Whereas once customer experience was something IT service and support put on the backest of backburners, the concept has now become front and center in the competitive IT landscape. Doug Rabold has a somewhat heretical suggestion for how to meet that demand.

by Doug Rabold
May 5, 2021

Much of the buzz in the technical support world over the last few years has been around two central concepts – customer experience and business value.

When I first began attending tech support industry conferences a decade ago, these ideas were just beginning to take root. A few outlier sessions were available if you cared to get up at 7AM to see them as a breakfast briefing the morning after a conference party.

In the ensuing years, however, these concepts blossomed to become more mainstream and accessible with sessions scheduled in prime time. Full conference learning tracks began to be dedicated to them, and today entire conferences are dedicated to one or the other of these themes. Two years ago, ITIL – the equivalent of the “ITSM Bible” – underwent a major revision to make these core concepts of the ITIL4 rewrite. This revision was the milestone – the harbinger of a new era – in IT support that signaled the absolute coming-of-age of customer experience and value-based business engagement.

Two years on, what has it meant for us as technical support practitioners? Sure, most of us went out and got our shiny new ITIL4 Foundations certification and hung it next to the dusty framed ITIL v3 certificate that has been hanging on the wall for the better part of a decade.

Yet learning is only as good as applying it. So how have we applied it? Did anyone scrap their entire IT Service Management program and rejigger it to conform to ITIL4 practices? I doubt many can answer that question in the affirmative. In fact, I would be truly concerned if many of us did, because that would lead to chaos, resistance, and fear amongst the many stakeholders – especially business stakeholders.

If we are not going to start by scrapping and rebuilding all of our “legacy ITIL v3 Service Management processes”, where do we start? As Stephen Covey so eloquently stated in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Begin with the end in mind.” But if we aim for our end product to be IT support that provides a positive customer experience and is business value focused, what exactly is the beginning?

Quite simply, the beginning is recruiting and hiring the right people with the right mindset to build a positive experience with a business focus. Easily said, but how do we capture these unicorns who can provide a positive customer experience while adding business value?

Now brace yourself, because what I am about to say flies in the face of every conventional practice in IT recruitment, the people you need are most likely not IT people.

If you truly want to build a positive customer experience in IT Support, stop hiring people who have spent their entire careers in IT. Please excuse the generalization, but most people in IT chose that career because they love technical gadgetry more than they like people. How can you build a positive customer experience on a foundation that shaky?

Short answer: “You can’t.” Old habits die hard, and if there is one thing that we grizzled I.T. veterans resist, it’s change – ironic given that we work in one of the most fluid and ever-evolving industries imaginable.
As for the other core concept of business value, I would assert that much of the same holds true. Most technical resources with resumes reflecting only IT experience are accustomed to getting requirements and providing a tool, then supporting it until it is replaced. End of story. How often have we heard the retort when something is not working as the business expected, “That should have been in your requirements”?

But someone who truly understands the line of business wouldn’t need to be given an exhaustive list of requirements that precludes any errors by omission. They would already KNOW what the business needs – and more importantly what the business values. Value is what is important to the business over and above cost. We in IT get so fixated on the lowest price that we forget why we drive an $80,000 Tesla Model X instead of a $15,000 Chevrolet Spark – because of the perceived value we feel we receive, rather than the sticker price we pay.

Next week, we’ll take a look at how to implement this concept of customer-centric IT service and support in practice.

Tag(s): supportworld, coaching, collaboration, communications skills, communications technology

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