The Applicability Of ITIL Outside Of IT


For those of you that put up with my tweeting on Twitter, you will already know that I am obsessed with customer service. Or to be more accurate, I am obsessed with being treated like a customer. While a polite Englishman at heart, I am not prepared to tolerate poor customer service. In the words of David/Bruce Banner, “You won’t like me when I am angry.”

“But what has this to do with ITIL?” I hear you screaming at your screen. Please bear with me as I recount last Saturday night and Sunday morning (thankfully there is no link to the film of the same name).

Last weekend I spent a single night at a “chain” hotel. The customer service upon arrival was excellent, on the back of my loyalty card I received a room upgrade and complimentary soft drinks and chocolate bars in the room. Ah, the world was good and I was “living the dream.” I felt like a valued customer. Fast-forward to the following morning and the picture couldn’t have been more different.

During the night the room had been so hot that it was difficult to sleep. “You should have turned down the heating or opened the window,” I hear you cry. Check and check. The wall-mounted thermostat made no difference. The window, somewhat morbidly, had been screwed shut. I didn’t call down to reception as I couldn’t face a handyman/woman messing around in my room in the middle of the night (if they were actually available).

Anyway, as I checked out the following morning I waited for the “how was your stay, Mr. Mann?” question. Sadly, it wasn’t posed. I just had to awkwardly spurt out “I would like to make a complaint” in a somewhat Hugh Grant stylee (we Brits really aren’t built for complaining, thank heavens I am a “European mongrel”).

Cutting to the chase, it seemed that it wasn’t only my room that had this “heat” issue. They all did, and it was a known issue (the air conditioning was broken); one could argue it was a “major incident” that needed to be managed. I did my “usual,” bombarding the poor staff member with a "barrel-load of awkwardness." But I believed my POV was right, that is that as they knew about the issue when I checked in it should have been communicated to me. They should have also offered some workarounds such as the provision of a fan or just sending someone around the rooms removing the screws so we could at least open the windows.

I tried to explain that I didn’t come to the hotel for a room but rather for a “good night’s sleep away from home” service and that they had failed to provide this, but I think it was a little too abstract for them to comprehend.

IMO, this is very much a product rather than service-based view on the hotel’s part. It is a shame as the entry and exit procedures were great; with the “exit” a quick chat with the duty manager who was very apologetic and offered a free night’s stay straight away (by the look of her notebook I was at least the third person to have seen her that morning re the issue and it was still early). She and the hotel were prepared for the complaints with preprinted complimentary night vouchers in hand.

Ultimately, however, I wanted service not “service credits.”

I booked the hotel to get a good night’s sleep and they failed. ITIL, even with its faults, would have worked well here. Firstly with the hotel’s service-orientation (aren’t hotels meant to be a service industry?) and secondly with dealing with what was a major incident. All I wanted was to be informed, my expectations managed, and evidence that workarounds had been offered and affected. The fact that the air conditioning was to be repaired Monday meant little if nothing to me. It was a big fail and I expected so much better from this “chain” hotel.

What can I&O learn from this? A lot, IMHO.


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Am I allowed to comment on my own blog?

Caveat - when I refer to ITIL above, I am thinking of the parts of ITIL that people actually use rather than the 26 processes of ITIL 2011.

That comment

is what's known as jumping the shark

Glad to see ...

... that you are now authorized to post comments.

Death to service credits

If anything,in the IT industry, the overall impact of service credits can be a reduction in QoS, and increase the cost to the customer. Why? Well partly because for both customer and supplier they can reduce the fear of failure, partly because some suppliers are known to build the cost of probable service credit payouts into their contract cost, or to recoup it via chargeable contract changes, and if they don't then the cost of the service credit hits their margins and makes the account unattractive.

It is interesting that you start the anecdote with the loyalty card experience. I believe that as an industry we have not fully explored incentivisation from either the supplier's or the customer's perspective. But of course as with service credits the point remains that the fundamental service you wanted was a good night's rest to dream of ITIL. I find the Kano model quitre useful for getting this message across.

The really sad parallel with the world of outsourcing is that so often suppliers focus on delighting clients before the contract is signed, and in the six months before the contract is due for renewal, but not during the period when the contract shoud be delivering real value.

I should stress that I have not seen TCS indulge in any of the above behaviours, and also that in suppliers where I have seen it happen the fault has lain with the account team rather than the delivery team.


I am not sure about the applicability of ITIL on IT yet!

Excellent ...

... I think that gave me one of the biggest grins known to man (or at least to Mann).

Disagree completely - ITIL would NOT have helped

Stephen - clutching at straws to make ITIL fit - what would have worked would have been bog standard customer service, customer experience management, or outside-in thinking. None of which are in ITIL. ITIL would have had to going to the self service kiosk and recording your own incident, only to return it because the 242 field were not correctly filled out.

Traditional ITIL would have added services in the language of the hotel in year 2 of the project and launched it in a catalog you had to access via an obscure channel on your tv. Where in ITIL have you seen the customer facing processes... they have only just put the life paddles back onto business relationship management! I for the life of me have yet to find anything in 2011 Edition that explains how to sit down and interview a customer and understand their expectation, what release their emotional genie from the bottle, and what experience they would accept.

Lastly, ask any ITIL fannie what 'service recovery' means as a term and where it might be found in ITIL. They will likely explain its about infrastructure (ICT) and suggest availability management. Its not - its exactly what you wanted - the recovery of the customer relationship and hopefully loyalty following a muck up. Its actually (customer) recovery in the outside-in world....

I will put your ITIL reference down to an ambien moment...

You are correct ...

... when I wrote and tweeted the blog originally I admitted to abusing the word ITIL to get more attention. Sad but true.

Here is the tweet ...

Admission: my latest blog should have had #ITSM in the title but I am playing the "everyone reads about #ITIL" game.