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Putting the 'Service' Back Into IT Service Management - Part I

Today, IT is all about people and, therefore, by default, so is ITIL and ITSM, writes ITSMWatch columnist David Mainville of Consulting Portal.
Jul 17, 2010

David Mainville


There is an interesting book called All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. In a nutshell, the author makes a case that if society followed the basics we learned in kindergarten -- share, play fair, put things back where you found them, clean up your mess -- the world would be a much better place.

Well, I think the same holds true for IT service management (ITSM). It all boils down to the basics. Whether it was my first paper route, my part-time job in retail or working in the college library, everything I needed to know about service I learned as a kid.

What I learned boils down to three things: expectations, consistency and empathy.

Take the paper route for example. The client’s expectation is that the paper will be there before they leave for work. Consistency meant that I strived to deliver on that expectation every day. Having empathy meant that I really cared about meeting my customers’ clients needs. Let me tell you, having empathy really paid off when it came to getting tips.

The other point I want to make is that each of us is on the receiving end of customer service every day. Because of that, we all inherently know the difference between good customer service and bad customer service. That is an important point. There is no fooling anyone. Your customer knows when he or she is receiving good service and they surely know when they are receiving bad service.

Take your Internet service provider (ISP) as an example:

--Have they adequately set your expectations for service? Have they published a service level? Do they let you know how long you will be on hold? Do they provide you with clear options for obtaining service? Are they consistent in the delivery of that service? Does every agent seem equally knowledgeable and capable? How do you feel when you call your provider? Do you have an expectation of good service or are your dreading having to make that call? --Once you get them on the line, do they show empathy for your situation or do you feel like they just want to hand your issue off to someone else?

Personally, I dread calling my ISP. Every call is an adventure. They are always asking me questions that they should know the answer to like, "What model of router do you have?". Hey, they are the ones who provisioned it. They ask for things using their internal business acronyms like, “What’s your CCC routing identifier?” -- as if I am supposed to know that. I always seem to be transferred to another queue with another waiting period and have to answer the same questions all over again -- some of which they had me enter on my touch-tone phone. Why ask me to enter my phone number just to be asked for it again by the agent?

Okay … deep breath.

So my question to you is this: How do your IT customers -- i.e., the business -- view the services you offer? Do they dread calling you?

I am going to take another trip down memory lane, back to my first job in IT as a mainframe field engineer. The company was Amdahl (some of you may even remember it). They had a very simple motto to express their position on service. It went like this: “A customer problem is an Amdahl problem.” You ITIL fans in the audience will have to forgive them. This was pre-ITIL when the vendors didn’t distinguish between incidents and problems.

Anyway, all kidding aside, I can truly say that Amdahl embraced the motto in everything it did. In essence, it didn’t matter what problem the customer called in with. The Amdahl team took ownership. They were totally empathic to the customer’s situation and reassured the customer that they would stay engaged till the situation was rectified.

Amdahl tried not to point fingers or “pass the buck” to other vendors or departments. They set clear expectations with their clients. They consistently delivered with competent, well-trained individuals and above all else, they were empathic to the client’s needs. Alas, Amdahl is no longer with us, a victim of the declining role of the mainframe, however, their spirit of service lives on in the many alumni that passed through their ranks.

So ask yourself: “Is your customer’s problem your problem”?

I will go into detail next week to answer this question. Stay tuned.

David Mainville is CEO and co-founder of Consulting-Portal, an ITSM consulting and ITIL training company focused on helping Fortune 500 and mid-size companies assess, design and implement robust ITSM processes. Consulting-Portal also offers a full curriculum of ITSM education including: ITIL, ISO and CobiT. In 2008, Consulting-Portal launched http://www.itoptimizer.com/, an online solution to help companies assess, design and govern their ITSM processes.

service, ITIL, ITSM, IT/Business Alignment, Consulting Portal