Managing Customer Expectations – Part Two

In my previous blog post, I talked about the impact of consumerization on customer expectations and looked a little closer into the varied expectations your customers may have from your service desk. In this concluding second part, I’d like to examine a few practices used by customer service leaders and suggest a few practical tips that you can use to  manage those previously discussed customer expectations.

To set or not to set formal end user expectations?

It’s not unusual for service desks to communicate the associate service level when sending out the post-incident or post-service-request-logging email. Which is great, but only if the customer reads the email from top to bottom. After all, who has time for that these days if an email looks to be an automated response?

Is it enough? Well I guess it depends on how many chase up calls and emails your service desk gets. And what sort of feedback you get in customer satisfaction surveys if you ask about resolution times or the service desk’s general efficiency. I’d personally bet, based on what I’ve already said about consumerization, that it isn’t enough.

Learn from customer service leaders

It’s so boring to hear so many examples of how Amazon does the whole service experience thing – but they do do it so well:

  • Pre-sale: You have a choice of products, user reviews to consider, explicit pricing, and delivery options (which then become expectations) even before you commit to purchase
  • Post-sale: If something is faulty they send you an urgent replacement and give you 30 days to return the defective item – so a minimum of waiting and downtime (if the purchased item is an immediate means to an end)

However, the Amazon service experience is so much more than this:

  • Notifications: If you require them, Amazon will send you notifications of impending dispatch, dispatch, and impending delivery
  • Real-time transparency: If the chosen delivery agent is DPD, say, then you also get an estimated time slot for delivery. Plus you are able to follow the driver on their route (as per the image below). Hell, DPD even tells you the driver’s name. And guess what, it works as well on your mobile device as it does on your desktop.


It’s all very 1984 but it does offer a great service experience, to those that want it, and raises the bar for other service providers – consumer or corporate.

7 tips for managing customer expectations better

So what can a corporate service desk do to better manage and deliver against customer expectations? Here are few practical tips that specifically relate to this blog’s content:

  1. Take a moment to think about the service experience that your service desk currently provides. Is it all about throughput volumes and reducing the time spent on tickets? Are service desk agents dealing with IT or customer issues? Ask customers what they think, especially employees that no longer contact the service desk – there could be a very good reason.
  2. Set agreed service levels that meet both IT’s “expectations” for handling issues and requests, and the customers’ expectations of delivery (with obvious caveats around cost, capability, and capacity). How many of your service desk service levels were set based on industry best practice, or a finger in the air by IT, rather than agreeing what is most suitable across your customer base?
  3. Use the available technology within your service desk or IT service management tool to best advantage, particularly to enhance access channels. You’ve most likely already paid to use it, so look to leverage capabilities such as chat, self-service, self-help, and communities to improve the service experience.
  4. Communicate service level resolution or delivery dates as much as possible. Not just in emails but also during live communications such as telephone calls and chat. Where possible, also alert end users to the expected timeframe when they’re using the service request catalog or self-service incident logging capability.
  5. Encourage customers to self-check their incident’s or service request’s progress using the self-service capability. This can be done as part of the initial contact or even when they contact you again for an update via email or telephone.
  6. Listen twice and talk once – thanks to Suresh GP for reminding me of this one. Ensure that the service desk agent is resolving the real customer issue not what they think the issue is (often based on available scripts). In my opinion, it’s one most common reasons for prolonged calls and inferior customer experiences.
  7. You’ll most likely never be an Amazon but at least recognize and consider the art of the possible when it comes to superior customer service.

Well, that’s a quick list of tips and I didn’t even touch on the customer-centricity side of things. If you want to read about that, then please click through to this blog: “Make Sure Your Technical Support Is Technical Customer Support”

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


Managing Customer Expectations – Part One

There’s no doubt that service desk agents have a tough job – people only ever want to speak with them when they’ve an issue or if they want something. Then these customers have expectations around speed of response and delivery for both incidents and service requests, and a sense of entitlement in the case of service requests. For incidents, the end user/customer might already be annoyed, as their technology isn’t working and it causes them issues, before they call or contact the service desk via other means. For service requests, the sense of entitlement might be at odds with internal provisioning policy or financial status – they are going to get a “no” rather than what they want or need. So no matter how helpful, and efficient and effective service desk agent is the customer might not be in the best state of mind to appreciate it. A quick resolution will help, but what happens when the fix or the service delivery takes longer than expected? We get into the realms of managing customer expectations.


Consumerization is driving up employee expectations per se

While many IT organizations still worry about the “consumerization of IT” and managing the risks associated with employees using their own devices, applications, and personal cloud services in the workplace, there’s a bigger issue related to consumer-service-driven expectations. These expectations, based on how we are treated as customers in our personal lives, can only raise the proverbial bar for corporate service providers, including the corporate IT organization and service desk, around service-based attributes such as:

  • Ease-of-use and access when engaging pre- and post-purchase or issue
  • Self-service, including service request catalogs and knowledge availability for self-help
  • Social or collaborative capabilities, including chat for both pre-sales and post-sales support, and communities
  • Anytime, anyplace, any device access to services, information, and help
  • Customer-centric support

So how well is your IT organization and service desk meeting these consumer-driven expectations? And if you have a self-service capability are your customers actively using it?

Expectations around access channels

These consumer-driven expectation can relate specifically to service desk access. The service desk of old, or what was probably called “the IT help desk,” started with two primary methods of access and communication – the telephone and face-to-face “walk-ups.” Over the years, service desk technology and its use has evolved, adding email processing and online forms next. In 2015, however, there are a number of additional access channels to be considered, offered, and leveraged by IT. These include social media, chat, and self-service portals that can offer incident logging, service catalogs for ordering, and self-help via customer-facing knowledge bases – with each offering different levels of customer service and, importantly for IT, different cost profiles. You might wish to introduce, or maybe have already introduced, these newer access channels to save money but you shouldn’t underestimate how much they are now an expected facility by your consumer-affected employees.

Expectations around service

How fast does your service desk respond to, and resolve, incidents and service requests? If it’s a first contact resolution then this point is mute, but for the other 30-50% of incidents and the majority of service requests (depending on the IT organization), the customer will have expectations around the delivery. Most likely expectations that are unrealistic – based on their consumer experiences rather than the agreed service levels. Nonetheless they are the customer’s expectations. These unmet expectations aren’t just another potential nail in the corporate service desk’s coffin (based on poor end user perceptions) they’re also the creator of additional work – as customers repeatedly call, or email, the service desk to get an update of when their issue will be fixed or their requirement fulfilled. And let’s not forget whether end users are treated as customers (their expectation) or just an asset, or employee, number. It’s all part of the service experience.

In the second part of this blog post, I’ll take a closer look at the practices of customer service leaders and explore how you can manage these customer expectations with a few practical tips.

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

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.


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 – 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