By, Shellina Damji, Kepner-Tregoe

What do we mean by service excellence?

Anyone can provide a service, but what is the secret to providing excellent service? More importantly, who is the judge of your service and how do they measure you?

There are tried and true ways of assessing the quality of your service. You can measure adherence to Service Level Agreements – how often were these breached? How many incidents were solved at first contact? What is our mean time to repair or resolve (MTTR)? How many calls to our service desk are abandoned? How many repeat incidents do we get?

The list of standard metrics goes on and on, but just how meaningful are these statistics? Often we can see statistics that are all within expected operational parameters, but we still have unhappy customers. I have heard this referred to as the ‘watermelon principle’ everything is green on the outside, but when you cut into it we see the red, and this red represents dissatisfied consumers of our services.

Here are 6 ways to Service Excellence

1. Timely Responses: Complexity hinders our ability to deliver responsive services

Increasing levels of complexity in our IT environments are having a growing impact on our ability to deliver services that meet customer expectations consistently. There are almost daily reports in the media of major IT outages that are affecting banking, healthcare, telecommunications and other critical components of our modern lives. Reducing or eliminating these reputation-damaging events is part and parcel of service excellence.

2. Holistic Metrics: Measuring from all angles

It is important to take a multi-dimensional view of the quality of service you are providing. You need to measure against these three critical areas:

  • Efficiency
  • Quality
  • Cost

Efficiency measures will look at things like Mean Time to Repair or Resolve (MTTR), time to performance – how long does it take for new hires to become productive? What is the average time spent per incident? These are things that are relatively easy to measure and to demonstrate improvement in.

Quality measures focus on less tangible measures like customer satisfaction and loyalty, employee happiness and retention. These are harder to measure, but something that you need to get right.

Cost measures again are easier to demonstrate – average cost per call, reduction in backlog, increase in incident resolution rates.

3. Customer Experience:  Watch for unexpected impacts

Paradoxically, improvements in Efficiency and Cost can have an opposite effect on quality measures, particularly in the all-important area of customer satisfaction. A preoccupation with throughput and improving numbers can reduce the time spent with people who really matter. Your customers need to feel like you respect them and actually care about the effect that IT issues have on them. They do not want to feel like you are following a script and are in a hurry to get their call closed and out of your queue.

4. Fix the Cause: Eliminating repeat calls

An important factor in demonstrating service excellence is your ability to remove the cause of repeat incidents. As a customer there is nothing quite as frustrating as encountering the same issue time after time, having to log the call and have the service desk fix it. Regardless of how quickly the fix is put in place, there will be an increasing level of dissatisfaction directly related to the number of times the call has to be logged.

Customer satisfaction will be impacted more by repeat incidents of a minor nature that create annoyance than it will by major incidents that are handled well and communicated clearly.

5. Process Playbook:  A consistent approach

Another key to service excellence is consistency in the way problems and incidents are handled. The value of having everyone involved in service delivery reading from the same playbook cannot be underestimated. When your customers know what to expect when they log calls, and those expectations are met, regardless of who picks up the call, then your customer satisfaction levels will be positively impacted.

Support staff who know the right questions to ask and who gather complete and accurate information instill a feeling of confidence in their customer…on top of that they will improve the ability of second and third level support to quickly get to the root cause of an issue and get the customer back to work.

6. Communication: Update customers

One of the biggest barriers to providing a level of excellence in your service delivery is a lack of well-timed and complete information being fed back to the customer. Communication complaints are very common when reviewing IT performance and customer satisfaction. Too often communications are delayed, leaving customers hanging, wondering what has happened. Even if you have been unable to make progress on resolving an incident, you need to let the customer know that you are still working on the call and that it hasn’t been sucked into the great IT vacuum that customers think exists on the other side of the service desk phone and email systems.

Service Excellence: A benefit for everyone

When you are looking at an environment that values service excellence as a core philosophy, then you will see a workplace where employees feel valued and respected. You will find customers who trust the service they receive and who are happily recommending the organization to others.

Start with small improvements in key areas and you will be able to embark on a journey that will ultimately have a positive impact on the business and its ability to deliver to its customers in a way that delights them.

The KT problem solving approach is used worldwide for root cause analysis
and to improve IT stability

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