It’s no surprise that IT organizations often emphasize efficiency over customer-centric qualities like responsiveness, empathy and accessibility. In as much as customers always expect to be treated well, IT professionals often have their hands tied behind their backs when it comes to providing a good customer experience.
There are of course several reasons for this situation. First, IT professionals may not be equipped to manage customer satisfaction in a holistic manner. Secondly, some IT based organizations simply don’t have a customer-centric culture.
Is ITIL customer-centric?
In as much as ITIL is the most adopted ITSM framework, it doesn’t always translate to providing a strong customer-centric culture in an organization. This will of course be tricky to uncover since anyone who has done an ITIL Certification will tell you that the underlying theme in ITIL, is service. The core ITIL subjects being; Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation and Continual Service Improvement.
Several businesses that use the ITIL framework, try to mitigate for the customer-centric gap by having an ITIL business relations manager. The business relationship manager’s role is to identify the needs of potential and existing customers and to ensure that appropriate services are developed to meet their needs.
For this reason, some will argue that ITIL is indeed customer centric. However, having a BRM is not enough to make an organization customer-centric.
In essence, if you want to give your customers a great customer experience, you need to seek ways to cultivate a deeper relationship with them.
Figure 2: How to create a customer centric culture
Ways to make ITIL more customer-centric
Identify and choose the right customers to work with
Usually, the customer is the person who purchases a services. However, at times, they may not be the ones who actually consume the service. For example, an individual could purchase services for a third party including a shareholder, regulator, government, management, professional body and so on.
As such, identifying who the customer actually is, or who the customer of your customer is, will allow you to serve your customers better.
On the other hand, you may decide that it is not in your interest to deal with certain customers or intermediaries for the purpose of building strong long-term relationships. The bottom-line question should be; what’s in it for them and for you before you decide to build on a long term relationship.
Understanding what the customer wants and needs
Understanding the requirements of the customer including their objectives, and desired outcomes is essential for customer satisfaction. Understanding customer needs should also encompass;
- Improvements in effectiveness and efficiency
- Cost reduction and revenue protection for growth and
- Service quality improvements
Assign a relationship manager
Having someone that is responsible and accountable for managing the relationship between the business and the customer is essential. Accountability and responsibility will not only be to the business, but also to the customer. In essence, the relationship manager will be the bridge between the organization and the customer.
The relationship manager should also have the capacity to act as an advocate and advisor and facilitate better communication between the organization and the customer in order to build a deeper relationship.
Describe how outcomes will be achieved
In line with ITIL 2011, the Service Management System (SMS) encompasses all service management processes, plans, policies, objectives resources and documentation. All these are required for the design, transition, delivery and improvement of services to fulfil ISO/IEC 20000-1:2011 requirements.
In order to foster a more customer-centric culture SMS and related services need to be designed in a manner that will achieve customer centric-outcomes and requirements. In essence, you need to agree with customers what you are going to do for them and how you are going to do it through contracts, SLAs, service catalogues etc.
Measure satisfaction and deal with complaints
In order to build a deep relationship with customers, the relationship needs to be rewarding and satisfying to both parties. As such, once you have decided to build a relationship with a customer, you need to make sure that they are always satisfied by:
- Attending to their complaints with expediency and
- Monitoring and measuring their level of satisfaction to make sure that they are happy with your service.
Encouraging staff to be more customer-centric
There are several ways to encourage all staff including IT staff to be more customer centric. Some useful ways include;
- Emphasizing customer service in all aspects of training
- Spreading work among different staff members from different departments to foster more understanding, teamwork and collaboration
- Encouraging a proactive approach to problem solving including finding new and creative ways to solve problems
Whichever side of the fence you are on in the argument about whether ITIL is customer-centric or not, there is some truth in the idea that it depends on how you adapt or adopt ITIL for your business and customer care needs.