Guest blogger Dave O’Reardon returns today to explain ‘why you should tear up your support SLAs’. You can also check out Dave’s tips for the 2016 itSMF Industry Awards for Excellence in IT Service Management in last week’s blog post!
Have you heard of the Watermelon Effect? It’s a rather common problem where Service Level Agreement reports for IT support show that everything is green but the customer is still unhappy. Green (statuses) on the outside, red (angry customer) on the inside.
Research from Forrester shows how prevalent this mismatch of perceptions is – there are about twice as many IT teams that think they provide great IT support than there are businesses who feel they are getting it.
One of the causes of this problem is that the metrics used in Service Level Agreements are a deeply flawed way of measuring service quality. They mislead IT support teams into thinking they understand how the customer feels about the service they provide.
Typically, support service levels are measured on the basis of time – actual vs target time to respond, actual vs target time to resolve. But purely time-based measures are an ineffective indicator of the quality of IT support.
Our customers’ experience of IT support is shaped by many things, not just how quickly we responded or resolved their issue. Factors such as how they were treated, whether they could understand what they were being told or asked to do, whether they felt well informed about what was going on and what would happen next (and when), and whether they were asked to confirm their issue was solved before the ticket was closed.
Even something like time is not absolute. From personal experience, we all know there are many factors that can make the same absolute wait time feel longer or shorter.
Ultimately, these experience factors are all about expectations and perceptions, not absolutes. The perceptions of those at the receiving end of the service – our customers. And the outcome of their judgement is their level of satisfaction.
David Maister, a researcher on the psychology of waiting times, described this rather succinctly with the formula: S=P-E, where S stands for satisfaction, P for perception and E for expectation. As P and E are both psychological in nature, S can be attained when a customer’s perceived experience of a service, P, exceeds their expectations, E.
If you want to measure service quality (and you work in Service Management, so you should, right!), the best way to do that is to ask your customers. Valarie Zeithaml put this rather nicely in her book, Delivering Quality Service: “Only customers judge quality. All other judgments are essentially irrelevant”.
We need to stop putting so much focus on traditional SLA metrics and start focusing on customer satisfaction. The extent to which you can keep your customers happy determines whether your customer trusts you or bypasses you, forgives your mistakes or hauls you over the coals, increases your budgets or squeezes them, keeps you as their service provider or outsources you.
And if you’re always asking your customers to not just rate your service, but to tell you what you need to do to improve (one of the principles behind the Net Promoter System), you’ll find this feedback to be a very powerful way to drive continual service improvement.
By all means measure response and resolution times for your own purposes, but never wave a green service level performance report in front of a customer and tell them they should be happy.
This post was based on an e-book, “Measuring the Quality of IT Support”, which can be downloaded here.
Dave O’Reardon helps IT support teams adopt Net Promoter practices and use customer feedback to drive continual service improvement. He’s the founder and CEO of Silversix, the company behind www.cio-pulse.com, and winner of the Service Management ‘Innovation of the Year Award’ in 2015. Dave can be reached on Twitter via @silversix_dave or LinkedIn.