Customers are becoming increasingly demanding, and social media platforms are giving them the power they need to express their (dis)content easily and publicly. For years, technical measurements of Service Level Agreements have determined good or bad service, and have functioned as the ultimate drivers of service quality. Today, customer experience is becoming the prime metric for performance, which seems to have no relation to these SLAs. How do service providers deal with this?
The Net Promotor score is making traditional satisfaction surveys redundant
For the last couple of years, the Net Promoter Score (NPS) has been widely used as the indicator for customer loyalty in all sorts of organisations and sectors. The simplicity of the NPS score helped the measurement be widely adopted in different sectors.
‘IT-service’ providers have also started to embrace the Net Promotor Score as their ultimate KPI, although they are providing services to end users who are not customers with a real choice in loyalty. These service providers have been using the Service Level Agreement (SLA) for years to determine the quality of the service delivered.
Service Level Agreements don’t tell you anything about service experience
The biggest problem with SLAs is that they give the service provider and their customer a false impression of what the real quality (let alone the perceived quality) of the delivered service is. Service providers wrongly assume that the amount of SLA breaches defines the quality of their services. In cases where service contracts contain penalties (e.g. when a SLA is in breach), the pressure to prove service quality by SLAs becomes even more detached from reality. This is a prime example of inefficient, inside-out thinking.
How to make end user experience the most important driver of service quality?
In an industry governed by SLAs and rational objectives, this means a tremendous mind shift in the heads of service providers, their service delivery managers, and their customers. Two shifts are necessary: to understand what end user experience is, and to understand how to make end user experience the most important driver of service quality.
This experience is determined by the way you interact with your end user. It originates from their personal interpretation during the service journey. Therefore, the first answer lies in understanding the journey of your end user, and the differences in the journey (depending on the end user you’re looking at). Yes, there are several end user groups in an organisation, all with a different expectation and a different perception of the same service!
For the service delivery manager this means that avoiding SLA breaches is no longer a main priority or source for improvement. It is the end user’s feedback that will provide valuable information and insights on the actual requirements. Consequently, service delivery managers will need to incorporate methods & tools with the competence to capture these requirements, in order to translate them beyond traditional SLAs or KPIs.
End user experience is also redefining the outsourcing relationship
This is just a start: in order to actually drive service quality based on the end user experience, we need to rethink the relationship between an IT service provider and their customer. While the entire concept of SLAs is built around transferring risk and responsibility to the other party, it is the NPS score that requests both parties to drive service delivery. Only in a strong partnership, based on transparency and a sense of reality, will NPS be able to bring added value in the delivery of services.
Crossroad believes that the next few years will be extremely challenging for practitioners. They must make this paradigm shift of improving end user experiences, and not just focus on traditional performance. In our experience, applying service design thinking tools is the best method for (IT) service providers to face this challenge. Learning the techniques of journey mapping, touch point classification, and blueprinting in collaboration with their customers end users, will allow them to outperform the competition.