Customer service: the rise of the mix and match approach

Everyone’s familiar with the mantra ‘the customer is always right’. However, treating customers right across every support channel can be difficult as there are more interaction options available today, from phone and email through to chat and social media.

For CIOs, this is an opportunity to rethink how IT supports the business. Today’s IT departments have to consider that their own service to internal customers is being compared against other external suppliers and outsourcing providers. At the same time, expectations are being set by the support interactions that employees experience in the consumer world.

IT service management (ITSM) has developed over many years to provide best practices around how to support both internal and external customers’ business requirements. However, when most companies apply ITSM best practices, they focus on the nuts and bolts of providing support, rather than looking at how these changes are part of their wider strategic service capabilities.

>See also: Why the IT service desk is the key to digital transformation

As customers change their perceptions and expectations around IT, this provides a good opportunity to re-examine what service means within the company.

Frameworks like ITIL are concerned with how IT services are delivered back to the business, but they were originally created at a time when IT was typically one of the only teams providing technology support and service. Today, external cloud services and outsourcers jostle with internal teams for budget and IT presides over a patchwork quilt of different suppliers.

At the same time, more automation and self-service means that the role of IT is changing. The simpler requests, such as the password resets that used to be the ‘bread and butter’ work for Tier 1 support professionals, are now disappearing to be replaced by self-service portals and automated diagnostic tools.

For the user, this should improve their time to resolution (TTR), but for the support desk, it means a big change in how they measure success.

In previous years, quantitative metrics like TTR were used to describe how well a service desk was performing. With simple problems like password resets, TTRs were low as the issues would come in, be diagnosed promptly and get quickly closed again.

Following a shift to self-service, the number of issues should decrease, but the average TTR will significantly increase as many routine issues no longer require a support ticket. What remains are the difficult problems where resolution is not immediately obvious, or where the responsibility for a fix is not clear.

This change means that the metrics used to manage service have to evolve. Rather than the quantity of problems solved, the emphasis will have to be on the quality of service around getting the problem fixed. This can be more difficult to quantify for the service management team without the right approach to gathering data.

Introducing new channels for support complicates service metrics even further, as the expectations and performance can’t necessarily be compared side-by-side. New channels being used to raise issues include social media sites, from public forums like Twitter and Facebook through to internal tools like Chatter and Yammer.

However, there are other channels like chat technology that are also being used to manage support requests too. Support interactions may happen across multiple channels depending on how they come into the organisation and how they are responded to over time.

Mixing and matching these channels to meet the needs of the customer is therefore something that CIOs and service desk leaders will have to consider in the future. Logging interactions with customers and making sure that all activity is done securely will be just as important. This becomes even more complicated when third party organisations are involved within the support process.

One way that service teams can control the quality and security of service is to bring those third party contacts in when they are needed through remote access.

As an example, take an issue with a critical application that needs to be reviewed by a software vendor. Rather than relying on the vendor’s approach and technology to interact with the end-user, the service team can host and manage the interaction so that everything is done smoothly and securely.

This can include controlling the access to the network and then recording the session for future use if the problem comes up again. This ‘service concierge’ role is important for customers to feel that their issues are being handled appropriately and to get them resolved faster.

Another alternative is to look at the routing of issues in more detail. Rather than relying on Tier 1 support to take up the initial calls or emails and then hand over to the appropriate person when something more complex comes up, it’s important to maximise automated routing so that issues go to the person who can actually resolve them the first time. This approach reduces the dependency on Tier 1 support from the organisation.

>See also: Why a mobile workforce needs a mobile service desk

However, this does not necessarily mean losing staff for more automation. In fact, it should mean looking at upskilling people so that they can take on more specialised issues. More importantly, it provides an opportunity to get IT support and service staff out into the business more widely. This service analyst role will be critical for IT’s success in the future.

This change in approach can go to the heart of how IT thinks about itself. IT has always known that it is more than a cost centre that can only think about efficiency and cost reduction.

It’s important that IT is seen as an enabler and that investment in technology leads directly to service – and therefore business – improvement. This mindset change has to take place in the world of ITSM, too – from people to technology to metrics.


Sourced from Stuart Facey, Bomgar

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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