6 ways to deliver better service and reduce support costs

Imagine if there was a way to improve customer service and reduce support costs at the same time.

Well, there is.

When Sprint went from being the worst rated telco for customer satisfaction to the best, it reduced its customer care costs by about a third ($2bn a year).

Who said you can’t have your cake and eat it too!

My vision is to stop the Service Desk being the brunt of so many “helpless desk” jokes. I’m going to make ‘The IT Crowd’ unfunny. But one hurdle comes from inside IT. I often talk to CIOs who express their concern that improving service is at odds with their objective to keep IT operating costs down. They see good service and a lean budget as polar opposites. They’re not. Delivering a good customer experience costs less than a bad one.

Here are six ways that you can have your cake and eat it too:

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How to foster a customer-centric culture in IT support teams

“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve” – Bill Gates

To create a customer-centric culture, customer facing support staff need plenty of feedback to ensure their behaviours are aligned with the culture you want to create.

Typically, the performance of Service Desk and support staff is assessed via a combination of call monitoring and metrics such as ticket closure rate and performance against SLAs. But performance feedback based on these sources doesn’t take the customer experience into account. Only your customers can judge that.

Customer feedback is therefore critical to the performance management process and critical for creating a customer-centric culture. Support staff need to understand what good looks like and feedback from customers provides clear examples of good and bad customer experiences.

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4 reasons why you need a customer feedback process

All but the most backward-looking IT teams have accepted that they’re a service provider, not a guardian of technology whose job is to stop pesky users from breaking their toys. Internal support teams now see their colleagues as customers and ITIL has been instrumental in this. After all, you can’t have a service without customers, right?

ITIL is a process-oriented framework and ITIL-based initiatives revolve around the design of processes and implementation of those processes within an ITSM tool. Ironically, given ITIL is a service management framework, the resulting culture of service delivery teams is often process-centric rather than customer-centric. We’ve got service delivery process and service delivery tools nailed. But a service delivery culture. Not so much.

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How to use CIOPulse to measure IT support quality

Have you heard of the Watermelon Effect? It’s a rather common problem where service level status reports for IT support show that everything is green but the customer is still unhappy. Green (statuses) on the outside, red (angry customer) on the inside.

The Watermelon Effect - Support SLAs are all green, but your customer is still red and angry

Data from Forrester shows how prevalent this mismatch of perceptions is – there are about twice as many IT teams that think they provide great IT support than there are internal customers who feel they are getting it.

One of the causes of this problem is that Service Level Agreements are flawed. Typically, support service levels are measured on the basis of target response and resolution timeframes. But purely time-based measures are an ineffective indicator of the quality of IT support.

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Why CIOPulse won Service Management ‘Innovation of the Year’

According to Forrester research, there are nearly twice as many IT teams who think they provide great service than as there are organisations who feel they receive great service from their IT teams.

Forrest business vs IT perception of IT performance

On the plus side, this has given rise to classics like ‘The IT Crowd’ (“Have you tried turning it off and on again?”) and ‘Silicon Valley’ (“We’re making the world a better place through constructing elegant hierarchies for maximum code reuse and extensibility”).

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5 great reasons why IT teams should use Net Promoter

In case you’re not familiar with Net Promoter®, let’s start with a 1 minute introduction…

Net Promoter® is an open-source methodology used by 65% of the world’s top 200 companies to grow their businesses by increasing customer loyalty. At its heart is a metric called the Net Promoter Score (NPS®) that measures the willingness of customers to recommend a company’s products or services.

An NPS is calculated by asking customers a question along the lines of, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?”. Based on their rating, a customer is categorised as a Detractor (when they give a rating of 6 or below), a Passive (7 or 8) or a Promoter (9 or 10).  The NPS is then calculated by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. This results in a score ranging from -100 (all your customers think you’re rubbish) to +100 (all your customers think you’re the bee’s knees).

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8 simple steps for turning a bad IT customer experience into a great one

Before talking about how to deal with a bad IT customer experience, let’s talk a little about why you should deal with a bad IT customer experience.

Bill Gates once said that unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. And it’s true. If you provide IT customers with a channel for expressing their dissatisfaction they will complain about what’s important to them and give you the chance to fix it. It’s free consulting and it’s priceless.

It’s one of the reasons why transactional IT surveys are so effective. Transactional surveys provide a simple, timely way to capture IT customer experience feedback so that you can learn from it and act on it. Transactional IT surveys are a very good way of driving continual service improvement in IT support teams.

Another reason I like transactional IT surveys is called the service recovery paradox. The service recovery paradox is a well-studied phenomena that occurs when service recovery – the steps you take to rectify a bad experience – is done well. When service recovery is done well, the customer becomes even more satisfied than if there was no cause to complain in the first place. Every complaint becomes an opportunity to turn a bad IT customer experience into a great one,

So, when an IT customer complains, what should you do? Here are eight steps for dealing with a customer complaint effectively:

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What’s the best software to use for your IT customer support surveys?

IT customer support surveys are one of the two types of IT survey you should be doing if you’re serious about continual improvement. These are the surveys you issue continually as you close customers’ tickets. The periodic IT relationship survey is the second.

The IT relationship survey is concerned with ‘Overall how is IT doing and where do we need to improve?’. It helps reduce the risk of underinvesting in areas that are important to your customer and overinvesting in areas that aren’t. For these surveys, SurveyMonkey or Google Forms are just fine.

The customer support survey is concerned with ‘How well did we do when resolving that ticket and what do we need to do better next time?’. These transactional surveys give you the timely information you need to continually improve the IT customer experience and ensure you’re not suffering from the watermelon effect (your support SLAs are all green, but your IT customers aren’t happy).

Transactional IT surveys are a bit more complicated than IT relationship surveys and you have more choices about the software you use. Being successful at improving the IT customer experience starts with making the right software decision. You have four options:

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Are you managing the IT customer experience or ‘just doing IT surveys’?

So, you’re issuing surveys when you close a customer’s IT ticket. That’s great. It means you’ve got a mechanism in place to capture valuable feedback as customers interact with your support team. And you’re probably calculating some sort of customer satisfaction metric. That’s good too – you’re providing IT management with visibility into how you’re performing.

By my estimates, about two thirds of IT teams do what you do. But a growing number of these teams do a lot more than this with their customer feedback. And they’re the ones who are seeing the biggest improvements to IT customer satisfaction.

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