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Customer Experience and the IT Service Desk

If you’re attending this year’s Service Desk and IT Support Show (SITS), then be prepared to see and hear a lot about customer experience (CX) and it’s growing importance to internal, as well as external, IT organisations.

Why? Because – while IT organisations might not think of end users as customers thanks to industry definitions – employees are bringing their better, personal-life, consumer-world experiences of service, support, and customer service into the workplace. Please read on to understand what this means for your IT service desk.

The prevalence of customer satisfaction measurement

Nearly all UK corporate IT service desks measure customer satisfaction – the latest Service Desk Institute (SDI) Benchmarking Report shows this, stating that:

“The proportion of service desks that do not measure customer service has decreased to a low of 3%, which suggests that more service desks are now actively seeking satisfaction data to help measure the true value of the services they provide”.

How do you measure customer satisfaction?


Source: SDI, Service Desk Benchmarking Report 2017

Although the report does question the ongoing relevance of customer satisfaction – as a valuable IT service desk metric – with quality and value-based measures being of increasing interest (to service desks and their stakeholders):

“…customer satisfaction is becoming increasingly relevant within the industry, which has led to the idea of an experience level agreement (XLA). Similar to the service level agreement (SLA), XLAs establish a typical level of service quality a customer should receive, therefore establishing a minimum satisfactory level of customer experience.”

The importance of customer satisfaction to the IT service desk

While SDI research is seeing more IT organisations interested in CX-related employee feedback, it’s important to understand the current importance of customer satisfaction to IT service desks.

The same SDI benchmarking report highlights customer satisfaction as the number one indicator of IT service desk success:

What is the main indicator of success for your service desk?


Source: SDI, Service Desk Benchmarking Report 2017

This must be a good thing. But is it still the right measure of how well the IT service desk is doing? Or could it be that many IT service desks are looking in the right direction but focusing on the wrong things? With this meaning that feedback from end users is important but service desks aren’t receiving the right type of feedback.

The issue with traditional SLAs and service-level targets

In questioning the suitability of customer satisfaction, it’s best to start with some of the issues with commonly-adopted IT service desk metrics. For instance, that:

  1. Metrics are merely targets to be aimed for. It’s where organisations see metrics as the final output rather than as an input into something else, such as business conversations about service or improvement activity. The metrics become a “corporate game”, where all that matters is whether the targets have been met or exceeded. Instead, metric reporting should see the bigger picture and drive improvement.
  2. Metrics focus on what gets done rather than what gets achieved. Take for instance, incident volumes. What does handling 3000 incidents a month really mean (from a business perspective)? It might mean that you’ve been busy or that volumes are 10% lower (or higher) than the previous month. Or, taking a cynical business perspective, could it be interpreted as: “IT makes a lot of mistakes” or “IT has prevented people working 3000 times this month”?
  3. Metrics might be chosen because they’re easy to measure, not because they’re important. If you look at your current basket of IT service desk metrics, how many are there “because the IT service management (ITSM) tool reports them” rather than because they’re needed for a particular use case such as quality assessment or improvement?
  4. The behavioural aspects of metrics are ignored. At a higher level, metrics can drive behaviours and decisions that are good for IT but detrimental at a business level. At a team or individual level, metrics can also drive the wrong behaviours, with particular metrics making individuals act for personal rather than corporate success. Metrics can also conflict, pulling IT staff in different directions. For instance, first contact resolution and average resolution time.

In fact, the SDI benchmarking report makes a very interesting point related to service desk agent behaviours and CX, that:

“Meeting SLA targets may not be as important to a customer as it is to the service desk, therefore analysts may focus on hitting key performance indicators (KPIs) rather than concerning themselves with the experience of the customer. For example, an SLA might outline a target for resolution times, therefore service desk analysts may attempt to resolve incidents as quickly as possible to meet the target, but in doing so they may not be attentive to the customer or their needs. As such, an XLA would specify that the analyst should pay attention to the experience of the customer and ensure that the customer is satisfied throughout their interaction with the service desk.”

So, returning to my earlier point: if IT service desks are looking in the right direction (with customer satisfaction), are they focused on the right things?

Customer experience and the IT service desk

You’ve already read that:

“…employees are bringing their better, personal-life, consumer-world experiences of service, support, and customer service into the workplace”.

And if you’ve made it this far, then it’s a statement that probably rings true for you.

It’s consumerisation. Not just the “consumerisation of IT”, where employees want(ed) to use their personal devices, apps, and cloud services to help with their work. Instead it’s the “consumerisation of service” – where employees are bringing their (often) superior personal-life experiences into the workplace and these are now driving their expectations of corporate service providers such as IT.

John Donahoe, CEO at ServiceNow talked about this concept in May 2018 saying, “for the first time, there is no reason why we can’t build the same great experiences at work that we get at home.”

And here’s the clincher for CX and the IT service desk – successful business-to-consumer (B2C) companies have invested in CX as a key customer acquisition and retention strategy. With consumerisation meaning that these CX-elevated consumer experiences are now being used as the benchmarks for internal service providers too.

The bottom line is that consumerisation has brought CX into the workplace and dropped it at the door of the IT service desk.

Customer satisfaction is not the same as customer experience

While customer satisfaction is defined as: “When customers are pleased with the goods or services they have bought” (source: Collins Dictionary). And this is usually a delayed, post-event review of a single transaction.

Customer experience is: “Gartner defines customer experience as the customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier’s employees, systems, channels or products.” (source: Gartner). With the customer’s “experience” based upon an emotional response. Put simply, it’s what they feel and what they remember about the service provider and their service(s).

So, for example, your IT service desk might be hitting its customer satisfaction metric target but still providing a poor customer, or end-user, experience. You might have heard of “watermelon SLAs” that are green on the outside and red on the inside, i.e. from the customer perspective.

Given the impact of consumerisation, it’s time for IT service desks to build on, and go beyond, what they’ve already achieved with customer satisfaction measurements. To better understand the employee experience not just how well a certain process a functioned across parameters such as speed.

Even if your IT organisation wants to deny the existence of CX in the workplace, it will still be affected by it. Consumerisation will see to this. So, what are you going to do about improving your IT service desk’s customer, end-user, or employee experience?

The author Blair Crawford, TeamUltra’s Head of Solution Consulting, will be at the Service Desk Show on Stand 460 if you would like to discuss your Customer Experience challenges.