Customer-centricity has become a hot buzzword across industries today, both in B2C and B2B companies. And there’s a good reason for that. Customer-obsessed organizations are winning.
But when we start to apply the concepts of customer-centricity and service excellence to IT organizations, we often find that CIOs and IT leaders don’t really understand what the terms mean in practice. So before we talk about what good service looks like for IT, we need to understand what good service doesn’t look like.
First, service is not subservience. It’s not about becoming submissive order-takers who deliver anything the client desires. IT cannot be all things to all people. You end up serving whoever screams the loudest — and satisfying no one.
But even though IT can’t do everything the client asks for, it can convey a willingness to serve, and it does this by addressing the client’s needs with respect and concern. If you’ve succeeded, the client walks away from the transaction interaction thinking, ‘‘I really like working with these people.’’
Second, service can’t spring from a negative atmosphere. Many IT organizations weave IT service into IT governance, and the result becomes an attempt by IT to impose what’s “best” onto the entire organization. While IT absolutely has to keep its eye on regulatory requirements, security best practices and infrastructure needs, if all the business sees is you being an obstacle to meeting bottom-line objectives, you’re only undercutting your own effectiveness.
The result of this negativity is that IT is seen as “the Department of No,” and IT sees the business as inconsiderate, unappreciative and “unable to survive a day without us.” That’s no way to build trust, credibility and respect. Unfortunately, many IT departments are hotbeds of negativity, where the staff feels undervalued, angry and victimized.
It’s no wonder, then, that when some IT leaders ask their staff to improve their service, the staff might glumly play a role that they think looks like good service but isn’t. Think of the store checkout clerk who asks without expression or eye contact whether you’ve found everything okay, or the false smile of the ﬂight attendant who tells you to have a good day. All of us can spot insincerity or indifference under a thin veneer of professionalism a mile away. And none of us likes it.
Good Service Looks Like This
From an IT point of view, the characteristics of good service include:
When IT views its mission not as maintaining an infrastructure and getting through a backlog of service tickets, but as partnering with line of business workers to make the entire enterprise successful, a change happens. Their problem is our problem. Their goals — to be more productive, to succeed in the market, to capture a new business opportunity — become our goals.
An IT Service Mindset at Work
What this reflects is a change in mindset that’s required to achieve service excellence. And it’s easiest to describe that change with examples. Here are a few that might resonate with you:
By contrast, the Promiser just says, ‘‘Yes,’’ ‘‘We can do that,’’ ‘‘We can do that, too,’’ and ‘‘Is there anything else you want us to do?’’
Both roles are played with the best of intentions — the Rule Master wants to manage expectations and protect the company, while the Promiser is trying to build good relationships. But you can get better results and better serve your customers by taking those best intentions and pointing them in the right direction. A shift in mindset makes it possible.
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