Let's talk about 10 percent. I've decided that this is the difference between excellence and disappointment.
I had a lot of time to think about this magical 10 percent while I was attending the Gartner Symposium/IT Expo in Orlando, Fla., last week. When you're at any one of these huge conferences, you get to see the convergence of many systems and individuals charged with providing services to the public, in the form of hotel and conference center staff, event organizers, area restaurants, and nearby entertainment venues. None of these observations are unique to the Gartner Symposium itself; these could have occurred at any conference or trade show for any industry in any location around the world.
Some of the customer interactions I observed during my time in Orlando appeared to have customers feeling absolutely delighted (frequently without regard to whether they'd left the exchange with the good or service originally intended). Other exchanges I witnessed resulted in an angry, frustrated customer -- even if they left with the purchase they wanted to make. What was the difference?
It was surprising to learn that it wasn't really the "big things" that made a crucial difference between a positive experience and a negative one. Oh, sure, customers want to leave an exchange having received the product or service they wanted. But they really wanted other things from the experience as well -- things that generally don't cost much money to provide. These things live in the critical 10 percent of the transaction.
CIOs and other IT leaders could learn some crucial lessons from the customer service exchanges I witnessed during my time in Orlando. Applying these basic customer service lessons could pay dividends when questions are asked about the value that IT returns to the company. Let's look at some of the things customers want, and how IT can make these things happen within their own organizations, for their own customers.
Customers want you to keep promises
Much of this simple statement falls into the basics of business, but there's an extra 10 percent that they want from you: They want you to keep promises in ways that don't turn the obligations into the customers' problems.
Allow me a simple example. The hotel where I was staying touted a breakfast option in which a cook would take your order and cook eggs to your specifications (the rest of the breakfast was a buffet). That's wonderful, but when the customer has to go find the cook, bring them back to the breakfast area, and then talk about eggs, the experience has lost much of its convenience -- and all of its ability to provide customer delight. The hotel should have staffed the breakfast in a way that made it easy (and delightful) for the customer.
What's the IT lesson here? When you promise the lines of business at your company that you'll provide support for their applications, your commitment should require as little effort as possible from the line-of-business employees (your customers). And, you should make sure that your IT staff understands the concept and fully buys into its implementation.
Customers want to feel that you're happy to provide service
I can't make it any simpler: A smile goes a long way. You might be engaged in a serious business endeavor, but when your IT team is working with an internal customer, that customer should feel that it's a pleasure to help them. No snide comments, no heavy sighs, no unnecessary delays, and no rolling eyes should be tolerated by management (or the customer). I observed customer representatives in theme parks use a smile and a pleasant word to turn tired visitors into happy guests. Your employees can do the same for the organization.
Customers want to know you're working for them
A few weeks ago, the Disney folks changed their rules and policies regarding disabled guests and the way they access rides. It was a response to a genuine problem, but it's creating complications for some guests whose lives were made easier by the earlier system. I watched a mother burst into tears at a customer service desk when the new rules were explained -- she was not sure how she would be able to see that her child could do any of the activities under the new system. The guest services person responded with sympathetic voice and facial expression, explained how best to use the new system -- and then ran off to get special tickets that would help alleviate the problem on several attractions. By the time the mother left the desk, she was smiling and looking forward to the day.
There were essentially no costs associated with this employee's actions. The result was that the guest was convinced that the employee had her best interest in mind. In actuality, it also served the company well since it created a happy (and probably loyal) customer.
IT employees who put in an extra 10 percent can convince internal customers that they're considered colleagues, not troublesome enemies, and that IT is working on their behalf.
Ten percent. It's not all that much. It's all the difference when it comes to providing service to customers. What does your IT department do to provide the extra 10 percent? Have you seen this in action? I'd love to hear your stories -- share them in the comments field below.