A culture of service excellence is a required foundation for the evolution of your IT organisation. When we look at the IT maturity curve, it is a required element at stage 1, and if it doesn’t exist, you won’t be able to effectively move to stage 2.
Also, to be clear, a culture of service excellence does not mean that you have a process to follow in delivering client service. It means that the IT group has a consistent and professional image, good reputation, and is viewed positively by its clients.
These are the keys to developing a service culture:
1. Focus on client experience
Think of yourself as being in the hospitality industry. Your objective in a service culture is to leave your clients with a positive experience. This is distinct from the service you deliver.
There are 2 sides to the service excellence equation: hospitality and service. Service is what we do, the IT solutions we provide. Hospitality is the experience we leave our clients with.
Which do you think is more important? It is hospitality! What are the odds of having a service delivery problem at some point as an IT organisation? Nearly 100 per cent!
When we are good at creating client experience and showing our clients that we care, their level of understanding and forgiveness is much higher when a service issue does arise.
When I speak to organisations throughout Australia, I often ask for them to share an example of a time when they received great customer service and inevitably the examples are always ones when they feel taken care. Many times the examples I hear are ones where there was a service delivery problem but the way it was handled let them know they were cared about.
2. Think from your client’s perspective
To create a positive experience, we must be able to think from the client’s perspective. When we think this way, we all know what will constitute service excellence.
The problem that very often occurs is when we are delivering service; we start to think from the perspective of the person delivering the service rather than the impact is has from the client’s point of view.
I recently read a quote on LinkedIn that said, “Every CEO should have to call their customer service line once a day”. This would allow them to see what the experience is that is being created for clients on a daily basis.
Can you identify any customer service processes or behaviours that your organisation does that annoy or frustrate you when another organisation does the exact same thing to you?
3. Know your clients
Take your knowledge beyond just the technology requirements of your clients. Ask yourself: What are your clients concerns? What do clients think about when they are on their way to work in the morning?
They are not thinking about IT, they are thinking about their job, their role and what they need to accomplish. If you want to progress as an IT organisation and reach the level of being a ‘strategic partner’ or an ‘innovative anticipator’ the need for this knowledge becomes greater and greater.
Ask yourself questions like, “What don’t I know about my clients that I could know?” What are their business goals, strategies, objectives, and what changes are upcoming?
4. Define service levels to set expectations
The relationship between client expectations and client satisfaction is simple. When we meet or exceed client expectations, the client is satisfied. It is up to us as the IT organisation to set expectations early and manage them consistently with our clients.
One of the keys for doing this effectively is by setting, maintaining and managing expectations through the establishment of service levels.
For example, you may define 3 levels of service:
- Basic: Focus on a quick turnaround
- Enhanced: Focus on a quick turnaround and client convenience
- Premium: Focus on both of the above, plus anything else that is required as long as the client is willing and able to pay for it.
No matter which level is required to serve a client’s needs, all levels must be delivered consistently and as a quality offering. As an IT organisation you would offer all 3 service levels, remembering that none is better than the other. What determines the service level is the client need.
If, however, we don’t set and manage expectations, clients will expect “premium” service.
I haven’t met an IT organisation yet that has the time, money, energy and resources to deliver premium service to all people at all time.
Managing expectations though service levels will allow you to create satisfied customers without clients only expecting the highest level of service.
Lou Markstrom is the co-author of Unleashing the Power of IT: Bringing People, Business, and Technology Together, published by Wiley as part of its CIO series. Lou is currently the Practice Leader, IT Culture and Talent Development, at DDLS.
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