I don’t drink, I don’t smoke but I do have a serious book habit – I know, rock ‘n’ roll right? Supporting my book addiction is one of the best consumer experiences there is: Amazon.com. It’s also one of the most overused examples, but with good reason. It just works, and even better, I actually enjoy the process. The question is: is my loyalty driven purely by the online experience? Or is something bigger going on?
In this blog series I’ll be exploring the fundamentals of consumer service delivery. Along the way, we’ll identify approaches that could be workable and meaningful for IT. We’ll also start to build a much-needed working definition of IT consumerization, together with some practical steps towards modernization of the IT supplier-consumer relationship.
Lots has been written about giving IT consumers an experience in the workplace that matches the levels of service they’ve come to expect in their personal lives. And, quite rightly, a lot of the attention focuses on giving business users choice, flexibility and a great online experience. However, the new and slick presentation of your services needs to be matched with seamless and reliable service delivery.
So what can we learn from the giants of customer service when it comes to delivering on the promise of the sexy storefront? How do they use logistics as a secret weapon in a fiercely competitive market? And what might that mean for IT service delivery teams?
Supply chain experts will tell you that repeatability is extremely important. How would you feel about your favorite online store if they only delivered 8 times out of 10? Or if certain items in the catalog arrived on time and without fuss, while others were always delayed and often resulted in a trip to your local depot? In these days of unprecedented choice, you’d be almost certain to use an alternative next time – regardless of how easy it was to make the order.
Repeatability matters. This is as true for IT service delivery as it is for ordering goods online, which is why ‘repeatable’ is a basic measure of IT process maturity. It’s also true that corporate IT consumers now have a great deal of choice – so keeping them loyal and using the services you provide is an increasingly serious business.
Before embarking on a major consumerization project, you need to ensure that the processes underpinning the delivery of the services you intend to provide are well defined, enforced and robust. They don’t need to be complex or elaborate (see the next section for more) but they do need to work efficiently, every time.
Take a close look at the performance of your core service desk processes, together with change and service request management if you have them. Are you hitting your SLAs reliably enough that you’d be comfortable promoting these services even more widely? Are you even measuring your SLA performance effectively?
Another hallmark of great logistics is simplicity. If you think about the list of attributes defining a great logistics approach on this blog: i.e. repeatability, scalability, transparency and timeliness – they are all maximized by taking the simplest approach possible.
Removing complexity and duplication in process steps, and looking very carefully at the handoff between teams, will be time well spent. Enough said.
“We built it - they showed up - we weren’t ready” is not a great epitaph for an IT consumerization project. It’s also been the downfall of many supply chain projects, so look out…
One thing you can guarantee if you make your IT services more accessible and easier to use, is more customers. More customers, asking for more things, across a broader range of technologies for more of the time. Are you ready? Will your fulfillment processes and accompanying systems cope? Are you staffed at the right levels at the right times?
This is why it’s a good idea to introduce your new services to select groups on a trial basis. By taking this approach, you’ll learn about service uptake and patterns of utilization. That will give you a much better feel for the level and kinds of resource you’ll need to keep your service delivery on track.
Transparency (and communication)
“Your package will arrive between 10-30am and 10-45am, the driver’s name is Holly and she can be reached on” etc. It’s amazing just how much we can now see as consumers of logistics services: from interactive maps to increasing accurate delivery estimates, transparency and communication are becoming competitive differentiators for supply chain providers and their clients.
Regardless of whether things are going right, or horribly wrong, transparency and effective communication are critical in service delivery. Effective communication doesn’t just involve communicating clearly and frequently - it also has to be seen by the right people at the right time. So communication channel and method are just as important.
Giving clear indications of exactly what you’re doing with business users’ requests, your overall service health and performance - together with any projected service impacts to key customer groups, are good places to start in building a more consumer-like communication model.
Timeliness in logistics has two components: promptness and predictability. It’s not just outright speed that wins the day in logistics, although it’s clearly very important - it’s also about doing what you said you'd do, when you said you’d do it. Better predictability has been the holy grail for supply chain firms for many years.
The fact that many companies have got the accuracy of their projected delivery time to within an hour (and in many cases less) is no accident. It’s the result of a concerted effort in: optimized process design, the effective use of technology and improved communications.
Consumers of modern logistics no longer have to plan their lives to fit around a loose, unpredictable service delivery window. Again, in the age of choice, poor timing in service delivery means you won’t be around for very long.
For IT teams, this means prompt but achievable business SLAs that are agreed, measured and enforced. SLAs should also be used in concert with the enhanced communications as we outlined above. Having a comprehensive (but not extensive) set of SLAs and supporting system will take on renewed significance as you embark on your consumerization journey.
Join me next time as we look a little more closely as we explore more lessons from the giants of consumer service!
Until then, Cheers!