Adaptive Quality Management: An Evolutionary View


by Troy White
January 8, 2016

Improving the overall customer experience and the perception of quality of service are two key industry-wide goals. By reducing abandonment rate and speed to answer and improving first call closure rate, you will usually see an insignificant corresponding improvement in CSAT scores. But to take customer satisfaction to the next level, customers need more than just answers to their questions. And although you want to give the customers what they want, how do you know what they expect from the IT support organizations, and, more specifically, the service desk? Most support organizations distribute surveys to evaluate their customers' level of satisfaction, but it isn't enough.

When your CSAT score is stuck at a once-revered 85 percent and you're being challenge to improve customer experience, what should you do? Welcome to adaptive quality management, the goal of which is to improve operational quality in order to drive higher customer satisfaction.

Is your service desk open when customers need you? The first focus for the service desk from the customer is availability. When customers call the service desk for support, they want to be confident there will be someone available to assist them when support is needed. The availability has to align with the business hours of the organization. This includes all the communication channels used to contact the service desk: phone, email, chat etc. Availability directly correlates to support agent staffing, therefore you must also perform a staffing model analysis to determine the appropriate staffing support based on contact volume.

Support availability will increase the CSAT scores, but it will then plateau and possibly decrease slightly as customer demand shifts from availability to incident resolution. Customers will begin to put pressure on the service desk to resolve their incidents on the first calls, so...

Raise Your Capability

Is the service desk equipped to answer customer questions? Once the service desk has established a solid level of availability, the focus should shift to support capacity. The service desk needs to provide the right answer at the right time. Knowledge transfer has to be continuous, therefore the service desk needs to have a knowledge base that's easily searchable and where the quality of knowledge base articles is reviewed regularly.

Listen To Your Customers!

Listening to the customers is about more than just survey ratings. Every service desk should send out transactional surveys with at least one open-ended question where customers can leave honest feedback. Ask key questions, like “What other value can we provide to your business?,” and act on the feedback.

Another way to solicit feedback from customers is by sending out event-based surveys and annual surveys. Event-based surveys happen once or twice a year: “How would you describe the support received during the December holidays?” or “How would you rate the quality of the service desk support during the end of the fiscal year?" Target a specific audience for these event-based surveys, and then identify three trends to focus on to improve your service.

If you want actionable feedback, send an annual survey. Transactional surveys provide feedback on single interactions with the service desk, but annual surveys provide overall operational feedback. All feedback, both positive and negative, can be used to improve your service.

But the most valuable feedback rarely comes from surveys, so you need to have a process for tracking nonsurvey feedback, too. Everyone in a management role at the service desk, from team leads to senior management, receives emails and phone calls from satisfied and dissatisfied customers that need to be tracked. Even water cooler feedback has some validity to it and should be researched.

You'll know your customers appreciate your active listening when you see your CSAT scores go up!

Show and Tell

In today's ever-changing IT world, gaining your customers' trust and confidence is essential. Customers want to know their feedback is being heard and acted upon. Conduct open-forum meetings to show customers the improvements you've made, and tell them about the health of the service desk overall. Make it known that the service desk is a trusted advisor and a true solution provider that's walking the extra mile on behalf of the customer.

Remember, keep building the case for quality and they will come.


Troy White is a performance-driven manager with more than fifteen years of experience in the areas of project management, vendor management, service level agreements, and knowledge management. He’s an effective communicator with excellent verbal and written abilities with strong analytical, problem solving, and organizational abilities. Troy received his MBA from University of Maryland University College.


Tag(s): customer-satisfaction-measurement, customer satisfaction, hdi conference, business value, quality management

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