Technical Support is now Technical Customer Support

I’ve said it many times before and I’m sure that I’ll say it for many years to come:

IT support isn’t really about supporting the IT, instead it’s about supporting the people or business processes/services that rely on the IT.

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For some this is an odd thing for me to say. Surely if IT support is fixing my laptop, say, then it’s supporting my IT? Alas this mindset continues to miss the point of corporate or third-party IT – that the IT is merely the means to an end, with the end really something that we (as end users or customers) want or need to achieve.

So in the context of IT or technical support, the support personnel aren’t fixing my faulty laptop, they are allowing me to work again such that I can achieve what I need to achieve. I personally don’t care too much about the laptop itself, I just need someone to help me to do what I need to do. Yup, technical support really is about people support as much as it’s IT support.

My recent support experience with a UK mobile phone and broadband provider

I’ll try not bore you with too many details:

  • Our home broadband service is flaky – working at the quoted speed then becoming nigh-on unusable for long periods, not great when working at home
  • After two days of internet “pain” I called the service provider’s technical team. I didn’t want to based on my previous experiences of their inefficient, offshored script following but alas I needed to – how many end users avoid calling the corporate service desk for a similar reason?
  • I spent 25 minutes on the phone, a lot of this on hold, until I was unceremoniously cut off. I was annoyed but thought “well maybe the support guy will call me back,” after all he’d taken my home number and my partner’s mobile number to verify the account. Or maybe he would just fix the issue anyway
  • Alas there was no fix nor no call back
  • After some mutterings from me on social media, I was pointed to an online complaints form, I filled it out and waited for their response (with a service level target (or expectation) of 72 hours)
  • 48 hours later the service provider’s complaints team emailed me to say that my broadband was working at the advertised speed and if I was still experiencing issues I should call the technical team – the people who I have an issue with and want to complain about.

So there you have it and the irony isn’t lost on me – these support people work for the company that provides our mobile phone and landline services but they can’t call me, or call me back, to help. Although I have to applaud the social and in-store employees, they see me as a customer; but why can’t the technical and complaints teams do the same?

Why do we have this issue?

I could be rude and say that the service providers don’t really care after a service has been subscribed to, but I don’t think that it’s the real root cause. Instead I prefer to think that it’s a management and HR issue – starting from setting out the purpose of technical support, through identifying the necessary knowledge, skills and experience, recruiting the right people (with the necessary attributes), to how the performance of the support operation is measured and managed. With parochial decisions made about short-term costs over long-term gains.

Driven by closure targets, you just know that the technical support person and the complaints handling agent both marked my ticket as closed before moving onto the next struggling or unhappy customer. They will most likely hit their targets for ticket volumes and level of first time fixes and – cue tweeting birds –everything in the world is good. Well at least it is for them. This customer is really regretting leaving his very reliable (and cheaper) broadband service just to get a free TV service.

So, for me, it’s all about the support people and the people who manage them. And why are their sales people working so hard to win new customers when technical support people seem to be working even harder to lose them? Don’t you just love silo-ed or disjointed organizations?

So what can your IT organization do to better support the people?

Sadly I can’t help this telecoms service provider but I can throw a few suggestions your way from a corporate IT support perspective:

  • Don’t overlook the importance of the service desk and how the support it provides contributes to your company’s views on IT performance. A Gartner, a global analyst firm, statistic from circa five years ago (which therefore now can’t be officially quoted) is that at least 50% of the business’ perceptions of the corporate IT organization’s performance can be attributed to service desk performance. IT really is the business’ window into IT
  • Step away from your traditional metrics such as “first time fix” (also known as first contact resolution) and “incident volumes handled” to understand how well your service desk is performing in terms of people support rather than IT support (and realize that your current customer satisfaction questionnaires might be painting the wrong picture)
  • Assess personal skills. If your service desk is anything like those that fill out SDI (Service Desk Institute) surveys then your people will be initially trained in using the IT service management (ITSM) tool, in operating your incident management process, accessing and following scripts, and maybe in telephone etiquette. But what about the likes of customer service and problem solving? If you don’t know why I mention these then I’m surprised that you have read down this far
  • Consult end users and business stakeholders – and I apologize for this age-old consultant cliché. It needs to be done as your post-ticket and annual surveys might be giving you a false picture of actual service desk performance. Ask more focused and valuable questions such as “would you use the service desk if there was a viable alternative?” Plus of course, for many there already is – www.google.com. As for me and the aforementioned technical support, I really didn’t want to use the official channel because I knew it would take far longer than it needs to, scripts would be followed even though I have already discounted many possible root causes myself, and worst of all I wouldn’t be seen as a customer (i.e. one of the people that ultimately pays the support person’s wages)
  • Commit to improvement. How many times has your IT organization started to change something for the good of the business but failed in execution due to changing priorities, shrinking budgets, and the continual pressure of firefighting IT issues? Stop worrying about the Consumerization of IT and start focusing on the real consumerization issue – that employees expect a similar level of customer service and service experience from corporate IT to what they now receive in their personal lives.

So let’s stop reinforcing the fact that technical support fixes IT, it really fixes the issues people have because IT isn’t working.

You don’t have to call your technical support “technical customer support” – especially as many IT employees still don’t like to consider end users as the customers of the corporate IT organization – but do something to make your technical support people realize that they need to focus on the person as much as, if not more than, the affected IT.

You never know, your continued relevance to your parent business might depend on it.

This piece was originally published on the Freshservice ITSM and customer service blog

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Index for my ServiceNow ITSM Blogs

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The Future of IT, ITSM, Service Desk, and ITIL

Thinking Differently And The Need For IT Change

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My Forrester Blog Index – The End Of A Blog Roll

As I have posted my last blog to my Forrester blogroll I thought I would update my index of last August …

To view the blogs in chronoloical order please go to: http://blogs.forrester.com/blog/28357

ITSM – ITIL, COBIT etc.

Practical ITSM Advice: Defining Availability For An IT Service

People In IT Love Stats But They Probably Won’t Love These

The Capita ITIL JV Wasn’t “Big News,” So What IS Important To Real-World IT Service Delivery?

So Capita Gets ITIL But Will People Finally “Get” ITIL?

ITSM Goodness: How To Up Your IT Service Management Game In 7 Steps

ITSM And The itSMF In Norway – Different In So Many Ways?

IT Service Management In 2013 – How Far Have We Come Since 2009?

Man Alive, It’s COBIT 5: How Are You Governing And Managing Enterprise IT?

The Cult Of ITIL: It Has More Followers Than You Think

ITSM, ITIL, And Enabling Tools In The Middle East

It’s Time To Realize That “ITIL Is Not The Only Fruit”

ITIL Adoption: 5 Steps That Can Help With Success

“We Need To Talk About ITIL”

ITIL Global Adoption Rates, Well At Least A Good Indication Of Where It Is At

ITIL: What Constitutes Success?

Top 20 (OK, 50) ITIL Adoption Mistakes

The Applicability Of ITIL Outside Of IT

What Next For ITIL?

2011: An ITIL Versioning Odyssey

Getting Started With ITIL – The 30-Minute Version

ITSM – Tools and Vendors

ITSM Tools: Is What You Pay Linked To Value?

The Importance Of Customer “Choice” In ITSM Tool Selection – “Hybrid ITSM”?

12 Tips For Moving From An On-Premises To SaaS ITSM Tool (From A Customer)

The Forrester SaaS ITSM Tool Market Overview: Who Is Where With What

Automation: Is It The Only Way For IT To Really “Do More With Less”?

“BMC You Later” — BMC Pushes The ITSM Tool Envelope With MyIT

More ITSM Tool Bells And Whistles, And Where The Real Focus Of Vendor Attention Should Be

50 Shards Of ITIL – The Bane And Pain Of ITSM Tool Selection

SaaS for ITSM: Getting Past The Hype

ITSM Tool Verification: A Good Or Bad Thing?

ServiceNow Finally Goes Public: Which Way Now?

BMC To Acquire Numara Software: A Few Thoughts From Your Favorite ITSM Analyst

Why Is Buying An ITSM Tool Like Buying A Car?

How Do You Value ITSM Tool Verification Or Certification Schemes?

ServiceNow Knowledge11: ITSM And Social Learning For Us All

Newsflash For The ITSM Community: “SaaS” Is A Red Herring

Sharing The ITSM And ITAM Goodness Of CA World: 20+ Presentations To Download

Are You Happy With Your ITSM Tool?

ITSM – People

Squeezing The Value Out Of ITIL, Or Any Other IT, Training

How Gremlins And Vanilla Ice Can Help Us Deliver Better IT Services

How Not To Make Friends And Influence People: A Personal Story Of Customer Experience At Its Worst . . . And What IT Can Learn

Staffing For IT Service Delivery Success: Think Employee, Think Customer, Then Repeat

Prepare Your People For The Future Of IT Service Delivery

A Killer Disease? IT’s Unhealthy Obsession With Itself

ITSM And ITIL Thinking – Brawn, Brains, Or Heart?

The ABC Of ICT – The Top 10 People Success Factors For ITSM

The ABC Of ICT – The Top 10 People Issues

ITSM – Service Catalog Getting A Service Catalog: So Much More Than Buying A Tool!

ITSM – Strategy & Futures (Cloud, BYOD, Mobility, Social, Automation)

IT? How about I&T?

ITSM in 2013 and Beyond: The Webinar Link And Audience Poll Results

The Top 10 IT Service Management Challenges For 2013 — But What Did You Achieve In 2012?

What’s Your ITSM Strategy (If You Actually Have One)?

ITSM In 2012: In The Words Of Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On?”

ITSM AND Automation: Now That’s A Double Whammy Of Business-Enabling Goodness

Defining IT Service Management – Or Is That “Service Management”?

Enabling Customer Mobility: Why Current Mobile Device Management Thinking Is Flawed 

Social IT Support: Didn’t We Do This In The 1990s?

Are You Sleepwalking Through Twitter?

My 2011 Blog Of Blogs: Hopefully The “Important” ITSM, ITIL, People, ITAM, SAM, ITFM, Etc. Stuff

Top 10 ITSM Challenges For 2012: More Emphasis On The “Service” And The “Management”

Have You Considered BI for ITSM?

Social? Cloud? What About Mobile?

ITSM – Service Desk

Is Your IT Service Desk Customer Experience Up To Scratch?

What’s The Real Cost Of Poor IT Support And Shoddy Customer Service?

12 Pieces Of Advice For IT Service Desks – From A Customer!

Paging The IT Organization: You Need To Support The People Not The Technology

IT Support: IT Failure Impacts Business People and Business Performance. Comprendez?

How Not To Deal With IT Service Failure

What’s The Problem With Problem Management?

Benchmarking The IT Service Desk – Where Do You Stand?

Where Is All The Incident Classification Best Practice?

ITSM – Metrics

IT Service Management Benchmarks – For You By You

Is Customer Experience Important To Internal IT Organizations? With Free Statistics!

“We Do A Great Job In IT, Our Metrics Dashboard Is A Sea Of Green.” Really?

Where IT Metrics Go Wrong: 13 Issues To Avoid

Why Is IT Operations Like Pizza Delivery?

ITSM Metrics: Advice And 10 Top Tips

ITSM – Back2ITSM

Giving Back To The ITSM Community: We Move, If Slowly, But With Purpose

From The Coal Face: Real World ITSM And ITIL Adoption Sound Bites

ITSM Practitioner Health Check: The ITSM Community Strikes Back

Giving Back To The IT Service Management Community

Support ITSM Tool Vendors That Support The ITSM Community

ITAM

Software Asset Management in 2013: State Of SAM Survey Results

The Rise, Fall, And Rise Of Software Asset Management: It’s More Than Just A “Good Thing To Do”

Cover Your Assets; Use IT Asset Life-Cycle Management To Control IT Costs

Software Asset Management Part Deux – “Try Harder”

ITFM

Warning: Your Journey To “Demonstrating IT-Delivered Value” Passes Through The Quaint Little Town Of “Understanding IT Costs”

Five Steps To Improve Your IT Financial Management Maturity

“Run IT As A Business?” Do You Really Know What This Means?

IT Value, Like Beauty, Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

DevOps Will It Be “DevOps” Or “DevOid” For I&O Professionals?

Supplier Management

5 Tips For Getting Ready For Service Integration

A Late New Year’s Resolution: Be Nice To A Supplier And See What Happens

My Forrester Blog Index: ITSM, ITAM, and ITFM

Last updated 3 September 2012. For more recent blogs please go to: http://blogs.forrester.com/stephen_mann

ITSM – ITIL, COBIT etc.

Man Alive, It’s COBIT 5: How Are You Governing And Managing Enterprise IT?

The Cult Of ITIL: It Has More Followers Than You Think

ITSM, ITIL, And Enabling Tools In The Middle East

It’s Time To Realize That “ITIL Is Not The Only Fruit”

ITIL Adoption: 5 Steps That Can Help With Success

“We Need To Talk About ITIL”

ITIL Global Adoption Rates, Well At Least A Good Indication Of Where It Is At

ITIL: What Constitutes Success?

Top 20 (OK, 50) ITIL Adoption Mistakes

The Applicability Of ITIL Outside Of IT

What Next For ITIL?

2011: An ITIL Versioning Odyssey

Getting Started With ITIL – The 30-Minute Version

ITSM – Tools and Vendors

50 Shards Of ITIL – The Bane And Pain Of ITSM Tool Selection

SaaS for ITSM: Getting Past The Hype

ITSM Tool Verification: A Good Or Bad Thing?

ServiceNow Finally Goes Public: Which Way Now?

BMC To Acquire Numara Software: A Few Thoughts From Your Favorite ITSM Analyst

Why Is Buying An ITSM Tool Like Buying A Car?

How Do You Value ITSM Tool Verification Or Certification Schemes?

ServiceNow Knowledge11: ITSM And Social Learning For Us All

Newsflash For The ITSM Community: “SaaS” Is A Red Herring

Sharing The ITSM And ITAM Goodness Of CA World: 20+ Presentations To Download

Are You Happy With Your ITSM Tool?

ITSM – People

Staffing For IT Service Delivery Success: Think Employee, Think Customer, Then Repeat

Prepare Your People For The Future Of IT Service Delivery

A Killer Disease? IT’s Unhealthy Obsession With Itself

ITSM And ITIL Thinking – Brawn, Brains, Or Heart?

The ABC Of ICT – The Top 10 People Success Factors For ITSM

The ABC Of ICT – The Top 10 People Issues

ITSM – Service Catalog Getting A Service Catalog: So Much More Than Buying A Tool!

ITSM – Strategy & Futures (Cloud, BYOD, Mobility, Social, Automation)

What’s Your ITSM Strategy (If You Actually Have One)?

ITSM In 2012: In The Words Of Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On?”

ITSM AND Automation: Now That’s A Double Whammy Of Business-Enabling Goodness

Defining IT Service Management – Or Is That “Service Management”?

Enabling Customer Mobility: Why Current Mobile Device Management Thinking Is Flawed 

Social IT Support: Didn’t We Do This In The 1990s?

Are You Sleepwalking Through Twitter?

My 2011 Blog Of Blogs: Hopefully The “Important” ITSM, ITIL, People, ITAM, SAM, ITFM, Etc. Stuff

Top 10 ITSM Challenges For 2012: More Emphasis On The “Service” And The “Management”

Have You Considered BI for ITSM?

Social? Cloud? What About Mobile?

ITSM – Service Desk

12 Pieces Of Advice For IT Service Desks – From A Customer!

Paging The IT Organization: You Need To Support The People Not The Technology

IT Support: IT Failure Impacts Business People and Business Performance. Comprendez?

How Not To Deal With IT Service Failure

What’s The Problem With Problem Management?

Benchmarking The IT Service Desk – Where Do You Stand?

Where Is All The Incident Classification Best Practice?

ITSM – Metrics

Where IT Metrics Go Wrong: 13 Issues To Avoid

Why Is IT Operations Like Pizza Delivery?

ITSM Metrics: Advice And 10 Top Tips

ITSM – Back2ITSM

Giving Back To The ITSM Community: We Move, If Slowly, But With Purpose

From The Coal Face: Real World ITSM And ITIL Adoption Sound Bites

ITSM Practitioner Health Check: The ITSM Community Strikes Back

Giving Back To The IT Service Management Community

Support ITSM Tool Vendors That Support The ITSM Community

ITAM

Cover Your Assets; Use IT Asset Life-Cycle Management To Control IT Costs

Software Asset Management Part Deux – “Try Harder”

ITFM

Warning: Your Journey To “Demonstrating IT-Delivered Value” Passes Through The Quaint Little Town Of “Understanding IT Costs”

Five Steps To Improve Your IT Financial Management Maturity

“Run IT As A Business?” Do You Really Know What This Means?

IT Value, Like Beauty, Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

DevOps Will It Be “DevOps” Or “DevOid” For I&O Professionals?

Supplier Management A Late New Year’s Resolution: Be Nice To A Supplier And See What Happens

There’s a new breed of IT service management vendor in town

Ovum has observed what might be the start of an interesting trend in IT management (ITM) software. Traditionally, there have been IT service management (ITSM) and infrastructure management vendors, plus mega-vendors with operations in both camps. ITSM vendors have already moved into the infrastructure management space with discovery, event monitoring, software distribution, and automation capabilities, but now the reverse is happening – infrastructure management vendors are entering the crowded ITSM space. It’s an interesting move and one that we believe offers a valuable opportunity for organizations.

Why are infrastructure management vendors making this move?

The ITSM software marketplace’s obsession with, and reliance on, ITIL-alignment has made it easy for new vendors to enter the market. It’s simply a case of delivering the capabilities to support the most often adopted ITIL processes within an envelope of professional services. Newer “pure-play” ITSM vendors (both SaaS and on-premise) have already adequately demonstrated this.

For the infrastructure management software vendors, it’s a lucrative opportunity to cross-sell to existing clients, retain clients by offering greater value and capabilities, or gain customers looking for a more complete ITM solution. It will be interesting to see how many more infrastructure management software vendors explore a move into the ITSM space.

How will IT organizations benefit?

Increased competition can be both a good and bad thing for IT organizations. There is greater product choice and potentially more competitive pricing on offer in order to win deals, but the ITSM market is saturated and already difficult to pick a “winner” from. The entry of infrastructure management vendors also increases the possibility of the long-predicted shake up in the ITSM marketplace, with the unavoidable casualties being vendors and their customers. However, the blurring of the lines between infrastructure management and ITSM is good for IT organizations, not only from a cost perspective but also in terms of ease of use.

A good example is Dell KACE’s K1000 systems management offering. It initially introduced its service desk as an optional, separately priced add-on to the K1000, but it is now rolled into the main product in terms of pricing. From an ease of use perspective, being able to seamlessly start diagnosis or resolution from within the incident ticket (called “one-click to resolution” by Dell KACE) is an obvious advantage. While not a new concept (it is a common feature within mega-vendor ITSM offerings), there is a lack of complexity and potential cost when provided from a single, purpose-built solution, rather than from an amalgam of home-grown and acquired point solutions.

In addition, as IT organizations evolve to reflect the changing IT landscape, particularly the introduction of cloud-delivered services, IT will most likely need to become more dependent on IT generalists rather than specialists. These generalists will be heavily reliant on both infrastructure management and ITSM tools, so the use of a single user interface and a common way of working can only benefit them as they endeavor to “deliver more with less”.

Will this increase or slow down ITSM software churn?

There has long been a level of churn in the ITSM software market, with IT organizations changing their tool of choice every five to six years, and this is even more evident now with newer ITSM vendors stating that they offer better ROI and a smoother upgrade path.

The infrastructure management/ITSM hybrid offering will add to this, but it will also provide customers with the opportunity to increase ITSM activity in line with the vendors adding tool functionality. Unlike pure-play ITSM tool vendors, infrastructure management/ITSM hybrid vendors have no pressure to deliver and to compete with 14 ITIL-compliant processes from day one. Alternatively, they can offer a mandatory core of incident, change, and configuration management, and then add to the processes at a speed that encourages customers to grow with them.

Some organizations would benefit from the adoption of an ITSM tool that “grows” with them, rather than opting for one that exceeds their level of ITSM maturity. Such a tool might even turn out to be one that they can grow old with.

Originally published on www.ovum.com/news

Business-IT Dialog?

ITIL has long espoused the need for IT-to-business alignment. However, the levels of IT organization success in achieving this are somewhat patchy. Portfolio management techniques can be used to demonstrate the level of IT congruence with business strategy, but in Ovum’s opinion there is also real value to be gained from an ongoing dialog with key stakeholders within the business – a formalized dialog which is part of the overall IT service management ecosystem.

Within ITIL v2 this was subsumed within monthly or quarterly service level management meetings. ITIL v3 however takes the need for such dialog a step further with the introduction of a business relationship manager role, with the business relationship manager (or managers) tasked with acting as a liaison between IT and the business. A business relationship manager should have significant knowledge in subject matters pertaining to both IT and the business. They should be specifically responsible for understanding the business and its needs, assisting in the prioritization of IT-related projects, and directing IT strategy in support of business strategy. Importantly, the role differs from that of a customer relationship manager in that it should act as an advocate for the business within IT, acting in a way that is not driven by the need to sell more IT product and services.

Business relationship managers should also work closely with the product and service managers responsible for developing and managing services across the service lifecycle, ideally working via service and customer portfolios. At a more granular level, they should work with all levels within the business, from day-to-day operations to strategic planning, to ensure the right services are delivered at the right price to meet business needs. Their primary goal is to build a true partnership between IT and the business (most likely at a business-unit level) providing the business with the opportunity to help shape the IT services delivered.

In Ovum’s experience, the business relationship manager position is still an emerging role within IT organizations. However, whether the role exists or not, an ongoing two-way business dialog (with business unit or functional champions) is a recommended starting point for both ITIL v3 adoption and the ability to demonstrate delivered business value. An IT organization should, in particular, assess and educate key stakeholders in their understanding of what IT does and what IT governance and IT service management means to them, and should establish what is important in terms of demonstrating IT performance, the stewardship of IT resources, and the value that IT delivers to the business.

Originally published on www.ovumkc.com