by Roy Atkinson
Date Published December 7, 2016 - Last Updated January 4, 2017

I delivered a presentation at ITSM16 in London titled, “Customer Service Excellence: Now More Than Ever.” Those who are familiar with my views on service management know that I take issue with the distinction between customers and users, and I think that distinction has become less useful over the past few years. Here are three of the reasons I mentioned:

Roy covers the 5 elements of customer service in Customer Service Excellence: Now More Than Ever

The Definition of Customer Is Not Accurate

ITIL® describes a customer as the person (or persons) who “agrees the service level.” I don’t think many people would define themselves as customers of Facebook; they are users. But the first act they perform when they sign up to Facebook (and all other services like it) is to agree to the terms of service. By ITIL’s definition, that makes them customers, which they are decidedly not, in my opinion, and should have no expectation that Facebook will treat them as such.

Individuals Within Organizations Are More Critical to Business Success Than Before

Back when the definition was drawn up, companies still had depth (i.e., there were people to cover for other people when vacations happened, etc.). These days, that is the case in fewer and fewer organizations. Mobile workers aren’t “always on” just because their technology allows them to be, but also because they have to be. The work doesn’t stop because they are on vacation or holiday time. There’s very likely no one else who does exactly the same thing they do, and there’s slim coverage for vacations and other time off at best. Thus, each person has become more important to the functioning of the organization as a whole.

I asked the attendees of my session to imagine running a football team (British or American) with only eleven players. No substitutions. If someone is injured, you have to play one person short. That’s how business is now. It used to be that one broken laptop was a fairly low priority; now, if the laptop of the only person who can, for example, provide an estimate to a prospective client breaks down, the company as a whole stands to lose business.

There Is Competition Where There Was None

The typical IT department has served internal customers, namely the employees of the company. In 70 percent of the organizations that responded to the HDI 2016 Support Center Practices & Salary Survey, support services (and likely many IT services) are funded through corporate allocation, not through any charges to the employees or business units. The traditional view was, then, that customers were a “captive audience” having no alternative. The company paid for IT and the employees lived with however good or bad their IT department was. But alternatives have become so readily available and so inexpensive now that business units are buying what are essentially IT services from wherever they like. Need some servers? Take out a credit card and spin up a few at Amazon. Need a project management application? Grab one online and sign in with your personal Facebook or Twitter account; chances are it doesn’t cost you a nickel. We all know this: It’s what we call Shadow IT because a lot of the time IT has no idea it is in use—or if it does, has no control over it or visibility into it.

The days of IT being the “Department of No” are definitely gone. Customers simply won’t stand for it. Following closely are the days of IT even being able to say Yes in any truly competitive way. Can your IT department spin up that project management tool in a day? A week? A year?

Going back to my point about how critical each individual is to the function of businesses now, think about how critical each business unit is, and how their ability to communicate, to collaborate, and to work as rapidly as possible has increased in importance.

Delivering excellent service is what technical support should be known for.
Tweet: Delivering excellent service is what technical support should be known for. @HDI_Analyst @ThinkHDI #custserv

Providing trustworthy advice and helping to steer customers in the right direction are more important now than the ability to provide hardware and software services. The broader effects of what we call consumerization are sweeping the stereotypical IT department out of the way of speedier and more agile organizations. Delivering excellent service is what IT and technical support should be known for.

Roy AtkinsonRoy Atkinson is HDI's senior writer/analyst, acting as in-house subject matter expert and chief writer for SupportWorld articles and white papers. In addition to being a member of the HDI International Certification Standards Committee and the HDI Desktop Support Advisory Board, Roy is a popular speaker at HDI conferences and is well known to HDI local chapter audiences. His background is in both service desk and desktop support as well as small-business consulting. Roy is highly rated on social media, especially on the topics of IT service management and customer service. He is a cohost of the very popular #custserv (customer service) chat on Twitter, which celebrated its fifth anniversary on December 9, 2014. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.

Tag(s): customer experience, customer service, technical support, supportworld, shadow-it, business of support


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