ITIL & ISO 20000 Blog

Branimir Valentic

ITIL Incident Management – How does it influence customer satisfaction?

Satisfied customer will pay your bills. Unsatisfied customers – well, maybe they pay the next one, but certainly not for the long term. With that act (not paying the bill, i.e., not using your services anymore), the customer wants to say something – he is not satisfied either with your service or the way you support it; i.e., there is a lack of customer satisfaction. And that’s something that should bother every organization.

There are many points where low quality can be “built” into the service, e.g., low quality during design of the service or while building a service. But, low quality will be highly visible once the service enters the live environment. It’s hard (and expensive) to influence customers’ dissatisfaction with a low-quality service. But, there is one more source of customers’ dissatisfaction with operational services – the organization’s performance during incidents.

What’s the importance?

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Maybe your organization has the best IT service strategist, or system admin, or developer… That’s good for the organization, but customers will not see that. What do they see? They see your Service Desk and how well you solve incidents that happen on the services they use. And that’s exactly how they will judge you.

I have witnessed a situation where one of my colleagues explained why she avoids opening incident tickets – there were a few older tickets that were never resolved. The consequence is – distrust. So, efficiency in incident resolution directly influences customer satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).

Except that they get a direct look-and-feel at how efficient you are while solving their incidents. The Service Level Agreement (SLA, official contract between you and your customer) contains obligations that you have to fulfill. Resolving incidents and respective target resolution time is just one of them. That’s the point when Incident Management efficiency is being measured.

And, there is one more thing that you have to be aware of. When an incident happens and a service is interrupted, it not only means that you have to invest your time and effort – your customer’s productivity decreases as well.

How to measure customer satisfaction?

Let’s recall how ITIL presents value. There are three parameters that describe the value that an IT service achieves (from a user’s point of view):

  • preference – what did the user want to get?
  • business outcome – what did he get?
  • perception – how does he feel about the service? This is the most complex one, but it may be the most important one when we talk about customer satisfaction. And, since that customer is a user of your services, incidents influence the customer’s perception directly.

First of all – you need to know how well or badly you are doing. That means that you will be interested to know how efficient your Incident Management process is. Efficient means, in this case, how satisfied your customers are and how good your performance is regarding SLA parameters. It’s easier with finding out whether the SLA parameters are fulfilled – tools are an excellent help in this case. Fulfilling SLA requirements will make your customer satisfied, at least from a contractual point of view (they are paying for performance that they should get).

Regarding customer satisfaction – well, there are several ways to find out the level of customer satisfaction:

Customer Satisfaction Survey – as with any other survey, that’s always a good idea. Send them a questionnaire and ask them direct questions.

Feedback on resolved incidents – this is the functionality of an IT Service Management (ITSM) tool. The point is that when the technician finds and implements a resolution for the incident – the incident’s status changes to “Resolved.” The user receives (usually) an email with a notification that the incident is resolved (and some other information), and that he should confirm that. When he confirms – that’s an excellent opportunity to get feedback from him, usually regarding his satisfaction during incident resolution. In practice, the tool will guide the user to a short survey and ask him a few (don’t overdo it – if you ask too many question – no one will give you feedback), e.g., one or two, questions regarding resolving that particular incident. Usually, it’s about quality or speed of the proposed resolution.

Direct call after incident resolution – once, when we implemented an ITSM tool and a few processes, we decided that after the incident was resolved, a Service Desk person would call that user and ask him a few (quality-related) questions. In such way we received direct feedback from the customer about his satisfaction with the Incident Management process.

Meetings – The Service Level Manager (SLM) is in direct contact with customers and holds regular meetings, usually once a month. And that’s the perfect opportunity to get feedback about customers’ satisfaction with the services and efficiency of the Incident Management process. The Business Relationship Manager (BRM, responsible for business relations with the customer – read the article Business Relationship Management, Service Level Management… Too much management?) is in regular contact with the customer and receives direct feedback about his satisfaction.

What to do afterwards?

Incident Management is a highly visible process (from both your customers’ as well your own perspective), and that means it’s even more important that it be a well-set and managed process. As you can see, setting up the process is a solid foundation once the service is operational, but that’s not the end of the story. The point is to have your eyes wide open and react to any inconsistency that occurs. That could be the result of a measured incident resolution time (and compared to what is agreed in the SLA), but it could also be (sometimes even more important) feedback from your customer and his satisfaction with the results of your Incident Management process.

Whatever the methodology (measurement or customer feedback), the target is the same – a satisfied customer. Since they also have their eyes wide open, customer satisfaction is certainly something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. In the end, the customer will know how to reward that.

Use this free  ITIL Gap Analysis Tool to see how compliant you are with ITIL recommendations.

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