August 18, 2014

The IT Customer Service Revolution*

Businesses today are entering a “no-mans land” of sorts when it comes to defining what customer service means.  From what has been coined as the “Firewall Mentality” in IT (regardless of the ask, put your customer first or fail) to empowering the IT Customer Service Desk with more than simply scripts to read from, it is all changing because of the digital automation environment that we are now surrounded by.  The risk is you have to change too by putting your customer first, or your survival is in jeopardy.

At the heart of the issue is the simple fact that we as a service provider no longer control the message.  In the past, we would provide one page “cheat sheets” or a colorful website with common instructions on how to bold in MS Word, or how to reveal codes in WordPerfect 5.1.  In today’s day and age of constant and consistent connectivity through mechanisms such as social media, this process has flipped.  Consumers are now doing their own research before they even walk into a box store, or call/email for assistance.  Opinions from strangers who have left feedback on websites is now considered valuable.  If you are not customer-focused, the world hears about it at lightning speed.  So this is all great Mike, but how do I ensure I am delivering good customer service? 

Recently a company showed up in my LinkedIn feed called Medallia.  Normally I pass off the majority of sponsored postings, but this one caught my eye.  Their simple ‘About’ statement on their website, in my opinion, leverages exactly the concept of the new customer service experience.  “Medallia was started in Silicon Valley in 2001 on a simple premise: companies could leverage the power of the internet to improve the experience they deliver to their customers.”  In layman’s terms, a cloud based service that helps organizations understand how well or poorly they are delivering customer service.  And their customer base is a who’s-who of not just IT organizations, but global enterprises: Intuit, Wells Fargo, LaQuinta Inns & Suites, LEGO, and Zurich just to name a few.

The claim of their products is that they help their customers become more data centric, but also understand the data of the overall perception the public have of them.    They collect from a multitude of online sources such as surveys and general online discussions, massage it, and deliver the results in real-time through a variety of mechanisms to specific people throughout the organization.  These people in turn, can take a strategic or tactical approach to the data.  Other mechanisms are available within an “action phase”, which allows the organization to get down to the root cause of the issue, offer up ways to fix it, and essentially follow the problem through to resolution.

Too often we hear the phrase “become proactive rather than reactive” yet as an IT organization, we struggle on how to accomplish this.  We recognize this requirement; that fact is not revolutionary.  We establish internal processes to assist us through the majority of the scenarios, but lose our way when something veers off-script.  It becomes disruptive to our everyday business.  We need to grasp the customer service experience we are delivering.  Deviating from the set process is transferring from the exception, to the norm.  A better grasp on what customers want you to deliver, will improve the overall experience.  It is up to us as IT professionals to figure out how.

Analyzing the data, as it happens, is the first step I believe into improving customer service in today’s new era.  Engage in conversation with your customer, and listen.  Don’t offer up opinions during your initial discussions.  Listen to the problem first and foremost.  Give the customer a unique experience where they feel they are more than simply a number or a trouble ticket.  After all, without them, where would we be?

I’m Mike M.

* I do not endorse, nor am I compensated by any company or organization mentioned within this blog.  This is simply an opinion blog.  Any and all trademarks are the registered property of their respective owners.

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