A few years ago, a senior executive at the shipping company I worked for took me aside and asked me to look into why our ecommerce website was receiving constant complaints regarding slow and erratic performance. His exact words were, “It sucks.” Now, this surprised me, because I had worked in varying capacities on that website and I knew that we had great availability on it, and I said so. He told me to go talk to the call center, which was being inundated by people who couldn’t ship their packages. He was right.
Here is why we were having the problem, and why IT missed that there even was an issue: Every time a customer shipped a package from the website, hundreds of different systems were involved in completing that one customer interaction.
Since IT tracked only component availability, from its perspective, everything was operating at 99 percent availability. But if there were 100 components involved in the customer interaction, and any one of them had a 1 percent chance of being not available (for isn’t that what we mean by 99 percent availability?), then the chance that something would go wrong somewhere was a near certainty!
This experience made me realize that there needs to be a fundamental shift in how we run IT. We’re so focused on the availability of the individual components that we miss that our customers are having bad experiences.
I’ve just written an eBooklet, If My Availability Is So Good, Why Do My Customers Feel So Bad?, that explores the importance of business service reliability. It addresses how we in IT can use hard mathematics to think more strategically about connecting the reliability and availability of our IT infrastructure to our business and improving our customers’ experiences.
I’m also going to be participating in a #TechViews Tweetchat on business service reliability at 1 p.m. Eastern time on Dec. 17. Please join us in this online discussion by following the hashtag #TechViews on Twitter at that time. I invite you also to download and read the eBooklet.
Simply put, when people talk about the customer experience, that’s not something that is only under the domain of the sales and marketing departments. It’s also our responsibility in IT. We have to understand what we do and how it impacts our customers’ experiences—and we have to help make it better over the long term.