Too often, the service and support industry has a take-it-or-leave-it attitude, and neglects to ask what the customer wants and needs. Don’t just rely on customer surveys after resolved tickets - have conversations often, and keep asking how you can make the experience better.

by Thomas Wilk
November 16, 2020

In the service and support industry, customer experience is all the rage. We talk about Key Performance Indicators (KPI), Service Level Agreements (SLA), and metrics, but when you get right down to it, what should really matter is the customer.

Is what you are measuring, what you set for goals, what you assume your customer wants really what will make them happy?

First Thing First

The first thing you should be doing is asking your customer what they want. Sounds simple, but a lot of IT shops never really ask that question.

And if we do ask them, do we really listen and adapt to their needs? If you are a new team or a team trying to rebrand itself, this is the time to do it right the first time. If you are a legacy support team, it may be harder to change than you think, especially if you are a larger organization with thousands of customers.

The Chicken or the Egg?

I find this question rings true when trying to invent or reinvent your support team. What comes first - the service catalog or what to measure? My best answer is, “What does the customer want and what do they expect from your team?”

As Ben Brennan said in Bad Ass IT Support, the big reason IT workers don’t really care what their customers want is because they often have no competition. While that may be true, many of our customers then turn to the shadow IT groups for help. I know this because my wife does it to me all of the time.

Where I work, we are a cost recovery group, so we do have competition. Our customers can and have hired their own IT staff when they got tired of a “You need us more than we need you” attitude. And let me tell you from experience, it is harder to get back disgruntled customers than it is to lose them in the first place.

The Answer

Sure you can use surveys that you send customers after you resolve a ticket. In this case, you are either catching them after a really good experience or a bad one. They will either give you five stars or one.

Instead I challenge you to ask all of your customers at least once a year what suggestions they have for a better customer experience. And if you are like me, you also should send it to the people that do not use your service. It is the first step to showing them you care about their opinion. Spin it positive, letting them know you are looking to make their experience better. Unless you are already providing a world-class experience, do not make it sound like you want to make their already awesome experience better.

The second step is to actually do something about the feedback you received. You need to actually improve a service, or implement a process to improve their experience. Whatever it is, try to at least make a few of their suggestions come to light, and the sooner the better. Other improvements may take longer but at least let them know you are working on them.

In my organization, our communications team came up with a quarterly newsletter. We have a section letting our customers know we are working on new or enhanced services. We try to give them ETAs and an idea of what the service will look like in the beginning. We also ask them for their feedback during the project phase because we know once they start seeing the new shiny thing, they may have other recommendations or better ideas. Who better to know what they want than the customer themselves?

I am sure none of what I said is new to most of you but I thought it would be a good reminder. Are you out there asking your customers, partners, or users what could make their experience better? Don’t just ask them how you did resolving a ticket, or stop asking after you went live with a new service. Ask them, ask them, and ask them again.


Thomas Wilk is an IT manager at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has become a performance improvement leader, helping employees find their way along their career path. As a mentor to managers, he helps them develop leadership skills so they can better engage with their staff. Tom has a bachelor’s degree in Information Science and is currently working towards a master’s degree at Carnegie Mellon University in the Public Management program. To see more from Tom, visit his YouTube channel , and follow him on Twitter @spiller150.

Tag(s): supportworld, best practice, customer experience, communications skills, customer service, customer-satisfaction-measurement, customer satisfaction

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