Engage and Listen to your Customers
Start by trying to understand the customer experience and expectation of IT.
Why? Read more below.
It should be obvious really – we are in a service business so we really need to have a close understanding or our customers needs and priorities, in order to ensure that we are delivering them what they need in a manner that delivers value.
In my experience I have found many IT organisations simply make judgements and decisions themselves about what is important and how a service is to be provided. That might work you may think for some large corporate technology organisations, who simply provide offerings and customers can take it or leave it – but of course that’s based on extensive research and testing.
However, within retained IT organisations, the ‘customer’ also directly pays IT’s salaries and therefore one of the key values that an IT department can bring is business knowledge! So in fact the IT department must work closely and engage with its customers to identify and agree on the services and service levels that are required.
We need to put aside our pre-defined ideas of services and SLAs and Service Catalogs and simply arrange to meet with some customers to have an informal chat and to ask them to say (in their own terms) what is important to them about technology they use. DON’T try and suggest talking about SLAs or go in with a pre-canned list of what YOU think is important – ask them in to tell you in their words, and listen.. My experience is that 2 new things always happen as a result of this:
- You and the IT organisation you represent will learn some new stuff about your customers that you didn’t know before – and which will help you to be more responsive when it matters
- The customer will say something like ‘ that’s the fist time IT has actually asked me for my opinion on this’ – they too will learn something about you and IT that they didn’t know. and which will help your relationship.
The key element here is that you need to engage — not just go and talk, but actively listen. Give your view and input of course, but also hear the customer’s view too and be ready to make changes and act upon it.
- How do they use technology
- What are their key business priorities?
- What services/tools are important, when, who does what in their team, when?
- What could we use as a simple measure of (IT) success?
- What reports (if any) would be useful to them ?
- How do they prioritise ?
A lot of what is discussed you may know already, some you may not, certainly the point of this process is to develop the relationship – to be more than just setting and reporting on SLAs – so that you can really focus on meeting your customers targets and outcomes rather than some arbitrary IT-based objectives. Most of all you are trying to understand and get a clear definition of their experience of using your service – what that is actually like from the customer’s perspective – without this how can you improve? This information and knowledge is the most important data that you can have as a service provider.
- Select initially some known or mostly friendly customers (to get the process right)
- Ask hem for a short (30-45 minute)meeting where you want to discuss how to improve their service
- Make it clear that this is an improvement process and that you won;t need much of their time
- Send them the input form (see below)
- Get as much information written down and followed up from the meeting
- Don’t try to organise this data too much until you’ve then started to build up your service structure (Step 2) – use this as knowledge as input to your Service Strategy Workshop.
The real value of this is in the relationship building so don’t worry too much about producing structured data out of the meeting – that will come together once you then define a structure of services. Think of this phase, and any subsequent iteration with the customers, as your chance to really step into the customers shoes and get a close understanding of your technology and services from their perspective.
- Customers see ‘Incidents’ as accidents, ‘servers’ as waiters and “architecture’ as buildings – talk to them in their language
- No-one cares about how many ‘incidents’ you’ve had or what your availablity is – there and working when we need it is all that matters
- Let’s move our IT organisation from providing systems to delivering Services
- ‘We did SLAs before and no-one was interested’ – no wonder if they were IT-only driven
- SLM, SLAs and Service Catalogue – all must be done with customers – otherwise it’s old IT arrogance
- If you don’t have a clear definition of what you do in IT, how can you know if you’re doing a good job?
- Let’s not think of running IT ‘as’ a business but ‘like’ a business – and part of it
- If you are going to do an ITSM project, clarify what it will deliver for your organisation
- If you think you ‘just work in IT’, remember its the customers who pay your salary
- IT is and should be part of the business not a separate (necessary evil) function
- It’s the (project) process that counts with SLM – i.e. talking/listening to your customers