From simply Closing the Loop to realising the Virtual Loop

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Article originally published on ECXO

If Continual Service Improvement were the Mind than surely Closing The Loop would be the Heart. Whereas Continual Service Improvement can be considered a numbers driven logical exercise, Closing the Loop is rooted in empathy, emotions and experience. Although the concepts of Continual Service Improvement and Closing The Loop have different roots they share the fundamental focus on gathering input and feedback for insights on how to improve the way organizations create and deliver products and services to customers. Both share the concept of learning from past successes and failures to identify and implement changes to increase customer satisfaction. In fact, these different approaches each with their own heritage but shared aims make them uniquely complementary and arguably work best when combined. Introducing the Virtual Loop!

Since the start of the Digital Age roughly half a century ago, information technology has increasingly become an enabler of value to the point today where it is a fundamental pillar to the future for most organizations. These days there are numerous ways in which information technology is crucial to many organizations from business to education to health to finance and more. As organizations learned to harness the potential of IT and developed best practices, the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) framework began to take shape. The principle of Continual Service Improvement, or CSI, entered the ITIL canon in v3 and continues in ITIL4 as part of Service Value System.

ITIL4 Service Value Lifecycle
ITIL4 Service Value Lifecycle

One thing that has changed little over time is that organizations exist to meet the needs of their (end) users also known as ‘customers’. The concept of Customer Experience (CX) started well before the Digital Age going back to the development of market research and consumer theories before the Second World War. The advent of call centers followed by the emergence of enterprise feedback management systems heralded the age of CX. Although there isn’t a single CX framework, most if not all will subscribe to the fundamental importance of listening and acting on customer feedback, also known as Closing the Loop.

Feedback loops promoting both individual and organisational improvements

Although both frameworks developed independently, each with its own distinct roots, both lineages aim to continually develop processes, systems and people based on feedback collected from customers and stakeholders. ITIL Continual Service Improvement and CX Closing The Loop are two approaches that aim to enhance the quality and value of IT services and customer experiences respectively. Both are based on the concept of continual improvement and use methods from quality management to learn from past successes and failures. Whether it’s the more traditional findings of Deming’s PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act), Peter Senge’s seminal work on Learning Organizations, Toyota’s Kaizen or more modern iterations like Agile and Scrum, they all share the common aim to improve matters and serve us to explore the similarities and contrasts between ITIL CSI and CX Closed Loop in terms of their objectives, processes, and benefits.

Both approaches continually collect input to enhance processes for better outcomes

ITIL Continual Improvement model

The ITIL CSI model can guide support improvement initiatives and increases the likelihood that improvement initiatives will be successful. It puts a strong focus on customer value and ensures that improvement efforts can be linked back to the organizations vision. The model supports an iterative approach to improvement, dividing work into manageable pieces with separate goals that can be achieved incrementally. It aims to continually improve the effectiveness and efficiency of IT processes and services, in line with the concept of continual improvement adopted in ISO 20000. ITIL CSI follows a seven-step process that involves identifying the vision, defining the metrics, gathering the data, processing the data, analysing the data, presenting and using the information, and implementing improvement. ITIL CSI uses methods such as PDCA, Six Sigma, Balanced Scorecard, SWOT analysis, and benchmarking to measure and improve performance.

CX Closed Loop is a systematic cycle of making significant changes in the way an organization works according to customer feedback. It can improve your business’ performance and your overall customer experience, which consists of all of the interactions you have with customers and the ways which those interactions shape their perceptions of and feelings towards your business. CX Closed Loop usually follows a number of steps that involve collecting feedback, analysing feedback, acting on feedback, and following up with customers. CX Closed Loop uses methods such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Customer Effort Score (CES), sentiment analysis, text analytics, and root cause analysis to understand and improve customer satisfaction.

Some similarities between ITIL CSI and CX Close The Loop are:

  • Both are based on the concept of continual improvement and use methods from quality management to learn from past successes and failures.
  • Both involve collecting feedback from customers or stakeholders, analysing it, identifying areas for improvement, implementing changes, and measuring the impact of those changes.
  • Both aim to increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention by delivering value and meeting or exceeding expectations.
  • Both require coordination and collaboration among different IT functions and teams by requiring better alignment and integration among different business functions and teams.

However, there are also some differences between ITIL CSI and CX Closed Loop such as:

  • ITIL CSI takes an inside-out approach by focussing on improving IT processes and services within an organization, while CX Closed Loop takes an outside-in perspective by starting with the customer experiences to improve the multiple touchpoints across the customer journey
  • ITIL CSI is a single framework based on industry best practice that uses structured methods to define metrics, gather, process and analyse data, present information, and implement improvement, while CX is a newer field with varying approaches to Close The Loop by using more agile and flexible methods to collect and act on feedback, and follow up with customers.
The Virtual Loop – combining the best of both worlds

To summarize, ITIL CSI and CX Closed Loop are two approaches that share important similarities in their objectives, processes, and benefits of continual improvement. Although they also have some differences in their scope, methods, and requirements both approaches can help organizations achieve better outcomes for their customers and stakeholders. Arguably, despite their differing provenances but shared aims, these frameworks are so complementary in fact that ideally both should be used any organization seeking to improve the way they work for a better customer experience.

Steve Belgraver
I'm is a senior ICT manager with 20+ years of experience in B2B service management with a focus in the enterprise telecom/system integrator sector for the past 15 years. My roles have varied from managing multinational client accounts to running teams to establishing new business functions. I particularly enjoy exploring the complementary potential where the service management and customer experience fields intersect

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