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The Customer-Centric Paradigm Shift

Ben Brennan, IT Director, Oath

Technology is our business, and technology has changed. A lot.

The customers we support have changed too. They walk around with computers in their pockets with better processors than our desktops used to have. Normal “nontechnical” people use laptops to watch live TV, book their travel, and talk to friends across the ocean. The days when we had to teach people how to use computers are long gone.

The result of this huge cultural shift is that our customers no longer need the same kind of help with technology. So, what is an IT worker’s role now? What are we good for? How do we provide value to the company and our customers in 2018? The fortunate—albeit embarrassing—advantage of being behind the times is that other industries have figured it out already and can show us what today’s customers want. Turns out, what today’s customer values above all else is a refreshingly delightful user experience.

  Customer centricity means not only having a feedback-driven strategy, but also letting your customers decide when you’ve been successful  

Look at Uber’s success. Taxi companies refused to adapt to their customer’s needs because the taxi medallion system kept any competition at bay. Enter Uber, with a fierce focus on customer experience that unseated one of the longest monopolies in history. IT Service Management, or ITSM, is experiencing the same fate.

Why is shadow IT a never-ending problem for CIOs? Because we still operate IT orgs like a taxi company. We throw the same solutions and service at our customers that we did decades ago and wonder why our customers start implementing their own, decentralized IT solutions. ITIL, the ITSM playbook, was invented in the 1980s by the British government. It’s no surprise that adhering to that paradigm leaves today’s demanding customers feeling underwhelmed.

In 2018, we are all UX designers now. If the user experience of your IT department doesn’t matter, your company should fire you right now and outsource everything you do to a foreign call center for pennies on the dollar. Techs in India or Singapore can “fix computers” for a lot less than your company pays you.

“But no,” you say. “Outsourcing support overseas is not a good customer experience!” Oh, so customer experience does matter, huh?

If it does, let’s learn from the taxi industry’s mistake.

Raising Our Own Bar

So how do you find out what initiatives and changes your customers want to see? And how do you know when you’ve succeeded in providing this mind-blowing experience to your customers? Turns out, you just ask them!

Try this - for the next two quarters, ask your customers what they want, and base your strategy one hundred percent on their feedback. What you’ll find is that your org has completely transformed, and your customers have begun to seriously take notice of IT (in a good way this time!). I built a whole consulting business on this practice, believe me, it works!

Customer centricity means not only having a feedback-driven strategy, but also letting your customers decide when you’ve been successful. This requires the right tool, and let’s be honest, traditional CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) surveys are far from transformational.

Industry leaders in customer service like Zappos, Apple, Audi, and The Ritz-Carlton, all have one thing in common. They’ve each thrown out their CSAT surveys long ago in favor of a tool that has teeth to it, namely Net Promoter Score®. NPS® treats anything less than excellence as a failure. Audi doesn’t want you to be “satisfied” with your cars; they want you to be blown away. The Ritz-Carlton doesn’t provide a “satisfactory” room, it creates magical, over the top experiences. “Satisfaction” no longer cuts it.

While NPS® isn’t designed for ITSM, some like IBM have found a way to use it. When we transformed the IT departments of Yahoo and Box, we actually created a proprietary tool like NPS®ourselves specifically for IT. Whether you use something like NPS®, or make your own tool to measure customer experience, make sure it’s geared to reward only world class support. IT professionals are a competitive breed. When you raise the bar, don’t be surprised when your employees exceed those expectations and take their game to the next level.

What I’ve found in my experiences consulting at companies like Twitter, Jawbone, Box, Yahoo, and now as IT Director of Oath, has been consistent across every company. When you make a mind-blowing customer experience your number one priority, everything else falls into place. Outdated processes that you’ve had for decades fall away, which frees up more resources to work on what really matters to our customers. To top it off, CIOs increasingly gain more respect and trust at the company, freeing them up to embark on more innovative projects that take IT Service to the next level. It’s a vicious cycle of excellence that results in your technicians loving their jobs, and your customers loving your department.

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