As consumers we expect a high standard of service. Either with your cell phone provider, mechanic or energy company, we’ve got used to certain standards and being treated by businesses in a certain way.
Yet in a business-to-business context – including IT service management – the experience can be quite different. A lot of companies are yet to adopt a truly customer-centric approach though the expectation of the customer is that of a consumer.
As consumers our expectations have shifted: we want things now. No more readily do we see this than on social media where platforms like Twitter are used by consumers to elicit a quick response from a business. Companies are forced to respond as fast as possible to protect their reputation and now we’ve entered an ongoing spiral where customer expectations and the response times from businesses will continue to become faster and faster.
To respond to this growing trend, companies now need to be more flexible, transparent and have a service mindset.
What is a service mindset?
Whatever your business, you are a service provider and have to look at it from a customer’s perspective.
They will want a specific solution to improve their business and you need to understand what that is. By having a clear insight and a complete understanding of their business and needs, you’ll be able to provide greater value. Your aim should be to help your customers and, in turn, your customers’ customer.
A product versus a service
While a service mindset might seem natural to some people or organizations, to others it’s not. A lot of the time, the companies that struggle with adopting a service mindset are those that don’t understand the difference between a product and service.
These businesses often have an arrogance at their core and a belief that they know what’s best. This approach often stems from having a very short term vision for their organization and frequently, that short term vision is revenue. The longer term view should be helping customers move forward and offering what they’re really looking for. To have an effective service mind-set, businesses need to have empathy.
And for those organizations focused on the bottom line, a service mind-set doesn’t equate to lost time or a drop in revenue. In a competitive market, IT providers need to differentiate themselves. Everyone can do the job or supply a product, but if you provide it with service that’s aligned with the customer’s needs and think with the customer, that’s how you stand out and – more importantly – survive.
How to implement the service mindset
Achieving the service mind-set, isn’t about having the right processes. In fact, having too many processes can actually lead to too much bureaucracy so a service mindset is about giving team members the freedom and authority to act.
I recently experienced this when travelling: when I arrived at my destination, my suitcases didn’t. Needing clothes for the rest of my trip, I bought the essentials and passed on the expense to the airline for reimbursement. I was very surprised to find the money in my account less than a week later, and without any question.
This business had an excellent example of the service mindset in action. Upon receiving my claim, someone had the authority to approve it and reimburse me quickly and efficiently. This meant that despite things going wrong, I received an excellent customer experience.
The emotional bank account
If problems are handled in the right way, they can actually become an opportunity for businesses to demonstrate their customer service in action. This all depends on the balance of what I call the ‘emotional bank account’.
The emotional bank account is the goodwill and strength of relationship that a business has with its customers. Every time a company delivers something positive, this is an investment into the emotional bank account. If something goes wrong, you can then withdraw from the account and maintain a positive balance because, in the past, you’ve made investments.
When working with IT organizations to adapt to a service mind-set, I use this approach but also stress the importance of everyone within the business knowing the balance of the account.
When they know the balance and have the autonomy and freedom to make a considered decision, they can make the appropriate withdrawal or investment as required and that’s the essence of the service mindset.
See our ITIL® section for more information about IT Service Management.
Read Marcel's previous blog for AXELOS, ITIL® Practitioner: the new stand-out certification.