Not too long ago, many of us in the IT service and support profession focused on a service improvement trend called “the consumerization of IT,” which Webopedia describes as “the cycle of technology emerging first in the consumer market and then spreading to business and government organizations.” The trend yielded several now-familiar corporate IT practices such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), self-service portals that mimic online shopping, cloud-based communication and storage services, and social media use.
Fast-forward to the present, and we have a new trend to guide service improvements centered around a concept called “the customer experience.” The concept, largely borrowed from our friends in marketing and our contact center colleagues, broadly refers to the interaction between an organization and a customer during all points of contact. The practices emerging from the customer experience concept include mapping the customer journey, managing brand touchpoints, and cross-platform experience management.
In response to these IT service and support trends, technology vendors have created service catalogs that rival the most successful e-commerce platforms and mobile device management systems that make BYOD services individualized yet secure. We have identity management systems that can seamlessly extend your enterprise into the cloud and enterprise social networks that enable collaboration.
Even with sophisticated tools that support the consumerization and customer experience trends, IT service and support professionals must address the psychology of those seeking services and their emotional journey during a service interaction. To optimize the customer experience and achieve greater customer satisfaction, we must recognize and address the work-style preferences of modern knowledge workers and deliver our services with transparency.
What, Exactly, Is a “Transparent” Service?
In the software engineering field, "self-describing" services (i.e., software components) are those that communicate through interfaces where the interfaces as well as the purpose of the data and services are described and generated using a universal data-structure description language.
In the context of IT service delivery, I recommend using this concept to architect the characteristics of your service delivery channels. Self-describing IT services deliver an experience the way our clients have become accustomed to when they buy services away from work. The use of self-describing IT services also recognizes and supports the work-style preferences of modern professional knowledge workers.
The characteristics of self-describing or transparent IT services are expressed through all of the service provider’s interfaces with their customers, including but not limited to analyst behavior, the knowledge bases and scripts used to deliver services, written communication, and online forms and workflow design. The characteristics of self-describing or transparent IT services are, in this sense, a universal service description language:
The table below defines each of the characteristics of transparent services and provides one real-world example that applies the concept to a service improvement.
- Each step required of the requestor and taken by the service provider fits within the context (background, circumstance, situation, perspective, and environment) of the service request.
- All required steps have a transparent purpose (i.e., transparent to the requestor and the service provider).
|Situation: An “application down” ticket was submitted though the service catalog, resulting in an increased time to resolve. |
Service Improvement: The front page of the service catalog was changed to explain that the portal is intended to be used for routine, standard requests.
Also, the internal extension and toll-free number of the service desk was added with an explanation to use that contact method for urgent needs.
- The requestor understands the process that will be used to achieve the desired outcome for each request or initiation of the service.
- The requestor is given the opportunity to provide all necessary information to fulfill the request when making the request. This implies that the first responder or communications channel is aware of the information necessary to fulfill the request, and when possible, provides an opportunity for the requestor to supply the necessary information.
- All reasonable and unobtrusive mechanisms are used to identify the requestor and their relationship with the service provider in support of establishing context.
|Situation: The computer training room setup service received consistently poor satisfaction ratings, with physical layouts that didn’t meet the training needs, rooms not being set up on time, and coordination failures between facilities and IT. |
Service Improvement: A cross-functional process flow enabled by request templates with facilities and IT designating all of the parameters for the training room, which are then captured as part of the request. The process flow is triggered by the reservation of the training room and includes a link to a service description web page that explains each item on the request template
- The requestor understands each step taken and the next steps that will be taken by the service provider.
- The requestor receives a reliable indication of when to expect the service to be delivered.
- Policy statements and required information or legal disclaimers are identified as such prior to their delivery, including the authority under which the statement or disclaimer has been issued.
- The service provider is able to communicate the purpose of all required process steps.
|Situation: The last step in the mobile device provisioning process was acknowledgement of the company personal mobile device provisioning policy. Employees did not wish to comply with policy. |
Service Improvement: Disclaimers and acknowledgement of the policy are moved to the beginning of the personal device provisioning request process, with references to applicable sections of the corporate handbook.
- The requestor has the ability to rescind their request or exit from the process.
- The service provider has the right and obligation to inform the requestor if their request falls outside of the available services and to escalate the request to someone empowered to make the service available, queue the request for later delivery, or to deny the request.
|Situation: The process for enabling international voice and data services included a manager approval step. Many international travelers were senior enough that their manager is a C-Level executive, with little time or attention paid to workflow approvals. |
Service Improvement: The IT approval process for anyone supported through executive support, including those who report to a C-level, was redirected to the manager of service and support, who informed the C-level of the approval.
Empathize with Your Customer
Take note that, in each example, the service improvement was accomplished by reconfiguring a workflow or by providing additional information to the customer. Improving your customer’s experience doesn’t have to mean that you need a new tool or platform. Many times, improving your customer’s experience means understanding your customer and “putting yourself in their shoes” by empathizing with them.
Improving your customer’s experience doesn’t have to mean that you need a new tool or platform.
You can easily start to leverage the power of transparent services in at least two ways:
- Incorporate each of the characteristics into your service design activities, examining every service for delivering context, cogency, communication, and control to your customers
- Examine each of your services that consistently receive lower customer satisfaction scores for failures in these areas.
Bill Payne is a results-driven IT leader and an expert in the design and delivery of cost-effective IT solutions that deliver quantifiable business benefits. His more than 30 years of experience at companies such as Pepsi-Cola, Whole Foods Market, and Dell, includes data communications consulting, messaging systems analyst, managing multiple infrastructure support and engineering teams, medical information systems deployment, retail and infrastructure systems management, organizational change management, and IT service management consulting. Leveraging his experience in leading, managing, and executing both technical and organizational transformation projects in numerous industries, Bill currently leads his own service management consulting company. Find him on
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