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EdifyIT Blog
08 Jan

"The customer is always right" was a mindset and business acumen for decades.  This has faded as the reality in this line of thinking could put you out of business. But have businesses gone too far and lost the focus of showing value to our customers after the purchase is made?  I believe they have.  Mega type retailers are radianting an attitude to the consumers that the consumers need them more than the retailer needs your business.  Unfortunatley this attitude spills over into the service industry causing a ripple effect of bad customer service.  

Eventually, a customer realizes cost reduction in itself isn't worth the stressful experience of being treated with a lack of an appreciation for their business. People like to feel and know their business is valued and business's should be concerned with how customers value their experience with their organization.

There are many markets of people thinking the same thing.  A red carpet or the white glove treatment isn't expected, but simple politeness in customer service goes a long way. Valuing your customers so they value your business leads to new opportunities, increase in revenue and more repeat business.  It's about retention and to retain long standing customers and referrals for new business, you MUST focus on the manner in which your customers are treated after the purchase is made. 

Businesses are dealing with larger volumes or more complex scenarios prompting more attention on the cost per call rather than the quality per call.  Soft skills are essential to attain and sustain an affordable cost per call that doesn't impact quality. Based on the increasing time it takes to reach a human on a service desk  there is a reality most people are avoiding, which is a lack of emphasis on the human element.  it's more important to speed through a customer interaction than it is to listen to what a customer is saying.  For example, Using scripting to dialogue is robotic stripping away the human element thats needed for the customer to have a positive experience with the customer service desk.

A customer service function supporting potential clients for a sales department, doesn't use much scripting and the focus is purely on the human element to ensure good customer service to win new business.  However, this same approach diminishes in the customer service function handling customers post sale. Satisfaction surveys are used but they arent' enough to measure customer service quality or to ensure customers are being treated with the appropriate human responses and appreciation. 

Metrics used to manage performance in a call center or service desk environment are not indicative to the quality of the agents performance.  The quality performance is indicative to the perceived value a customer has based on their experience when calling customer service.  The means to capture this and report on quality performance are minimal.  Call screening is the most advantageous way to capture what really is happening during a call with customers.  It isn't the most cost effective way but it does represent what is actually happening.  The recordings are useless. Let's face it, how often do you really go back to a recording to assess quality performance?  The recordings are archived and only retrieved for major customer disputes. Think outside of the box and set realistic measures on handling time that allow for sufficient listening and handling tasks appropriate to the specific reason for customer call or inquiry. 

Here's my take on good customer service. It hasn't died, hasn't retired and is strong as ever.  There are many companies succeeding and retaining customers in this competitive market.  Why? They are focused on VALUE when handling customers.  The competition is plentiful for consumers. There are many service providers and retailers offering same products and services. People are savvy and conscientious on where they'll spend their budgets.  It is crucial to be customer oriented and focused to survive in a competitive market of choices.  

Good Customer Service

Service providers need to step up their game in the realm of VALUE and manage value perception from their customers perspectives much more closely.  How can a service provider do this?  Here are 3 easy tips to upping the value perception to customers: 

1. Good communication isn't enough, it must be exceptional and a good portion of communication should be initiated by the service provider organization.  Communication training programs must be void of over scripting!  Scripting isn't what improves a first call resolution rate.  It hinders it.  Reevaluate the scripting and eliminate most of it. There is no possible way to script every possible scenario so get out of this trap. It is hurting customer service. 

Be proactive, ask each customer what value means to them and include this in the customer profile. Other ideas for keeping customers interested; maintain a weekly email letter or develop a customer information portal where customers can read the latest updates, research, tips and techniques to gaining the most benefits from using your organizations services or products. 

2. Train the Service Desk to listen to customers. Much time is invested in soft skill training and scripting not leaving sufficient time for Service Desk agents to LISTEN to what the customer is saying.  People like to talk to people, your customer is a human, improve the human experience without impacting call times by effectively training on lstening skills.   

3. Things break, services fail or slow down.  It is a part of life and things will go wrong.  Prepare and train on coping skills for the service desk. Be proactive in the coordination of actions to restore a customers service in a time efficient and quality manner.  Keep the status updates brief and initiatie them at standard intervals.  Be coordinated internally between functional groups to acheive a seamless front to the customer.  

The experiences of customer service continue to dwindle despite the maturation of technology and best practices available.  Technology seems to have taken over the human brain knocking out any semblence of common sense when it comes to servicing customers.  Remember, your customers are "humans" and will respond more positively to a human experience than fumble in the cloud of frustration with the sounds of mechanical humans, designed to sound real. (this happens too when agent is persistent to follow the script.)   

Customer focus and good service is improving and will bounce back even stronger over the next couple of years. By 2016, I predict there will be significant improvements on this front.  Businesses will take control back and focus their attention on being a human centric organization that uses  technology, rather than a technology centric organization using humans. 

21 Nov

There isn't a perfect time to step back and evaluate the true essence of how your organization defines and executes improvement initiatives.  Do it now! Break away from the continuous improvement cycle of defeat.  Most organizations have a laundry list of improvements they call Continual Service Improvement.  Combine the laundry list with common vocabulary published by ITIL® and you become an improvement rock star.  Well, toss this concept away and stop what you're doing. Just stop, look around and be honest on how CSI is working in the organization.

Of course I am not serious about throwing it all away or imply you should stop trying to improve. I am saying to focus on what is already in place for CSI and build it from there.  All the makings to succeed in CSI go much deeper than proper language and a laundry list of improvements, better known as a CSI register.  The CSI register and common language are the vehicles in which to communicate and capture improvement opportunities. What is most important are the pieces in the middle of CSI in order to keep it together.  CSI needs fuel to keep it together and flowing in the daily operations.  The fuel given to CSI is the energy required to continually be on the path of affecting improvements day in and day out. 

CSI is structured for simplicity when the organization truly has the same understanding on the overall objectives, priorities, and aspirations to what improvement means to the business of the organization.  What you put into CSI is exactly what CSI will return. Garbage in - Garbage out or Quality in - Quality Out, it is a choice.  For instance if the only standards put in place are a CSI register and common language, then there will be endless meetings reviewing improvements, discussing them over and over.  Everyone is communicating on the same platform but it becomes a merry go round of talking and/or making improvements that don't bring the business forward.  

Many times plans are developed and followed to make improvements, but for each plan ask the questions:

  • Is this the right improvement to invest in? 
  • What is the desired outcome? 
  • Does it align to the priority of the business need?
  • Does it bring the business forward in relation to cost, productivity or value gain?  

Most CSI programs fall apart soon after having launched.  The first issue is approaching CSI by instituting CSI as a program.  CSI is a process that is embedded into the organization, across the organization, governed by management and owned/managed by a single role.   People from the IT organization and business are appointed to CSI as a responsibility in part of their existing roles.

These are some major reasons why CSI work falls apart:

  • Over engineering or under engineering improvements
  • Lack of funds
  • Insufficient resources to carry it through
  • Inadequate job/role descriptions
  • Weak hierarchy between CSI Owner and roles responsible for CSI
  • Lack of continuity and or commitment to the Service LifeCycle (ITIL®)

Too often the drive of improvements come from various outlets that are disjointed on priorities and putting CSI work streams separate from the mainstream of day-to-day operations. When an IT organization is misaligned to the needs of the business, there are improvements and changes made in the environment which may satisfy a different need; for example, a fulfillment to the IT organization's personal goal to acquire something that would benefit their own gain that doesn't meet the desired business outcome or move the business forward.  The IT organization's role in CSI is to provide strategic alliance with the business and offer solution options to support the business moving forward in growth and competition.  This requires a strong focus on the middle of CSI which is the energy pipeline to succeeding with changes and improvements that return VALUE. 

The middle of CSI consists of process, activities and changes, controls, compliance, procedures, models, people resources, capabilities, tools, and communications.

 

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The middle item must align strongly in the organization in order to increase the vitality to see improvements made on a continuous basis.   CSI middle is a challenge in itself to coordinate and bring it forward where it is sustained in the day-to-day operation. 

 

14 Oct

CSI - You're Doing It Wrong

JAK2_PUBLISHED_IN Blog ,
Written by

Are you feeling good about the Continual Service Improvement (CSI) plan but not seeing and gaining real benefits or improvement in the quality of health in services?  It is possible you are doing it all wrong. The ITIL® library is a fantastic library of best practice guidance. It is questionable if the applied guidance really returns the value and benefits claimed in the publications.  Reaping benefits from   ITIL® practices will demonstrate it's strong capability of working successfully when the appropriate mix of ingredients comes together.

Having the appropriate mix of the right ingredients, at the right time, to address the right requirement and address it with the right audience is a balance so many people try too hard to achieve.  When trying too hard you strive for perfection, which hinders activity to move forward. This doesn’t support a CSI program to survive outside the starters gate. You want your customers to perceive and experience value continually.  This means every business process runs in accordance to targets and service levels and when it doesn’t value perception is vulnerable.  This is the time to ramp up the service management activities.  Put CSI not just at the heart of everything you do, but keep it brimming in each and every interaction in your organization.

In ITIL, CSI has a single process in it which adopts the Deming Cycle management on quality.  The art of crafting improvement is outlined in this seven-step process.  Seven steps aren’t sufficient to govern CSI activities in order to see improvements ingrain within the environment.  There are many gaps to fill which when interpreted from the publications get twisted to serve the purpose of improving with minimal success. Minimal success is superficial and seen only at the surface.  To achieve success below the surfaces for the longer term ensure the right requirements are being met in each situation on a daily basis.

Integrating the seven step process with quality aligned procedures and knowledge, is a good start.  Moving it forward and continuing improvement work day to day is where most organizations are getting it wrong. A common mistake is the build up of a Continual Service Improvement team or group, which is bypassed when it comes to making improvements in the live environment.  The teams responsible for the live environment views this type of structure as cumbersome, bottlenecked and clumsy in the implementation.  There is an underlying lack of authority despite the governance policies mandating the CSI group have full accountability for the CSI register and plans.  To get it right the CSI management, policies, process, procedures, and plan must (with no weak links in the chain) be imbedded as part of the normal business practices into the core and throughout the entire sphere of the service provider’s organization. 

To get past the starters gate the Service Improvement Plan (SIP) must match the requirements followed by aligning the opportunities to make the service or process better.  Never lose site of the outcome in each situation where improvements are being evaluated.  Identify which action best serves the highest standard of making the service better, determine costs and pick the right improvement. This stretches the improvement initiative beyond the starters gate and ingrains it throughout the entire organization.  Once past the starters gate, see the initiative through to the end and beyond where the customer experiences and determines its value benefits from the improvement investment.  Seeing the right improvement actions through to completion is essential to doing CSI right.

 Your customer’s beyond the implementation of an improvement quantifies the health of a service and/or process.  Most times, an improvement is defined when time to restore is exceeding service level targets. This in itself is not the improvement.  How the service restoration exceeded service targets is the actual improvement.  In this scenario, organizations work backwards filtering these types of improvements shown in the metrics and links to any CSI opportunity that could be related.  Use trending analysis and steer improvements towards an actual outcome include the details on where and how to expect the benefits to be realized from the improvement.   

Higher investments both in monetary and non-monetary resources will provide a higher quality of life. The reverse is true when skimping on investment in service management. The reality of effective returns on CSI initiatives carries a significant amount of time, resources, capabilities, and financial support. To achieve the highest expectancy of return, the investment is much higher than most organizations can apply. Applying the appropriate CSI strategy with associated cost in smaller short term goals will increase the outlook and quality of the health of services from inception to retirement.

Take the first step to make CSI a regular part of the organizations day to day operation by:

  • having everyone in the organization responsible for improvements.
  • Integrating the CSI group or team into Operations.
  • allowing time scales to capture improvement opportunities, prioritize and register them.
  • allowing for regular meetings for the CSI team to have with the appropriate stakeholders from the business and set time requirements to them. Make sure the time requirements are upheld, if the meeting is 30 minutes, be prompt and end on time.  Ensure to have one unified CSI meeting each quarter where all CSI opportunities and open improvements are reviewed and discussed.
  • Identifying CSI opportunities that are knowingly to go no further than the improvement register.  Put these in a separate area of the register.

 

CSI is an integral part of the Service Lifecycle, which at the core is organized and strengthened using public frameworks such as ITIL®®.  CSI's role is for the "betterment" to the quality of life of the infrastructure and applications. To do CSI right, an organization must shift their outlook from wanting to improve to continuously striving towards the betterment of services.

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