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Customer Experience: How Well Do You Really Meet End-User IT Support Needs?

By | May 22, 2018 in ITSM

How often are we so engrossed in what we’re doing to consider the impact (of what we do or don’t do) on the people we are serving? Or, put another way, how often is task execution seen as more important than task outcome? IT support is an excellent example of how it can be too easy to focus on the mechanics of rapid ticket closure over truly helping the end user or customer.

Healthcare Support
For years I’ve wanted to write a blog related to “To Kill a Mockingbird” – a book I read, and a film I first watched, at school. However, as there’s so much in it that makes you think, until now I couldn’t find a specific focal point from whence to start an IT service management (ITSM) blog – something related to how well we deliver IT support, especially something that would make us rethink how we deliver that IT support.

Thankfully, a prolonged stay in the hospital has helped me find that focal point – using a quote from the book and film’s Atticus Finch: “You never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them.” A variation on an older Native American quote.

My hospital stay reminded me of the book and, turning it to ITSM, also how easy it is to deliver IT services and support without truly knowing the situation and needs of the end user (or customer).

It’s Not Up to You to Decide How Great Your Service Is

Now this might sound like a whinge, something I’m obviously incredibly skilled at, but I found some things interesting in terms of understanding the mindsets, and actions, of some people in “service” roles (and don’t get me wrong – this was the minority of carers and I truly appreciated the UK’s National Health Service (NHS)).

Here’s what I found:

  • Appreciating the customer’s situation and environment

    Someone is tasked to deliver nighttime medication but does so without any care about a patient’s, or patients, need for sleep (or the consequences the following day of not having had sufficient sleep). So, lights are left on post-medication-administration, other patients are woken up (by light and noise) despite them not needing any medication personally, and patients are left on drips hours after they should’ve been removed (although I can understand that someone might not want to wake a sleeping patient attached to a drip).

    Surely nighttime medication should be given in a way that minimizes such sleep disruption? It should be about more than just delivering the medication.

  • Minimizing unnecessary customer “annoyance”

    Someone is tasked with using specialist machinery to check patient variables such as blood pressure. But, in doing so, the machinery makes a loud and prolonged alarm sound – the hospital equivalent of water-drip torture – when the said care person leaves the machinery unattended while they do something else in another place (which of course could be more important). With this even worse when it happens in the middle of the night.

    Don’t patients deserve to not be subjected to unnecessary noise (and it is unnecessary) and the possible impact on sleep and recovery? (I told you I’m a whinger.)

  • Realizing the potential of insignificant things

    Someone is tasked to make cups of tea but they make a pretty poor cuppa (and don’t seem to care). A “first-world problem” I know, but think about the patient – do they want, expect, or deserve a bad cup of tea? And given their circumstances, surely nice cups of tea (and food) are exactly what they need to help get them through their day(s) in a hospital bed? Or, more critically, patient hydration is key to many aspects of healthcare – from maintaining a good blood-pressure level to taking blood and fitting cannulas – so there is a medical downside to making poor cuppas.

I could, of course, go on but hopefully, I’ve whinged enough to communicate my point. And thankfully these people – who in my opinion don’t always see patients as people, and vulnerable people – are in a very small minority.

Translating This to an IT Support Environment

These few examples made me wonder what the equivalent is from an IT support perspective – where support people are going through the motions, thinking that they’re doing a great job (and this is probably backed up by the metrics used), while they could be doing so much better if they actually thought more about the people they are “serving.” It brings this blog back to “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the need to place oneself in the other person’s shoes.

But, in my opinion, it’s actually so much more than this.

There might also be the need to view the person at the other end of the phone (or another access and communication channel) as a person, let alone a customer. I know that I’ve stated this before – and maybe in a blog somewhere – but how many times do you feel that you would have received better support, customer service, and overall customer experience if you’d been standing in front of the support agent?

Think about the dynamics in play in the following two scenarios:

  • Face-to-face support – where one human can see whether or not they are helping another, plus have the ability to physically gauge how well the interaction is going. And with the first person very much “in the line of fire” in terms of customer dissatisfaction.
  • Remote support – where one human is dealing with a ticket and a distant voice at best. Do they see a customer or even a person? Or are they overly focused on what’s on the screen in front of them – the ticket and the support script? Plus, they’re also somewhat protected from customer dissatisfaction thanks to the ability to distance the phone/headset from their ear (and maybe even the magical accidental-disconnect button). And, finally, maybe they don’t actually care about the distant voice – only the closure of the ticket? Harsh I know.

This is just a simple example of how easy it is for IT support to replicate some of my poor hospital experiences (the unwanted 5%-or-less of my care interactions).

My point is – it’s way too easy for your organization’s IT support people to forget that they should be helping people, helping customers, rather than just riding a merry-go-round of ticket closures. They need to understand the end-user situation and to empathize with it. Have they ever been asked, or tasked, to do so – or is it just about closing as many support tickets as possible?

I was also the youngest, and most mobile, of the patients on the hospital wards I stayed in. It was a great reminder that all people are definitely not the same, such that supporting people (as opposed to tickets) also varies – depending on the needs and abilities of the person in need of service.

Ultimately, do your IT support personnel ever get the opportunity to learn more about the people they serve – to walk in their shoes? And do they then consider more than the technology and the related script(s) at hand when trying to solve what is really a business/people, not a technology, issue?

I really do hope so!

If you’ve identified, and solved, this issue in your organization, I’d love to hear some of the methods you used.

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Stephen Mann

About Stephen Mann

Stephen Mann is an independent IT and IT service management content creator, and a frequent blogger, writer, and presenter on the challenges and opportunities for IT service management professionals. In his career, he’s held positions in IT research and analysis (at IT industry analyst firms Ovum and Forrester), IT service management consultancy, enterprise IT service desk and IT service management, IT asset management, innovation and creativity facilitation, project management, finance consultancy, internal audit, and most recently product marketing for a SaaS IT service management technology vendor.

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