I thought I was due a blog post, and since I haven’t been involved in much beyond project-induced incident management in the past couple of months, I thought I would talk about something else I love very much: customer service. I hope I’m not blowing my own trumpet too much in this blog, but customer service is probably the thing I work hardest at.
I’m not formally trained in customer service. My customer service “training” began when I got thrown in at the deep end on the Service Desk as an introduction to the organisation I have worked for since 2008.
I was young and inexperienced*, I was cripplingly nervous and shy on the phone, and I didn’t know the ins and outs of the organisation’s IT. However, I did know how to be friendly, empathetic and polite. And really, those skills are the basis of providing good customer service, in my opinion.
100% of my day today was spent dealing with mobile device incidents and taking calls from customers who had received my direct number from colleagues. Dammit. But I’m not going to send those customers to the Service Desk or the customer portal, because to them, I am their first point of contact, and they are people who have their own customers to deal with. I make a habit of accepting the call, logging the incident myself, and tactfully advising them to call the Service Desk or use the customer portal next time.
I take a call and I phone the customer. If I can’t reach the customer, I email them or otherwise make sure they have my details so that we can get the incident resolved as soon as possible. I stay with them until they’re happy for me to close the incident; I have never closed an incident without the customer’s consent.
I offer to stay on the phone with customers that are nervous about using self-service instructions. I try to phone people back as soon as I pick up their voicemails or emails. I am terrible with being distracted by new phone calls and emails coming in, so I have to keep a to-do list written down in a big spiral-bound notebook on my desk. Customers that visit me think I’m organised; it’s more of a crutch!
All in all, my goal is to make sure the customer is happy at the end of the call, or at least happy when we close the incident. As they’re passing my number around in offices now, I guess I’m doing a good job!
*I’m still young, but hopefully considered a bit more experienced!
I saw the SDI ask on Twitter about the impact self service is having on our Service Desk.
I thought I’d just make some notes here about how it’s gone so far in our organisation! Please don’t treat this post too seriously. We’re as amused as you must be.
We implemented: An intranet portal to log incidents.
The customers responded by: Logging their incidents on the portal and then phoning up within half an hour to check it had indeed been logged.
We implemented: Self-service AD password reset tools.
The customers responded by: Ignoring it.
We implemented: Compulsory enrolment in the self-service AD password reset tools.
The customers responded by: Kicking off about it.
We implemented: An FAQs database on the company intranet.
The customers responded by: Ignoring it.
We implemented: A checkbox on the intranet portal to say the customers had checked the FAQs.
The customers responded by: Lying.
I resolved two incidents today that my colleague had over-engineered for months and somehow bodged into working again.
Both were from the same team. Both of them were customer error, but they were of course citing IT as the cause of the incident. What were they doing? Cutting corners on the process they’d signed off as perfect with us.
One day we might have time to improve it, but until then, I’ll just have to keep reminding people what they asked us to make for them.
Edit: I suppose it’s nice that in our team, my colleague is the highly certified, incredibly clever programmer, and then I’m there with my intermediate skills but much more down to earth logic and simpler solutions.
The boyfriend has just gone out and left me with some (very quiet) time to think about ITSM.
You all know that I am in an operational role, and I hear that some value my point of view because many ITSM bloggers and tweeters are consultants and other people who have their views at a very high level of the structure.
Of course, the top subjects I deal with are incident management, problem management, and change management. I am often stuck for what to write about these, because I am constantly getting the same sort of situations arising at work. Mostly I have trouble with other ITIL-certified organisations/staff apparently not having a clue how stuff works.
I need to get a specific product added by a third party before my deadline for a project this month. It doesn’t particularly integrate with my project, but it will be imperative to the business process my project is part of. I tried and failed to get it installed last week because I had trouble coordinating the third party engineer and the managers from the business. The engineer then asked me if he could install the product as part of the routine maintenance he does every week. I responded with a big NO, maintenance is maintenance. This is a non-standard change. I probably came off as a bit of a jobsworth, but the business area I support has a high profile in the organisation and I can’t afford for them to mess it up for me.
My biggest peeve at the moment is that I keep doing these projects on my own as both the project manager and the only resource. The resource thing I can handle, as long as it’s within my field or my capabilities or skill-sets. I am not, however, paid as much as the seven project managers we have at our disposal. Okay, my ‘projects’ could probably be classified as locally managed work, but it all feels way too local for my liking! I have a close friend in my team who has a lot of technical expertise and general knowledge, but I can’t keep asking him for favours when he has everyone else relying on him too.
I’m not a hero. I haven’t spoken to my manager about having too much in my workload. Sometimes, I have days where I don’t feel grown-up enough to be handling this kind of responsibility. I’m a young member of staff who has suddenly found herself in a position she doesn’t feel ready for, even if she has most of the technical knowledge to carry it out. I’ve been promised a long break in these projects for a couple of months, during which time I hope to fit in the CPD I’ve been struggling to do even in my personal time.
I know I’ll succeed, because I can’t bear the thought of missing this deadline, but we’ll see how ragged I run myself between now and the go-live date. I often joke about falling out with the project managers over ridiculous things, but I could really do with one in my life right now! And the working relationship needs to go both ways. I need the PM to work for me as much as I work for them.
You’d be surprised how therapeutic writing this blog post is, and my apologies that it has been self-serving and whiny. If you have anything operational that you would like me to comment on in future posts, please, please let me know. It will be a welcome break from project development, I find your questions fascinating and they help me see from new perspectives, and of course it always helps me work on my professional (with a pinch of salt!) writing.
It’s finally time I got back to writing blog posts.
You may have heard on Twitter that a darling cousin of mine decided to change my ITILgirl passwords while my accounts were logged in, as she used my computer for college work. Luckily, she has no idea of what these accounts are for, but I persuaded her to help me get them back. The whole ordeal was very embarrassing, but at the same time, you would hope to be able to trust family members. Teenagers, hmm?
She’s using a guest account from now on!
Anyway, I received an email sometime in December from someone I was speaking to fairly regularly before the above happened, life happened, and work happened. I’m very sorry for leaving it for so long, and I’d like to answer your question here as if it was anonymous. You’re welcome to reveal yourself in the comments, or wherever, of course!
The question was about how I value feedback loops, when that feedback is given back very rapidly, and heavily stats-driven.
Personally, I am very open to feedback. I used to have my incident feedback read to my by a line manager during monthly reviews, but we’ve stopped that for some reason. Nevertheless, I still like to access the reports on the system and see what they’ve written – though I also make my customers welcome to ignore them as I believe sometimes they’re a pain to busy people. Anyway – I also very much appreciate the value of statistics when they are used appropriately. If someone can tell me as soon as possible that I can start doing something differently in order to help other people, and help those people resolve our customer incidents more quickly and effectively, that’s something I want to know. I really don’t mind constructive criticism!
As for the Service Desk, I find that they are also very open to feedback in the same way I am. I don’t work on the Service Desk any more, but I do work closely with them, and I will cover for the odd morning or afternoon if they are short-staffed. Those of us that are close to the Service Desk will often give informal feedback to the individual officers sending us the incidents, such as “you could add this information next time” and “can you get the customer to try this before sending it on”. We are already starting to use templates in our incidents, so the Service Desk Manager is also open to feedback about what could go in there for certain applications, Infrastructure components, and other features. For example, I might be able to resolve the call more quickly, and without contacting the user again, if the Service Desk officer is able to capture the customer’s user name, phone number, and a screenshot of the problem or error log.
I really think these sorts of feedback loops bring a department together, as long as everyone is positive, constructive, and encouraging with their feedback and coaching. We already get along so well, and we all like to help each other out. If this is something statistics and a bit of analysis can help us improve, we’re all for it!