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The missing ingredient ITSM needs to improve customer service for incident management



This blog is the first in a collaborative series created with my colleague Tony Price exploring some of consequences of traditional approaches to IT Service Management. The idea is to challenge current thinking and consider alternative approaches.


Think back to the last time that you called a service desk and your expectations were exceeded (hopefully you have experienced this). Do you think the great service was purely the result of a script? Or was the person you talked to applying their problem-solving skills and creativity to help you?


Now think about the reverse. How many times have you been frustrated by the operator's inability to deviate from the script? Especially when you know what the issue is and what needs to be done! This is my own personal frustration! The result is poor customer service.  And these days it is common for many people to share their experience via Twitter or Facebook and other social platforms. The net effect can be really damaging for the organisation simply due the lack of flexibility.


Unfortunately, the Service Management industry itself is largely to blame for this situation. With its endless drive and focus on processes, people get removed from the equation. The process becomes completely inflexible, executed in exactly the same way in every case (whether or not it is appropriate), and we script our call centres and help desks to the point of the lowest common denominator making it impossible to deviate from a standard path. This is not the way to deliver great customer service.


Managed collaboration

While there is a lot of merit in optimising and automating processes to reduce costs and improve service we need to balance this with allowing and facilitating people to do what they do best.


How do we do this without compromising our metrics and data capture?


I think we need to consider “managed collaboration”. Enforce process when we need control and compliance whilst allowing more fluid interaction at a procedural or day to day working level. Combining traditional Service Management tools and enterprise collaboration tools can make this happen.


Let’s look at how this could simplify the Incident Management process.


Improving Incident Management


From the ITIL 2011 Edition the following process steps are identified:

  • Incident identification
  • Incident logging
  • Incident categorization
  • Incident prioritization + major incident as necessary
  • Initial diagnosis + escalation as necessary
  • Investigation and diagnosis + escalation as necessary
  • Resolution and recovery
  • Incident closure


This is often implemented as passing the Incident from person to person (or group to group) through the categorization, prioritization and diagnosis stages until it is found how to resolve the issue and recover the service. There are good reasons for this - it keeps current ownership and accountability clear, and there is an audit trail of information that is traceable in a sequence from beginning to end.


Unfortunately, this approach hides the point that most of the activity is really a series of interactions either between the user (or users) affected by the incident or between the various operational groups involved in recovering the service. These interactions do not necessarily occur in a strictly ordered or structured way.


This is where I believe that we can leverage enterprise collaboration tools to provide a better and more flexible platform to interact. By combining the strengths of traditional Service Management tools and enterprise collaboration we get the best of both worlds - compliance and data capture via the SM tool and flexible interaction via the EC tool at the same time removing some of the process overhead and burden. How many people would like less process?


Here is an example from my own personal experience. A few weeks ago I turned on my TV to find that I had none of the normal channels. I have an internet enabled TV and the on-demand channels were working fine. I called up the supplier and they did a test and pointed me to the internet service provider. They told me the internet connection was fine (which I knew) so I called back the original supplier. I then went through 3 hours of powering off the TV, disconnecting the internet, moving the TV to connect directly to the router (not via wireless), etc., etc. While the supplier was running a 30 minute test I thought that I’d check on the internet. Looking on Facebook I found out that most of my friends in the area had the same problem. One had posted that the local TV transmitter was having emergency maintenance at that the TV signal would be unavailable for 24 hours. The supplier was still running the test, I was 3 hours into the diagnosis with them but via collaboration the issue was diagnosed in 5 minutes.


Watch the video in this blog if you’re interested in learning more about how enterprise collaboration can improve incident management.


Related links:


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About the Author


I am the Global Lead of HP’s Service Management Profession with approximately 7,500 members. I gained my Managers Certificate in Service Management in 1998. I have continued to apply Service Management concepts in a number of roles.

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