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Author  Barry Corless – Business Development Director for Best Practice, Global Knowledge

May 12, 2015 |

 4 min read

  • Blog
  • Communication
  • Service desk
  • Service management
  • ITIL

It all started with a tweet and now I find myself debating Customer Experience (CX) on the Axelos blog.

My tweet posed something of a challenge to Axelos: “Right Axelos, I’ve decided here starts the campaign to replace ITIL® Business Relationship Management (BRM) and Service Level Management (SLM) with CX management – more joined up, more sense.”

The root of my proposition is in the self-imposed isolation of many IT departments, which are good at creating virtual walls between themselves and the rest of an organization.

Before throwing out the IT Service Management (ITSM) baby with the bath water, it’s worth acknowledging that ITIL’s BRM, BLM and CX are each trying to get the right service in the right place, at the right time and cost for the customer.

It has been variously successful over the years but with one constant: as technology progresses the customer has become more demanding and savvy about what they should expect from IT services. Organizations that have buried their head in the sand about this are not around anymore and customer experience is now defined by companies such as Waitrose and John Lewis.

The principles of excellent CX are the same in ITSM; it’s only the application that’s different.

So what about ITIL’s BRM and SLM?

The detail of BRM and SLM remains valid but – for me – their success depends on being joined effectively with the service desk and operations. Together they can be a powerful force, but tend not to work together as closely as they should.

In my view, the real problem is distinguishing between “users” and “customers” and – if I might be so bold – ITIL would benefit from removing the distinction at the next revision.

Going down the path of “customer” rather than “user” has a direct effect on customer experience: it changes the attitude of ITSM people when treating people as customers, not users.

How does CX differ in its approach?

CX is, principally, two things:

  1. It is all-encompassing: an end-to-end journey of customer experience. From discovery of you and your service to advocacy
  2. Leadership and CX: with the importance placed on customer experience, it needs C-level interest and the same rigour applied to internal as to external customers.

CX considers the bigger picture – delivering improvements at all levels whether this is around interaction, the way you do business or using services at the right time. It’s also about improving the cultivation of the customer into new areas and becoming advocates for you.

For example, in work I’m doing with a major UK organization, it involves trying to drive a customer culture through the business; looking at staff attitudes, modifying behaviour and getting them closer to the goals of the organization.

The same principles also extend to managing suppliers’ approaches to customer experience. This involves an internal team integrating the services of key suppliers and implementing initiatives to drive a customer culture that involves them as well.

Many people may see customer culture as simply saying “have a nice day”; but with the coming of social media and the ability to manage customer experience and communication though a range of new channels it’s all good news for customer experience. And this has the by-products of customer awareness and advocacy. See the online work of Virgin Trains as an example, providing helpful, informative communications that are both proactive and reactive to the customer.

Thinking back to ITSM, IT organizations need to ask themselves a number of questions: what does IT do? How do people interact with us? How easy are we to do business with? Do we provide the right services at the right quality?

Other tips to create sound CX management:

  1. Ask yourself – how well do you know your customer?
  2. Do you have a central repository for that knowledge that everyone can access?
  3. Do a gap analysis comparing what you need to know with what you do– the gap might be bigger than you realize!
  4. Bring from ITSM what is needed to manage the customer experience.

Whatever you do, you must ensure that – metaphorically – the blood running through your veins is the same as your customers’ – and the CX approach you take is joined up.