This week I have been travelling to see Forrester’s I&O Leadership Board (FLB) members in Paris and working on my I&O FLB workshop session for Orlando and London happening in October, titled ‘An Outside In Approach To Your IT Strategy’. During my conversations I have been discussing Forrester’s excellent new book entitled ‘Outside In, The Power of Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business’. It contains great insight and examples on how successful companies are adapting to the “age of the customer” by ensuring experience rich relationships.
So what does 'putting the customers at the center of your business' mean to I&O Professionals?
Firstly, we need to ditch the word ‘users’. It’s a dirty word in my vocabulary as it conjures up images of employees being ‘addicted’ to our IT services. Our employees are not going to go ‘cold turkey’ on us if they don’t get their corporate IT fix. They are our internal IT customers who have feelings, needs and wants plus are increasingly able to source their own technology services to increase their productivity.
Sorry but I’m “frustrated of Peterborough” (but not directly at IT for once). Having just come off a half an hour call with two “major credit card provider” customer service staff, I’m frustrated to within an inch of screaming at someone. In some ways this blog is my outlet (but there is interesting stuff eventually).
You might think I'm overreacting, however, when one’s time is so limited these days, it is difficult to rise above the fact that I wasted 20 of the 30 minutes most likely because the “major credit card provider” has off-shored its customer support to save money (please note that the off-shoring is an assumption on my part based on my interactions).
But what has this to do with IT?
Hopefully you didn’t need to ask this question … I had an issue with a credit card service; many have issues with corporate IT services. We all call up, we all expect a quick resolution, and many expect to be treated in a customer, rather than supplier, focused manner.
Oddly enough, I spoke about this exact point at the itSMFUK London Regional yesterday … from an IT service management perspective (well specifically a service/help desk perspective). That we are now too focused on the mechanics of things (tool and process, AND scripts) and that, in some ways by virtue of this, we have “dumbed-down” the IT service desk.
This is not intended as an insult to service desk people, they have a difficult job: a job where they day in, day out, deal with the fallout from IT failures and the potentially unhappy customers. In an environment where there is very little “good news” or praise.
Customers expect the same experience every time they interact with a company — whether it be when researching a product, completing a sales transaction, or getting customer service — over all the communication channels that a company offers. They also expect companies to have an understanding of their past purchase history and prior interactions. Finally, customers further expect that each interaction with a company adds value to their prior interactions so that, for example, they do not have to repeat themselves to a customer service agent when being transferred or when migrating from one communication channel to another during a multistep interaction.
How many companies can deliver a consistent service experience in this scenario?
Three fundamental elements are needed to deliver a consistent customer experience across all communication channels:
A unified communications model. Companies need to queue, route, and work on every interaction over all communication channels in the same manner, following the company business processes that uphold its brand.
A unified view of the customer. Each agent needs to have a full view of all interactions that a customer has had over all supported communication channels so that the agent can build on the information and experience that has already been communicated to the customer.
Unified knowledge and data. Agents need to have access to the same knowledge and the same data across all communication channels so that they can communicate the same story to their customers.
OK, so we all probably now know that the long-awaited ITIL “refresh,” ITIL v3.1 (or the ITIL 2011 Edition as it now seems to be called), is to be released on the 29th July 2011. But four years on from the release of ITIL v3 where are we exactly?
Let’s start with the provided facts about the updated version of ITIL. The ITIL Best Practice Management update points out that this is an “update” not a new version. Paraphrasing the update on the update, ITIL 2011 Edition is designed to:
Resolve any errors or inconsistencies.
Improve the ITIL publications by addressing issues raised to do with "clarity, consistency, correctness and completeness."
Address suggestions for change made by the training community.
Review the "Service Strategy" publication to improve accessibility and understanding.
The right knowledge, delivered to the customer or the customer service agent at the right time in the service resolution process, is critical to a successful interaction. When done correctly, knowledge personalizes an interaction, increases customer satisfaction, reduces call handle time, and leads to operational efficiencies.
Embarking on a knowledge management project is hard. Concerns include:
Worries about cultural readiness and adoption. Many executives don’t understand how activities done by a knowledge team translate into real business outcomes and don’t support these programs with the adequate resources for success.
Concerns about making content findable. The best content is useless if it can’t be found when needed. “Findability” has to do with search technology, a solid information architecture, and giving users alternate methods to search for retrieving knowledge.
Questions about keeping content timely. Knowledge must be kept current, and new knowledge must be published in a timely manner so that it can be used to answer new questions as they arise.