5 ways IT can improve customer satisfaction

As an IT guy at heart, when people ask me for my top tips to improving customer service, they’re always surprised to hear how simple and automate-able they are. So often, IT managers layer technology upon technology to solve problems, but, at the end of the day, you can’t have happy customers if the technology you provide was never informed by the fundamentals of what they want and how they want it.

And you definitely shouldn’t wait until the customer calls to find those things out.  Instead, you should be able to rely on technology infrastructure and work processes that proactively search for gaps in customer service. The ability to identify and address these gaps before they become an issue is imperative to the customer experience and, ultimately, the level of service (and satisfaction) you’re able to provide.

So with that in mind, here are my top tips:

Know your customer: In order to provide the best service possible, IT needs to know everything about the customer.  And they shouldn’t have to run around tapping various databases to get the full picture.  Instead, they should look into something like a configuration management database (CMDB) to quickly get an aggregated, data-rich view.

With a CMDB, IT will know the hardware and networks associated with the customer, what they do, and how they do it – providing context about the individual and the (potential) incidents. As a result, IT can skip many time-consuming discovery steps and go straight to pinpointing (and resolving) problems quickly and effectively.

Knowledge management: This should be considered table stakes when it comes to service as it allows IT to maintain expertise and domain knowledge even when an expert transitions off the team. It’s beneficial to the business as well because IT can avoid a Groundhog Day experience where they spend time and money repeatedly fixing the same issue because no one took the time to record it the first time. With a strong knowledge base in place, IT can ask the right questions and find a solution quickly.

Manufacturing cars at scale wouldn’t be feasible if blueprints and schematics weren’t recorded – the same goes for IT and customer service.

Codifying any body of knowledge – IT, or otherwise – allows everyone to perform diagnostics from the same data source so they solve issues quickly and create happy customers.

Do-it-yourself intelligence: There’s nothing wrong with sharing this knowledge with customers as well. Today’s typical end user is far more sophisticated than even five years ago, and many people like to do it themselves for faster resolution.

Knowledge from previous incidents can be quickly filtered down to the relevant information and presented to the customer in an easy-to-search database. Any effective IT service solution should strive for this level of knowledge management and transfer to be most efficient.  Then, if the customer chooses, they can fix their problem quickly with no technician interaction required, or, at the very least, have full transparency and trust in the processes. The customer is happy, IT is happy – it’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Crystal clear service level agreements (SLA): With detailed IT service SLAs, everyone is aligned, and the customer has a clear expectation of service. More importantly though, there are solutions out there that give IT insight into how well they’re performing against their own agreements.

With well-defined SLAs, customers are assigned an appropriate technician with the knowledge and experience required for their particular incident.  And if this front line resource is not available, an alternate with similar experience can be automatically assigned for first touch resolution. The upside for the customer is that they connect with the appropriate resource every time for consistent and reliable service.

Risk mitigation via CMDB: Sometimes the best service for a customer is service they don’t even know they’re getting. By following the above with the right technology, technicians can analyze the potential impact of an incident using multiple sources of data from across the business – all federated within the CMDB.

In many instances, IT will be able to foretell a far more critical issue and take immediate action to mitigate it before it becomes a real problem.  This could be something as simple as applying a patch to a popular app before a wider failure can occur, or as significant as a server going down and impacting crucial parts of the business. I am amazed at the number of potential disasters I’ve seen averted simply because IT was able to act preemptively based on a wider view of the situation.

Ultimately, an effective IT service solution will allow the business to define and deliver the exact level of service desired to all customers. And it will be an interactive experience for everyone.  Along with painting a broad picture of the business based on data from across the enterprise, the customer’s basic, and most important, needs are shared with IT effectively – regardless if it’s a technician, an email, or a search engine – giving them a high level of engagement from all sides of your business.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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