Managing Customer Service Expectations with Information

by | June 20, 2010

Do your customers understand how to get service from your organization?

Do your customers understand what to expect from the services you deliver?

Are your customers frustrated and upset when they interact with your Service Desk?

Recently, I was on the customer end of service delivery. It got me thinking about what we could do better in order to deliver quality customer service.  Here is my tale:

My doctor wrote an order for me to get some x-rays.  I arrived at the radiology lab and took a number and waited to be called. After a short period, the receptionist called my number, took my details and asked me wait for my x-ray. There were about 20 people in the waiting area.  As time went by, all the people in the waiting area who were there when I arrived were called in as well as a group of people who arrived after me.  I waited patiently for 30 minutes, then 45 minutes getting more and more agitated. I felt like I was not being treated fairly and that made me angry. Finally, when someone arrived 50 minutes after me and was called in for their procedure, I approached the receptionist and asked if they forgot me. The answer I got blew me away …

No sir, we did not forget you. There are 4 queues and the order that people arrive in is not the order they are served in.

Well, I could have avoided a good half hour of annoyance had someone told me that!! Never in the process (verbally or written) was I informed that once I was registered, that there were multiple queues. All I had to was the information I could see … everyone but me was getting service!  So I happened to be in the slowest queue but what blew me away was how my frustration was reduced once I knew that I was being treated fairly (very slowly but fairly).  I went back to reading my book and my name was called and I got my x-ray.

My experience at the radiology laboratory highlighted the power of information and communication with our customers.  This is exactly what we should provide our clients/customers in service organizations. While we may have implemented service management systems that show a person the status of their request, we almost never show them where they are in the queue (or queues!).  Imagine the impact on our clients if we could show them not only the status of their request AND where they were in relation to all the other requests in the queue or queues. This does pose a challenge for service delivery organizations because we would have to become more open and transparent about how we do our business.  Our ability (or inability) would be exposed for all to see!

Leveraging the data in our service management systems with analytics would allow us to provide our customers with better information so that they understand when they can expect a service they requested.  I am convinced we will have happier customers and possibly better data to shape the service standards we publish to our customers.

Do any of you use analytics to address this issue key communication issue?  I will blog more on this as we develop approaches to be more transparent and informative with our customers.

5 thoughts on “Managing Customer Service Expectations with Information

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  2. Ric Phillips

    Hi Leo,

    I agree completely. Years ago, in ’99 I set up a faculty wide help desk system (just some perl scripts, a web page and an email interface). We used a ‘take a number approach’ and whether the request was phoned in or submitted via the web form every person was told where they were in the queue in terms of how many requests were in front of them. They received an email with a url to a simple update on which requests were being processed so they could see at any time how the queue was moving.

    It made a huge difference.

    There are a handful of set-in-stone basics to good service management: Keep clients informed, manage expectations, capture the things you don’t known, move solutions forward (towards the desk) not problems backward, work the incident not the ticket… and so on. It is really appalling that so few client service / service management functions adhere to them.

    1. Leo de Sousa Post author

      Ric, thank you very much for the comment. I really love your point about :

      move solutions forward (towards the desk) not problems backward


  3. Nick Malik

    Excellent point, Leo. We see this in forward-looking exercises as well. In a demand management setting, there may be 1,000 change requests submitted to a single IT organization… but there is always a limit on resources. The people doing the work need the list of demands to be prioritized. But business customers can become unhappy when their change request is not addressed quickly.

    One of the most effective things that you can do is to show all of the stakeholders the entire list of changes… what is being done for everyone. That way, any one stakeholder can see that they are being treated fairly when their particular change request shows up in a later planned release than they would like.

    Of course, that assumes that every one of the stakeholders understands, or is willing to trust, the mechanism that you use to prioritize those requests. But that’s another story…

    Good post.
    — Nick

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