional survey which asks them about a particular interaction.

If you use a Net Promoter-style survey, responses to the “What’s the number one thing you’d like us to improve?” question are extremely useful as input to your service improvement strategy. Simply look for the themes mentioned by the highest number of customers and you’ll be able to identify the improvement initiatives that will give you the biggest bang for your service improvement dollar.

If your IT support function is one of a number of teams providing service to the same group of customers, one survey can be used to cover all . Some feedback will be related to IT support, and some to those other functions, and that’s okay. Better that you segment your findings after you’ve collected and analysed the data than hit your customers with multiple relationship surveys.

Surveys are a very quick and cost effective way of gathering data from a large group of people. However, in the case of gathering relationship-based feedback, there is a small group of stakeholders that you will probably want to speak to face-to-face (or at least on the phone) in lieu of a survey. The most senior stakeholders (influencers or decision makers) within your customer base.

Listening Post #3 – Compliments, complaints & suggestions

Transactional surveys enable you to capture feedback at the completion of a specific support transaction.  And relationship surveys capture feedback about absolutely anything that’s important to the customer. But you typically only run relationship surveys once a year. What about feedback that a customer wants to give you right now (“my ticket has disappeared into a black hole!”)?

For this you can use a Compliments, Complaints and Suggestions form. You can publish this as a hyperlink wherever your customers will see it – your website, intranet, email footers or printed material.

Make sure you capture your customer’s contact details so you can thank them for their feedback and, in the case of a complaint, attempt to recover the situation. As with transactional surveys, it’s a great idea to set up alerting so that you can be notified of a complaint right away rather than only reading about it weeks or months later.

 

Regardless of how you’ve collected feedback, it’s important that your customers know their feedback is being put to good use. Be sure to thank customers for feedback (good and bad), share what you’ve learned from it, and communicate the improvements that you’ve got planned and have implemented as a result of their feedback.

The stronger the link between action (providing feedback) and results (things are getting better), the more willing your customers will be to ignore their survey fatigue and continue to take the time to tell you what they think.

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