Thriving While Others Hunker Down
As firms look to improve customer loyalty and increase operational
performance, a key area to consider focusing on is your service delivery
organization, its practices and procedures. The article in this edition
covers a best practice know as ITIL, which was designed for IT service
management. However, it is just as effectively applied to
external/customer-facing organizations (customer service, technical
support, etc.) as it is to internal IT organizations. So, in the spirit
of "not reinventing the wheel," consider tried and true best practices
that are proven to be highly effective in improving the customer
experience and operational performance. If you need help assessing your
service management effectiveness or implementing service management
practices, feel free to give us a call.
Building Better Relationships Through Best
The degree of firmness in your handshake with your client is dependant
on a chain of relationships within your company. To add a twist to an
old saying, the relationship chain "is only as strong as the weakest
A key link in this chain is your service organization.
In this article, I will present, from a business prospective, the
benefits of using an Information Technology (IT) industry best practice
framework, and how this framework will help to improve relationships
with customers and provide coveted cost saving efficiencies.
IT service management is a discipline for managing IT systems,
philosophically centered on the customer's perspective of IT's
contribution to the business. And, these practices are just as important
for internal IT organizations as they are for external/customer-facing
technical service organizations. The effectiveness of service management
depends on how well the service organization is organized with its
processes and procedures.
To understand the state of your service management, ask the following
Are requests sent to your service organization in the
form of an email, a hallway conversation, or by placing a phone call
to your favorite support person?
Does the service organization commit to resolving an
issue within a given time frame?
Do you know what changes are going into production,
when and how those changes may impact other services?
Do you know if your service organization fully
understands your product offering and if they can provide the
necessary system resources to meet your present and future needs?
Do employees in the service organization appear to
understand their roles and responsibilities? A lack of understanding
roles and responsibilities becomes evident when your service request
continues to bounce from one support group to the next.
How secure is your company's data?
Do you have a fail-over plan in place in the event of
How are costs being controlled? Is finance providing
the necessary ROI on product fixes/enhancements and long term goals?
If you are not happy with the state of service management, there are
ways to improve it based on best practices designed for IT which can
also be adapted to external/customer facing service organizations. This
article will focus on the industry best practice referred to as ITIL (IT
ITIL has been around since the late 1980's. The IL refers to
"Infrastructure Library," which is literally a library of books
containing IT best practices. ITIL is flexible. You can conform to ITIL
guidelines entirely, apply some of the guidelines, or implement ITIL a
la carte. It can be applied in companies big or small.
ITIL originated out of the Office of Government Commerce in the UK, and
has gained significant notoriety world wide. You can gauge its
popularity just by searching for "ITIL" in any popular internet search
engine or job posting site.
The key to good customer relationships is to align the customers'
business needs and expectations with the services provided. The tasks to
accomplish this are simplified with a series of steps provided below.
Service Level Management: Establish a service level
manager (SLM) role, to act as the liaison between the customer and
the service organization. The SLM is the hub for all communications
and activities that take place within your service organization.
Providing an SLM is the first step to establishing good
relationships with customers.
Prepare a service catalog: This catalog should list,
in layman's terms, all of the services that the organization
provides to the customer. The catalog should include a cost for the
service and (if you are hosting a technical infrastructure for the
client) the name of the server(s) where the service resides (this
also supports the step of organizing assets and services – see #4
Establish SLA's: Work with the SLM to agree on an SLA
for each service. The SLA should contain easy to understand language
guaranteeing the availability of the service, severity level, impact
to the business, agreed resolution time and escalation procedures.
Escalation procedures should include a contact list such as
relationship management and senior management for both customer(s)
and service provider(s). Include the time period to commence the
escalation and time period between escalating steps. Be sure to
include 3rd party vendor "SLA's"* and escalation procedures.
The SLM should work with the customer and the service organization
to align the internal service SLA's**, (such as the call center, and
subsequent tier level support groups) with the customer SLA's. For
example, avoid promising the customer 2 days to fix an issue when
the internal SLA adds up to 3 days.
The SLM should then publicize the SLA's so that management and
support services are aware of them. Tip: Create an incentive for
meeting SLA's by integrating the SLA's into employee performance
management. For example, from the SLA's, establish key performance
indicators (KPI's), and establish employee performance goals based
on the KPI's.
Establish configuration management: Build a list or
database of all items that make up services and the relationships
that exist between the services. This database should also contain
documents containing agreements, contracts, processes and procedures
as well as a detailed list of IT assets and the relationship that
exist between the assets. This list should be maintained through a
change management process to ensure that the records are tracked and
maintained in a controlled manner.
Set up monitoring: Monitoring can be automated or
manual. It's a means to determine if SLA's are being met. An example
of monitoring might be to check for email service availability
(e.g., in the past month, email was unavailable twice for a period
of 30 minutes).
Reporting: The SLM should meet with the customer on a
regularly scheduled time to review the results of the monitoring.
The SLM should consider implementing service improvement plans for
areas of poor performance. Reporting on service improvement plans
should also be included within the regularly scheduled business
Periodic Reviews: Review SLA's as well as the entire
service level management process. Renegotiate SLA's or processes as
necessary based on the prioritized needs of the customer. A
continued breach in the SLA may be due to user training needs,
system issues, or end user behavior. User behavior can be influenced
by charging less for running reports in the evening when system
resources have more capacity. Revisit the business needs and
priorities and work with the service organization to establish
attainable SLA's. SLA's are meant to build relationships, not to
Implementing these steps can be done gradually. Start by measuring
conditions as they exist today. This will provide a baseline to compare
against after applying the steps mentioned above. Go for the quick wins
such as the creation of the service catalog. Then work on creating SLA's
for each service.
As you make progress implementing a best practice, you should have
better efficiencies resulting in cost savings, an increasingly
profitable relationship and a high degree of confidence in that
handshake with your client.
*ITIL uses the term "underpinning contracts" as a component of 3rd party
**ITIL uses the term "operational level agreements" for internal SLA's.
Best Practice For Service Delivery, The Office of Government
Commerce (OGC) ; The Stationary Office (TSO), PO Box 29, Norwich NR3 IGN,
First published 2001 Eleventh Impression 2006.
Serving Those (Still) In Need
A group from the First Baptist Church of Hudson, NH is in Biloxi, MS
this week to work with Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild the
Mississippi Gulf coast. This area was ravaged during Hurricane Katrina
in August of 2005. Nearly 267,000 homes in the Gulf Coast area were
either destroyed or damaged in the storm.
Much has been done, but there still remains a great need. At its peak,
FEMA placed 44,000 trailers in the area to shelter storm victims. As of
June, the last 7,000 occupied trailers were closed, sending hundreds of
poor desperately hunting for affordable housing. Katrina's devastation
has dropped off the national media radar screen, but we have not
forgotten. Rebuilding the infrastructure of the Gulf Coast is an ongoing
process and there is still a great deal of work to do. Habitat for
Humanity currently requires 1,000 volunteers a week in areas along the
Each team member has been deeply affected by previous trips and once
again, we are thrilled that we can be a part of this project. You can
play a part too, by praying for the team, which is made up of: Ellie
Cropley, Al Daigle, Bri Daigle, Torre Daigle, Pastor Jim Harrington,
Clarice James, Mike Ledoux, Bruce Mostrom, Terry Mostrom, Tony Rice,
Jayce Stella, Jessica Surro and Craig Bailey. Please pray for our
protection, safe travel, good health, and ability to bring much needed
relief to those who need it.
We are also seeking financial donations. The cost of the trip will be
approximately $5,000. Your tax deductable donation can be made securely
Thanks for your support.
+ Thriving While Others Hunker Down
+ Building Better Relationships Through Best
+ Serving Those (Still) In Need
+ Recommended Reading
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