The first time I heard about “customer experience” was in a course about knowledge management. It was almost a throwaway line in that the speaker was referring to how knowledge availability could improve customer experience, but it was not at all the focus of that course or presentation. Once I was aware of it, I heard it everywhere. People’s job titles changed to it; heck whole departments changed to it. But wasn’t it just a new way to say “Customer Service?” And did it even apply to internal support groups whose “customers” are fellow employees?
About this time, I was wrapping up a successful project, of which a major part was going to different offices and locations to talk with my end-users and walking in their shoes with them. Armed with new knowledge and enlightenment, I endeavored to transform their overall experience of IT.
“The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.”—Roy H. Williams
And so it came to pass that one day I woke up and had “Customer Experience” in my job title. I figured that since I was now responsible for it, I’d better learn what it was. This was an unexpected challenge. I was quickly faced with staunch believers of CX as a methodology for building brand, delivering solid customer service, and increasing customer loyalty (think retail, external customers) vs. internal IT support managers who believed that “customer” is a mindset and CX is a way to frame what happens when an internal end-user engages IT.
One day I woke up and had “Customer Experience” in my job title.
My users were the internal type…theoretical customers, trapped by their employee status to whatever service we delivered. But I felt that CX as a framework could still be relevant, and so I made a conscious decision to take elements of CX and apply them in the context of how my internal users interacted with IT services. Looking at it this way, I was able to define what I wanted to build.
“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”—Walt Disney
In a retail world, loyalty is critical for obvious reasons: repeat customers are the lifeblood. On the surface, loyalty doesn’t seem to apply to internal customers, but I would challenge anyone in IT to claim that they’ve never had someone try to “go around the process.” If someone is going around the process, they’re not having a good experience interacting with you. And that means they are not choosing your service, which means they aren't “loyal.” People will stick with something even if it isn’t perfect, as long as something has hooked them into wanting to return.
“The best advertising you can have is a loyal customer spreading the word about how incredible your business is.”—Shep Hyken
An internal team might not need to be recognizable outside of the company walls. But if they, as an entity (“The Desk”), are talked about within the company because they bring to mind a positive image and expectation that engaging with them will go well, then more outage notifications get read, more tickets are submitted properly, and work gets done more quickly. This builds loyalty, which builds the brand, and so on. Overhearing one user telling another “Check with The Desk” was music to my ears!
“Customer service starts where customer experience fails.”—Chris Zane
When starting an internal customer experience program, I was challenged with several questions: “Can you deliver good customer service within a poor customer experience? Can you deliver a good customer experience with poor customer service?” I learned that debating this won’t get you anywhere. My answer to both is “yes,” and that both situations are undesirable.
Customer service is reactive. It’s a response to what is happening during a call. It is certainly critical when something is going wrong. Customer experience is the result of everything that happened during the caller’s engagement with IT, from beginning to end. When applied as a practice, it is also proactive, as opposed to customer service, and gives you the framework to provide consistency to your customer contacts. It’s likely that someone will pose to you the question of “Does CX even matter as long as the customer service is good?” and you can confidently answer, “Yes!”
So yes, Virginia, internal customer experience is a thing. I accepted it was going to take time to put in place (especially because I did not have a dedicated CX team). I decided to acknowledge that many managers see each individual engagement with IT as a “customer experience,” and that it’s okay to get people on board that way. I maintained my belief that nothing is set in stone; in our industry, evolution is a given, and I am happy to use a concept in a slightly different way if it will benefit my teams and organization.
Many wonderful people are revitalizing their organizations using CX, whether internal or external, and I’m grateful to learn from them. I’m still on the journey, and I hope we’ll meet again along the way.
I found these strategies useful when designing my own approach to customer experience:
- Design your feedback questions to gather both experiential (i.e., customer effort, emotion) and customer satisfaction information, and slowly integrate changes into your daily processes.
- Do some journey mapping to illustrate the idea that you can design and build a customer experience, and that a contact to your Desk (in my case) doesn’t have to be unpredictable. This becomes great to have later when you do a then-and-now presentation and demonstrate that your amazing reputation is strategic and well-earned!
Kristin Jones is a passionate customer support advocate with a focus on people and process, and has been leading IT teams with delight for over a decade. A lifelong learner who seeks to inspire others with fresh ideas, she is an active member of the HDI community and holds certifications in ITIL v3., HDI Support Center Manager and KCS Foundations. She strives to end each day having smiled more than frowned and having helped someone (or something!) work better. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kitonjones.