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What is the role of Customer Feedback in the ITIL Framework?

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Recently, a colleague of mine had an interesting conversation with the service delivery manager for a well known IT company. The discussion turned to customer experience management and the service deliver managers noted that his only “measurements” of the customer experience were, essentially, the ITIL service delivery process.

If you’ve never heard of ITIL you probably don’t need to worry about it. It is a framework of concepts and process for IT systems development and management. If you’re keen to know more have a look on Wikipedia ITIL.

On the other hand, if you use the ITIL Framework in your business, the questions you should be asking yourself are;

  1. How do you measure the customer experience and effectiveness of your ITIL processes;
  2. How do you know that system driven call management metrics tell the whole story.
  3. Is the list comprehensive; and
  4. Are you tracking the experience elements that are important to customers or just the ones that are easy to measure?

I’ve talked before on this blog about the need to know not just how you perform in a range of customer experience attributes but also how important a service attribute is to the customer. So the question becomes; if you are using the ITIL Framework how do you determine the right customer experience measurements to use?

The answer to this question is difficult because there is no universal, independent set of customer experience metrics. Each company has a slightly different strategy and so a slightly different set of customer experience metrics come into play. Unfortunately that means you can’t rely on a standard set of metrics.

ITIL v3 is the most recent version of the framework.  It defines;

  1. Incident: the occurrence of a symptom, e.g. an application crash or a network communication link failure;
  2. Problem: the underlying root cause of the symptom. e.g. an application software bug or a product defect or hardware failure; and
  3. Service Request: used to request new or altered services and can included requests for information or change.

Common call management metrics include (by Severity Level):

  • Incident/Problem Response time
  • Incident/Problem Restoration/Resolution time
  • Service Request Resolution time
  • Number of Incidents raised and closed per period
  • Number of Problems raised and closed per period
  • Availability of Systems and/or components per period

While these are a good and interesting set of metrics they do not include some of key customer experience drivers of customer loyalty in the IT industry that we have uncovered over the years.

For instance, while Problem Resolution Time is important we have often identified that “closing the loop” with customers after problem resolution is at least as important and often more important for customers. While it may seem odd that solving the problem may actually be less important to customers than knowing what happened, it is true.

Also, delivering against customer needs, as scored by the customer, is also an important driver of customer loyalty. While incident response time and number of problems per period may be important, those values will be overshadowed if you are not delivering against customer needs.

So from a practical perspective how do you determine whether meeting the technical elements of your SLA equates to delivering a good customer experience? Well you have to ask your customers. No amount of internal review and bottom up analysis, regardless of how logical it is, can substitute for obtaining feedback directly from customers.

Determining what is important to customers is not straightforward but there are a few different techniques that you can use.

Once you have uncovered these key elements you need to embed them in your ITIL framework.  Including the key customer service drivers in Service Level Agreements is the simplest and most direct way to ensure that you are continually focusing on delivering the right customer experience to drive customer loyalty.

To see where you stand, start by reviewing your existing service level agreements to identify how each component explicitly links back to important customer experience elements. Then ask yourself how you know that element to be important to your customers.

If you can’t answer this second question then I suggest that you need to consider collecting information from your customers directly. Properly written and executed customer surveys are the most reliable way of collecting that data.

So in summary:

  • Just because you measure something doesn’t mean it’s important to your customers;
  • If you assume your perception of an issue is the same as your customers, you’re probably wrong; and
  • The best way to resolve the issue is to ask your customers.
I've created a step by step guide to implementing an Effective Customer  Feedback process: Download it Here

This post was co-written by John Greenwood and reviewed by Vincent Cleary. Thanks for your help John and Vincent.

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