These days, almost all service providers and indeed most businesses strive to be a customer-oriented. This implies that customer-oriented businesses focus on two key things. First, they focus on fulfilling customer needs and secondly, they focus on ensuring that the entire experience for the customer is a pleasant one.
This approach needs certain conditions in order to succeed, some of which include;
- A capability by the organization to deliver a customer-oriented strategy in all stages of the customer’s lifecycle.
- A deep understanding of the customers’ needs and expectations
- Everyone from the CEO to the lowest ranking employee needs to be committed to the customer-oriented strategy
- There must be a drive to adapt to the customers changing perception of satisfaction with time
In order to understand the customer better, determine what is important to them and ensure that they are always satisfied there should always be a constant effort to gain good quality feedback.
From the feedback, the service provider will then; improve the service or how it is delivered and deal with any source of dissatisfaction to the customer.
Implicitly, ITIL focuses on better serving customers in all its process and functions as is shown in the diagram below.
Explicitly, good service delivery is a consistent theme in ITIL function and processes. For example, a good ITIL Certification training will teach you that ITIL processes are grouped into 5 stages: Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement. The word ‘service’ is clearly the consistent theme in each stage. That being said, Service Level Management (SLM) is the cornerstone of better service delivery in ITIL.
Service level management ensures that customers are better served
SLM, which falls squarely under the Service Design stage of the ITIL customer lifecycle, is arguably the most important ITIL discipline.
The key goal of ITIL Service Level Management is to ensure that agreed levels of service are delivered and that future services continue to be delivered and improved upon within agreed targets. This is done through:
- Defining, measuring, reporting and reviewing services provided
- Ensuring and maintaining a good relationship between customers and the business
- Ensuring clarity of expectations for services delivered
- Proactively implementing measures for better service delivery when the costs can be justified
- Improving customer satisfaction and
- Documenting all of the above
Customers end up getting a better service through the following SLM activities:
- SLM translates business requirements into tangible specifications
- SLM establishes a service scope e.g. hours of operation availability and service support provision
- SLM creates and maintains a service catalog that includes; customer information, services offered to the customer and pricing
- SLM creates, negotiates, refines and measures the performance of Service Level Agreement (SLAs), Underpinning Contracts (UCs) and Operational Level Agreements (OLAs)
- SLM is the keystone of continuous service improvement in ITIL since it formally identifies service improvements
- SLM plans for expansion of services through Capacity Management and
- SLM does Gap analysis of business requirements and current services.
ITIL and the Kano Evaluation Model- a clear understanding of customers’ needs in order to better serve customers
“When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.” ― Matt Groening
This famous quote clearly distills the fact that, for businesses, there is no excitement factor generated by providing the basic service that you promise to deliver.
To business, this poses a very important issue: If the customer is not excited about your services, are they really satisfied with your service? Or rather, will they remain satisfied as soon as a better option comes along that provides above and beyond the basic service that you provide at no additional cost?
In order to address this very issue, ITIL recommends a Service Design approach driven by outcomes. The outcomes have attributes and the attributes are evaluated using the ‘Kano Evaluation Model’ as shown below.
According to the Kano Evaluation Model, there are 3 main factors that determine customer satisfaction:
Basic factors (green line): These are expected aspects of a service. They are usually taken for granted and only provide neutral satisfaction when delivered. If not delivered, they generate a perception of lost utility to the customer.
Performance factors (blue line): A customer gets a linear increase or decrease in quality of service beyond the basic needs. For example, a customer expects more or less of a service depending on what they pay for it.
Excitement factors: (red line): Include attributes that a customer does not expect from the service and are pleasantly surprised when they receive the service. If the service is not provided there is no sense of loss in utility of the overall service provided.
A customer-oriented business seeks to better serve its customers. This is mainly done through:
- Having agreements for better service provision e.g. SLAs
- Installing a holistic customer oriented strategy for all stages of the customer lifecycle (ITIL-Processes and lifecycle stages)
- Having a deep understanding of customer needs and expectations (ITIL and the Kano Model)
- Installing measures, processes and procedures for constant improvement to adapt with the customers changing needs and expectations
All these points are thoroughly covered in several ITIL disciplines and therefore by studying ITIL, you will have a good framework and tools to better serve customers.