ITIL® Service Delivery: How to Meet Customers in the Middle and Stay on Task

How many times have you received a request from a customer only to have to repeat the process or do additional projects afterwards? Often my students lament that they will have completed a service request only to have to return to the same project again and again. Part of the problem is that we may complete an IT request without delving deeper into what the customer’s expected outcome is. We need to focus on what the desired outcome is.

To remain competitive, ensure customer satisfaction and encourage growth in our key capabilities, we need to be able to build processes as part of our service initiation to ensure when services are built and delivered, and that they are fit for purpose and use. The development of these processes is not going to happen overnight. But processes need to be in place to ensure that the IT service provider gathers all the right requirements by asking the right questions to ensure that we deliver the right service.

When identifying the outcomes, managing perceptions and preferences becomes very important. I often get asked which is more difficult to manage, and I would say it really depends on your services you deliver, the market in which you operate and more importantly your attitude to customer service. In my experience, I’ve seen perceptions having a stronger foothold on the value of the service being delivered and this is due to the fact that perceptions are difficult to quantify, but this should not be used as excuse to avoid managing it.

However, we have to appreciate those perceptions and preferences can influence each other. For example, if you do not meet customer preferences this could have an impact on customer perception of the service being delivered.

Keep in mind that the outcome customers want may not encapsulate everything that customers think they want, need, or realize they’ll need in the future. For example, I remember a customer asking for a Laptop to check there emails while on the move, but the outcomes were not clearly defined or mapped onto the role of the customer. It turned out that the customer actually required a blackberry device, as they were always on the move and required instant access to emails.

So how do you predict what customers will want in the future, if they can’t tell you? Outcomes can be identified through careful market research, customer service reviews (from other customers using the same service), and a strong understanding of the product, and other forms of engagement like the running of workshops / forums with key stakeholders.

Once you build the right processes in place and create a solution for achieving the customer’s desired outcome, it will save you money in the long term. Imagine constantly re-designing services as customer requirements not being met first time. It’s not just the cost within IT but with the cost of losing the customer and damage to the reputation of the IT service provider. By spending time with the customer to identify the outcomes not only will services have a better possibility of meeting requirements the first time but the perception of IT will improve. This is a crucial intangible benefit.

If decisions are constantly made that place the IT service provider ahead of the customer, we open the risk of losing customers (especially within a competitive environment) or internal customers (within a particular business unit) bypassing IT altogether. For example, we may provide a service for emails, but customers can only access the service at work, despite requirements being raised to ensure the service can be accessed via home. If we are not meeting the needs or ignoring them (without a business justification), then potentially emails may start to be sent through private email accounts as customers will find another means to meet there requirements.

By no means, am I suggesting offering everything the customer wants. We must be reasonable and straightforward with them about what can be achieved. Where their requirements cannot be delivered, we need to ensure we provide business justification or this will end up causing additional costs and risk to the organization, as customers will try to bypass restrictions.  The management of customer expectations and ensuring that we appreciate the right means of communication is linked to the art of engagement which I’ll discuss in a future blog.

What’s your experience with customer service delivery? Post your comments and share your ideas here.

Learning Tree offers a variety of courses on ITIL service delivery. I recommend starting with ITIL® Intermediate Qualification:  Service Strategy. Check it out and see what you think.

Hitesh Patel

*ITIL® is a registered trade mark of the Cabinet Office

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