The cult of the customer
Examine your assumptions around "customer first". Often but not always. There is such a thing as over-servicing the customer. Who is paying and what do THEY want?
loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be. Yet most companies have failed to realize this and pay dearly in terms of wasted investments and lost customers.
There are, I suppose, a few situations where bad service and good business go hand-in-hand. The first is when companies are explicit with customers that service is not part of what they're signing up for [e.g. RyanAir]...
There's a second category of companies for whom lousy service may be good business — companies whose offerings are so compelling, and whose reach is so vast, that making the investments required to deliver high-touch service would be making a big strategic mistake. [e.g. LinkedIn, twitter]
...to which I would add a certain vendor of PC operating systems and productivity tools (with aspirations to sell other stuff too) whose total monopoly of the desktop and office means they don't give a flying fox what their customers think.
Taylor in HBR goes on to say
in rare circumstances, bad service can be good business. But most of the time, companies that aspire to be great at selling must first be great at service
...which is true of most companies. And it is the Harvard Business Review.
But that doesn't mean "most of the time" is true for all readers of this blog.
What many ITSM pundits forget is that there is a wide range of IT organisations. For many of them, there are not customers in the open-market, consumer sense of the word. We're not Apple. Our "customers" are often very captive. We are a third case to the two above: customers who don't have a choice. The public sector, for instance.
I can hear Jim and the other outsourcers going all fizzy already about how everybody has a choice so internal IT better deliver stellar service before they are jobless. But that simply isn't a real risk in many organisations, because there's a fourth case: the governors of the organisation want the service to be crappy. The dial is set to crappy as a result of a conscious decision to put it there. Wonderful IT service simply isn't part of the business strategy. The organisation doesn't need it. Not-for-profits for example, who'd rather spend the money on changing the world.
So there's four scenarios where total focus on the customer is misplaced, where a relentless drive for service improvement is money mis-spent. Right now I feel like IT has a Cult Of The Customer, a politically correct holy-of-holies, an IT sacred cow. Like all sacred cows, its actually a stupid and smelly animal that shits everywhere.
Yes a lot of the time the customer is really important. This blog talks about that often enough. But "customer first" isn't a given. Examine your assumptions in the light of organisational strategy.
Do you really need a dazzling self-service request catalogue? Is that the best possible use of scarce funds, or is it just "ooh shiny"?
Do you have to implement every new technology the business units get peddled? or is it OK to say no?
What is the right SLA for the long-term viability of the organisation? Who says what the availability should be? Does the service desk really need to be 24x7? (I've seen public hospitals with emergency departments, which didn't have a 24x7 IT service desk so don't be talking to me about what is "essential")
The Customer isn't a trump card in all situations.
[From comments below:
Sometimes we serve the wrong customer. There's a simple principle: who's making the money decisions?
External customers almost always do control the money. Internal customers often don't.
Sometimes the decision on paying for IT is made higher up, and those we treat as customers are in fact not: they get the service they/re told to take by our mutual superiors, not what they want. Because they don't hold the purse strings that pay for IT
What we deliver must be fit for purpose as defined by those paying for it.
We also suffer from the Cult Of The User, but that's another post....
A while ago I wrote about the Cult Of Innovation. IT is prone to cults - it's a sign of immaturity.