Do we need to teach our customers how to fish or just give them the fish?

How many times do you hear in IT roll-out meetings “We will need to teach our clients how to do this or that”? How many times do you actual hear in these meetings if we change the way the software functions our clients will be more productive? The IT experts and the decision makers have to make a conscious effort to make technology easiest as possible for people to adapt and learn. Customers should not or even care to look through a 20-page manual. Therefore, customers want to be given the fish instead of taught how to fish.

How to capture customers’ expectations

Customers only want to learn one time in their career the fastest way to complete each task to do their job. They do not have time or desire to go to training or calling the Service Desk to find out how to do their job. Yes, change is imminent in IT but the changes need to be limited as much as possible to avoid customers from complete their tasks. The rollout planning needs to be precise and well planned.

The IT community needs to focus on exceeding customers’ expectations and requirements when it comes to changes and releases. How can you find out what customers want in “your” organizations if you do not listen to them? Each organization’s customer base, level of support is different so customer expectation will be different.

Reducing the Mysterious How to questions

A mature IT department will have a Service Desk answering more “how to” questions than break-fix incidents. If your Service Desk answers a copious amount of calls on one particular function or component, each month then the technology might be too challenging for the customer’s aptitude to learn. I am not talking about two calls a month here! For example, if 30% or more of the Outlook calls that come into the Service Desk are about how to change the password should be an indication the customers are having trouble adjusting to the password technology.

Most organizations try to fix this problem with training. The reason why training does not work in most cases because training is not mandatory. On the other hand, if the training is mandatory customer will not take the training seriously, because they were told to take the training not under their free will. Customers rather have their fingernails pulled out one by one rather than attend training. Lastly, they know if they have questions, they can always the call the Service Desk for the answers. It does not help that after the training the last statement from the trainer is “If you run into any problems, you can call the Service Desk”.

Customers’ frustrations

Customers are calling the Service Desk to express their dissatisfaction with technology. The Incidents recorded at the Service Desk is a determinate on how well the IT department is doing. This indicates how well the process is from release of the technology until decommission of the technology.

Finding out what customers are calling about on a particular application should be the job of the Service Desk. The Service Desk professionals (SDP) should be raising this type of information to management for resolution. They are on the front line answering customers’ calls and complaints. SDPs hear the customers’ specific complaints or suggestion on where exactly they are having trouble with the technology. The agents should be empowered to be able to make a difference and be the voice of the customer. The SDP should make the customer feel that his ideas or issues are important and are taken seriously, and not just one of many such complaint or suggestion.

The client’s frustration should be documented in an Incident Management ticket and when necessary progress into a Problem Management Investigation when raising the issue to the engineering team. In most cases, the complaints are not passed to the engineers from the Service Desk because the ticket is resolved through training the customer or fixing the incident. The Service Desk Professional (SDP) helped the customer accomplish what they originally called the Service Desk. What is rarely documented is the customers’ frustration on why they needed to call. For example, a customer calls the Service Desk on help on how to reset their password. Eliminating future incidents can be avoided simply by changing the color or bolding the words on the reset button if the suggestion from customers can be documented.

Why is this not being done today is because Service Desk Management are worried about the statistics instead of customer satisfaction. The referral of the incidents will affect the first call closure. Technically the incident is resolved but the underlining problem is not resolved.

Categorizing trouble tickets – Garbage in, Garbage out  

In order for this to work the categorization of the Incidents and Problem investigation, have to be correct. In the process of rolling out a new product, it is critical to finalize the categorization for the Problem investigation to document the customer’s frustration with IT. The engineers in collaboration with the Service Desk should form the categorization. The Service Desk can uncover some of frustration the engineers would not consider at no fault to the engineering team. The SDP have the training and experience to know where customers will have frustrations. On the other hand, the engineers know what they require from the Service Desk to resolve the errors or bugs and reduce the time to resolve the Problem investigating.

It is important the rapport is excellent between the Service Desk and the engineers. The meeting should not be a blame game but a collaborative effort to resolve problems.  Do not be afraid modify categorization at any time, because the categorization that was created might not be what customers are calling about in the future. The review of the categorization should be done one month after the release. Take 20% sample of the volume of calls the Service Desk received for each new product rolled out. Always remember that eliminating 10% of the problems reduces 80% of the calls. This process will help to eliminate 80% of the calls to the Service Desk.

Finding solutions

There should be consistent monthly meeting between the Service Desk management and the engineering team to discuss different options on how to rectify the problems. The Service Desk management team should be prepared to present statistics on the Incidents and Problems. The engineering team should be prepared to discuss the progress of existing Problem investigations and future releases.

Apple has pride themselves on giving people fish and they have been able to make billions of dollars off this concept. There is a great reason why people sleep out days in front of the stores to grab the next new thing and it is not to learn how to how to use their new device from a 20 page manual either. Customers know they can use the new features without learning how to fish because they know they will be just handed fish. It is time for the rest of IT to learn from their success.

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