HDI’s SPOCcast is your single point of contact podcast for service management and technical support insights. For Episode 28, I interviewed Rae Ann Bruno about wowing your customer, the value of training, getting metrics right, and more. What follows is excerpted; for the full impact, I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast.
Roy: You delivered a session at SupportWorld Live: A Digital Experience this August, called “Wow Your Customers, Don't Just Satisfy Them.” Can you talk a little bit about why that might be important and how you get to “Wow”?
Rae Ann: Sure. So first of all, I think it's important because, especially as IT, and as we've seen through COVID and just every aspect of our jobs even leading up to that and into this new normal world, IT is a really vital part of business, and the employee experience. And we need to understand, instead of dictating services or putting out what we think people want based on requirements, we really need to understand how people work, understand that workflow, that customer journey, and we really can't get to “Wow” until we understand that. I think, just, traditionally, IT has often worked in silos, even in the way that we measure or the way we deliver services. Everybody has their part, their focus in that area, what they're responsible for, and that's the part they pay attention to.
But with this idea of really understanding the customer journey trying to deliver a Wow experience, we really have to understand the desires, the outcomes, the workflows, and a little bit later I'll talk about interactions and touch points, which are part of that journey, and we need to understand that. In fact, I believe that everybody in IT needs to know how we're making people's jobs easier, how we're helping the business to succeed, how we're helping employees to be productive or work efficiently.
Roy: And when you say “everybody in IT”—we measure customer satisfaction or customer experience just in terms of the service desk. You feel it's important to get beyond that and have all of IT involved in this whole focus on the customer?
Rae Ann: Absolutely! Because first, I think that it's important to know that customer satisfaction does not equate to customer experience. And just because they had one good transaction, it doesn't mean they're having a good customer experience or that they've got this positive perception of IT as a whole. And I think forever employees, or our customers, they never look at us as components of IT, they look at us as IT. And we tend to approach it from a very transactional or operational base, and we're not always looking across—or rarely are we looking across—every aspect of that experience.
Customer satisfaction does not equate to customer experience.
Roy: What do you think the key elements are in customer experience and how do you define customer experience?
Rae Ann: Okay, so let's start with defining customer experience, and I want to make a distinction here. To me, customer experience is the organization's ultimate customer. So, if I support a restaurant chain, it's the people that come to the restaurant to eat. If it's a hospital, it's the patients, ultimately, that's the customer experience. And I think that where we need to focus internally is the employee experience and I actually want to differentiate that as well, because interestingly I was teaching an HDI customer experience boot camp about a year ago, and 20 of the 22 people that were in class thought they were there because they had a customer experience initiative in their organization. But really, they had what I would call a user experience initiative, and the way I distinguish those is employee experience is often headed up by HR, and they don't always include IT in it; it's very HR centric. And then conversely, IT will want to focus on this customer or user experience, and it's only about them using the IT services and how they're using it.
So, employee experience is really important; obviously we'll deliver better customer experiences if we have a better employee experience—these happy employees—and internally, I really think IT's got to partner with HR. Maybe we start with the user experience to show the proof of concept and the need and how valuable we can be in this effort, and then actually partner with HR. And I know there's a second part of that question that I want to get to but interestingly, HappySignals has a survey that they do on a pretty regular basis. And it was interesting that through COVID they actually were showing that employees were happier in their jobs working remotely. Now that was a couple of months ago so it would just be interesting to watch that trend, but it would also be interesting to understand why. Why were they happier working remotely? Were they more productive or do they have better tools, you know, what was it overall?
So then what you asked is, “What are some key elements?” and one of these we already touched on, and that is to move from this transactional mentality, about operation only, and move into this focus on the end-to-end experience. The other aspect we touched on as well, and that it's not just pockets of IT; it's all of IT. When we're really focusing on it what it means as we understand workflow, we understand business processes, we understand outcomes that are needed. And we're measuring—yes, we'll still measure in our respective areas—but we're also measuring across that end-to-end experience, and we'll get into a little more detail of that a little bit later, but we all are looking at that as well. And then everybody in IT can say, “Oh, here's something we can do to make that better!” and it's not a matter of pointing fingers at whose fault it is. It's a matter of how can we all get better at what we do.
And I guess that leads to the third element and that is that the metrics have to align with it. They can't be siloed only, and they can't be operational only.
Roy: Interesting that you went to ITIL® 4, because that's where my brain was going as you were talking. I was thinking about the focus on value proposition that ITIL 4 brings forth and thinking more holistically.
Rae Ann: Absolutely. And the driving stakeholder value fits perfectly with the customer experience or the employee experience, and really understanding outcomes, and personas, and touchpoints, and interactions. So, it's a nice complement to the effort.
Roy: You do a lot of training…a good deal of training for HDI, as well. Do you think training is especially important now? And let's go a little farther with that and say, is this particular period during which people are working from home, etc., is this an opportunity for learning?
Rae Ann: Sure, absolutely. First of all, of course I am a huge advocate of training. It's definitely my passion. However, I do think that there are some things changing—you know in this new normal that we'll have, also generationally—that will drive maybe different approaches to training. I think that, to really focus on this customer experience and be able to understand desires, outcomes, build trust, and these relationships, then we've got to have training along those lines as well. How do we do business? What are we in business to do? And I think right now…I think that for some companies, employees have more time to be able to do some virtual training. I think it's changed the way we have to train. I think there's definitely more demand for virtual. And I also think we really need to have a lot more experiential training, where people are getting their hands on, and they're doing it in the training, and then they can go right out and apply it.
And certainly, there's no “silver bullet” training…you have to look at what's needed. Is it information? Do we need to learn new skills? What might it be? But not to focus necessarily on the technology, although sometimes we do need to do that…With the customer experience, it's got a lot of moving parts, so it is about delivering the right technologies for people to do their jobs, integrating those technologies, and helping them to know how to use them…. It's about building these relationships, so having interpersonal skills. It's about really hearing what somebody is saying, and not just focusing on these numbers I have to hit or focusing on the technology itself. So, some training’s got to go beyond the classroom.
And interestingly, I read an article recently, and it was talking about Gen Z, who have started coming into the workforce. And I think it's important to remember that generations are shaped by how they grew up, right? And I think expectations for work, digital experience, or whatever they're using for their work tools is driven by what they've used outside of work. So, this article, it actually talked about the youngest generation coming into the workforce being very much focused on having the right tools to do their jobs. They want to be productive; they want to collaborate. They want to be efficient, and that they would actually leave a company if they're not getting that opportunity. And from a training perspective, they expect to be able to be trained on an ongoing basis. They'd like to have some that’s self-paced that they can do on demand more or less, and then they just want to continually evolve and grow as needed, within their jobs.
Roy: I think that one of the key elements right now as we think about all of this, as you mentioned, you know, different generations are going to have different methods of learning. What worked for me when I was 10 or 12 or 15 or 20 years old is not going to work for people now who are those ages, because their experience is so different from mine. But one of the key elements that seems to me is friction; the easier you make it for people to do things especially now where we're growing up in digital environments and we know how you touch this screen and something happens, we need to be very aware of that kind of friction and every element of the customer experience. That's my thinking anyway. Would you agree or disagree?
Rae Ann: Yeah, I absolutely love that you brought that up, and I think that also leads to a metric or something that we need to look at, and that's customer effort. And when I always say it's not just for the people that we're providing services to and we're supporting but it's also even for people in it, how can we make their jobs easier. I know sometimes when I teach KCS. Some people will say, “Oh my gosh! Finally, my company is going to do this! This has been such a frustration that I don't have answers at my fingertips.” So, it's got to be easy for them to and actually, let me share this, this one example I think speaks to that. I think you know Nate Brown—he's the founder of CX Accelerator. But years ago, he was working with a call center, and they recognized how important it is to collect informal feedback—just comments that people make. He made it really easy for them to capture that feedback he bought this CX “magic button” that just plugs into the USB port of a computer, and when they press it, it took them to a SharePoint site where they could write the comment. And then they use some tools to be able to go through there and find some patterns of feedback. But think about it: if it wasn't as easy as pushing a button and bringing up the screen where I type, probably a whole lot of people wouldn't type it.
And we even see that at the service desk, where if it takes them less time to answer a call or a question than it does to fill out the ticket, they probably won't fill out the ticket.
Roy: I'm a big proponent of CES (Customer Effort Score) and that's one of the reasons why: because it's so telling on what people will do because, as we know, people will subvert processes that are too complicated or take too long or too difficult.
Rae Ann: Absolutely. So, you just touched on another element that's so important that I didn't mention earlier and that is monitoring or trending that behavior. If we're not getting the behaviors or the results or the outcomes that we're going for then something's not working properly. So, let's look at it all. What can we make easier, or, where can we lower that effort on both sides? You know, on the customer side and on the people providing the services.
Roy: And sometimes the difference is huge. I can remember a project that I was involved with where we did an analysis of a particular set of processes that this one area of the institution did. And we walked through everything. We just said, “Okay, show us how you do this.” And it was 37 steps long. We got it down to 6. And they were totally blown away by the fact that we were able to reduce that amount of effort and ultimately the object was to find the application that was right for this particular department…. It's really, really important to do that and ask the people who do the work is one of my mantras. I think it's so important to actually see it in operation and watch what they do and have them tell you what they do.
Rae Ann: Absolutely. And that's something that I touched on in the session, and you know, the Gemba walk from Lean end even Kaizen from Lean: How do we eliminate waste? Let's walk. Let's go to the place of work and understand it. I think that's absolutely a necessity, when it comes to the customer experience, and I think that's a great story.
Roy: So, what do you think are important measures for now? What are some of the most important ones that support centers might be missing right now or maybe putting emphasis in the wrong place?
Rae Ann: Sure. I don’t know if you're familiar with CitrusCollab. But they've got a couple of phrases that they've coined and one is moments over time, and a point that they make is that the customer experience is a combination of moments over time and some of those moments may have been positive; some of them may have not. And if you're an external facing company, you can lose customers because of these moments over time, because that we missed those that were negative. We didn't know about these and some of those are the touch points that we might not really be involved in. So, I think our metrics need to be cumulative and I think we need to look for things like, how often is this happening for this particular group, for this particular person? How many times does this person have to call back? Did they submit the same ticket through chat, email, and a phone call? Why? Did they feel like we did not set their expectations? And just start learning.
Also, sentiment is really important. And a lot of times we don't document that. So that comes back to the whole “It's easy” button and let's capture these comments. Why are they frustrated or why are they so excited? Why did they think this was great? So, it's that concept of augmenting or aligning experience level agreements with your service level agreement. So, you identify what we call XI so those are experience indicators. So, you talked about customer effort; maybe being easy to do business with, or making my job easier. Maybe that's an experience indicator that I have to look at. So, I think support has to not just look at each transaction—did I hit these numbers—but we have to look at trends and we have to start understanding how people are feeling.
And remember that when we do transactional surveys or customer satisfaction surveys, we are only surveying the people who are using our services. So, we don't know about those people who aren't, and why. We did talk about customer effort, and then I just think, really, we've got to align these with business metrics. Are we able to meet these business goals because of these differences? Are we soliciting that feedback? Are we collectively looking at this on a month-to-month basis—on the sentiment. Are we continually improving, and are we able to measure those improvements? And just what trends are we seeing?
Roy: You talked about XLAs, and you can look that up online if you want XLAs and find what CitrusCollab is doing. It's a very interesting concept that's, that's different, yet the same and aligns with a lot of what Rae Ann has been talking about. Rae Ann, you also mentioned KCS® And for those who don't know what that is, it's Knowledge-Centered Service. It's DevOps for knowledge management…iteration, frequent feedback, and improvements. So, it's really a great way to do knowledge and capture knowledge. We've done some interesting work in that regard.
Rae Ann: And to your point, since you brought up DevOps and Agile. Those companies that aren't doing customer experience today. Honestly, when you do, it's a way to become more agile, in our work efforts and I think it, not only makes employees jobs easier but it actually frees up resources to use for more value-add work you know potentially. If you use swarming and you're getting more people back to work on that first touch and swarming is also a KCS concept. It's where you bring in that escalation or that expert during the real time interaction with the customer to get them back sooner. But think about it. When we get better at that and we're capturing it in our knowledge base and we're all learning from it, now we're freeing up resources to maybe focus on innovation or something else that is a really important aspect or an area where we want to focus and our companies.
Roy: Wow. That's it. And that's the operative word in your session title for SupportWorld Live: A Digital Experience. Wow.
About Rae Ann Bruno
Rae Ann Bruno is the President of Business Solutions Training, Inc (BST), an organization focused on training and consulting in various areas of ITIL, Knowledge-centered Service (KCS®), Service Desk Improvement, Internal Marketing, Metrics and ITIL Process Improvement. Rae Ann was inducted into the HDI Hall of Fame in 2017 and was named one of Cherwell's IT Legends that same year. She holds several ITIL® and HDI certifications and is a Business Associate for HDI ITIL and support center certification courses and consulting. She is a member of the HDI International Certification Standards committee, and is a frequent speaker at leadership and support conferences and the author of the HDI Focus books, Translating IT Metrics into Business Benefits and What Have you Done for Me Lately? Creating an Internal Marketing Culture.
Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as Group Principal Analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. 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 @RoyAtkinson.