Service Management is Valuable Outside of IT as Well!

If your customer is complaining, it can be viewed as a positive sign as they are still a customer. But unless you promptly resolve the situation, they will probably NOT be your customer for long.

I just returned from one of my worst customer service experiences ever-a cruise in the Bahamas. The hot food was cold, the cold food hot, the service staff didn’t know how to smile and their idea of a clean room didn’t match mine-not to mention that the towels replaced daily were worse than the day before and the room maintenance wasn’t completed. Now I realize this reads like a seismic issue, but what really got me was the means to report, monitor and track resolution. Let me explain.

In the case of the food, it was a simple matter of informing the headwaiter who returned minutes later with another cold meal-my guess is they hadn’t heard of a microwave. Then, my “chilled” soup arrived warm and I left. Finally, after complaining to management, my room was brought up to an acceptable standard, although the hurricane-like noise from the window to the exit under the door made for many sleepless nights.

What was particularly frustrating was that this organization has a reputation for delivering exceptional customer service. That’s one reason why I chose it. But after a number of less-than-satisfying visits to customer service, I gave up. Ironically, when I departed I was asked if I “enjoyed my stay.” I replied “No” and was promptly told to complete the online survey as they had no capabilities for verbal or written complaints – “that had to be dealt with at HQ.”

My impression here is a deep-seated seismic problem with the organization-stemming from its culture and lack of structure, processes and effective tools to ensure customer delight.

I mentioned this experience to a marketing VP at a global manufacturer, who was sitting next to me on a flight to an industry outsourcing conference where I was speaking. He said his organization was experiencing similar customer service challenges and that a number of customer satisfaction issues were recently escalated to him. He also said these issues were hurting sales and that myriad challenges-including rapid customer turnover, frequent  production line changes to support a more agile approach, and product changes to meet  customer expectations-were causing quality issues.

To resolve the process, his company’s first step was to fully grasp the issues and their impact of quality product delivery, and then determine where the change process should be better automated to relieve the manual burden on the staff. In the interim, he had stepped up quality checks to ensure that immediate purchaser satisfaction issues were resolved. Technology was critical to cost-effective delivery of the product. He leveraged a service management solution from his IT organization for incident tracking, collation and reporting, tracking major customer outages and implications and resolutions. More importantly, the organization leveraged the automated change process to request change and then track it across the estate.

This scenario is not unique.  We see solutions for service management and program management (both agile and waterfall) used extensively outside of IT. And this trend will continue to accelerate, as technology remains critical to the delivery of business value in this world of rapidly accelerating change.

But it’s not happening everywhere. A few days after my vacation, I still hadn’t received the comment form. So in desperation to provide feedback, I visited the website and submitted an online customer service form detailing my experiences.  I got an immediate reply that my feedback is important and “we will get back to you in 7-10 days.”  It’s day 7 and no response, but I really don’t expect them to follow through.

They had an opportunity to seize the moment, and then didn’t. And they lost a customer in the process. So if you’re not responsive to your customers, they won’t be customers for long.


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Robert Stroud

Vice President Strategy & Innovation IT Business Management at CA Technologies
Robert Stroud is vice president of innovation and strategy for IT Business Management at CA Technologies. Rob is dedicated to the development of industry trends, strategy and communication of industry best practices. Rob is a strong advocate for the governance, security, risk and assurance communities working closely with the community to author, develop and communicate standards and best practices. Rob also advises organizations on their implementations to ensure they drive maximum business value from their investments in IT-enabled business governance. Following a four-year term as an ISACA International vice president, Rob served on the ISACA Strategic Advisory Council, and is currently serving as ISACA ISO Liaison sub-committee. Earlier, Rob served on the itSMF International Board as Treasurer and Director Audit, Standards and Compliance, the itSMF ISO liaisons to multiple working groups and spent multiple years on the board of the itSMF USA. An accomplished author and blogger, Rob is widely recognized for perspectives on industry trends. He also has contributed to multiple standards publications including COBIT 4.0, 4.1 and COBIT 5, Guidance for Basel II and several ISO standards. Rob served as an active member of the ITIL Update Project Board for ITIL 2011 and in various roles in the development of ITIL v3 including the Advisory Group, mentor and reviewer. Prior to joining CA Technologies, Rob spent more than 15 years in the finance industry successfully managing multiple initiatives in both IT and retail banking sectors related to security, service management and process governance. Follow Rob on Twitter: @RobertEStroud

This article has 2 comments

  1. Service management actually began outside of It and still lives a vibrant life there! The pioneers are those I cite in my writings and include Levitt, Normann (who wrote first book on subject), Albrecht, and so many more…. If only our It community would embrace this fact more often we might actually get the full spectrum of service management concepts into the traditional ITSM thinking. I tried to help with the Universal Service Management Body of Knowledge.

  2. Ian, absolutely, I recall 30 years ago when I started in this industry, before ITIL, we were delivering service management and very effectively if I might say and yes it was not in IT. As mentioned in the blog and by yourself we need to view the full spectrum of Service Management and even if IT is important, its not all about IT.

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