Capturing Client Satisfaction: Seventh Key to Brokering IT Services Internally

Dick Benton, a principal consultant for GlassHouse Technologies, has worked with numerous Fortune 1000 clients in a wide range of industries to develop and execute business-aligned strategies for technology governance, cloud computing and disaster recovery.

Dick Benton GlasshouseDICK BENTON

Last August, I outlined seven key tips IT departments should follow to build a better service strategy for their internal users. Since then, I’ve taken a deeper dive into each of these steps on the way to becoming an Internal Cloud Provider (ICP), an essential transformation if IT wants to align with company goals and user expectations. My last post addressed the sixth step, proving what you delivered; in other words, it’s important to show management and service consumers that you’ve met the established service level agreements (SLAs) and key performance indicators (KPIs) for your IT services.

Now, we’ve come to the seventh and final step in this process: capture client satisfaction.

So you now have your nascent cloud service offerings out there in consumer land. Your service offerings are being selected by the end user from your Web-based service catalog. They are intelligently choosing the service they really need, because you have provided service attributes in terms the consumer can understand, and you have also identified the cost of each service offering to assist in their selection.

You have provided a mechanism not only for auto selection, but also for auto deployment. Services selected are now provisioned automatically under appropriate policies agreed by management. Mean time to provision is now a matter of minutes or hours instead of days and weeks. Each month, you produce your score card showing which groups, departments or divisions have consumed which service offerings and at what costs, and you have confirmed in formal reporting that all SLAs have been either met or exceeded.

Determine Satisfaction and Look to Tomorrow

What more can IT do? To lock in your new understanding of consumer needs and to stay abreast of trends in these needs, it is essential to include a survey into your processes. This is not just a satisfaction survey vainly seeking confirmation that IT has indeed “done well”. Rather, it’s critical to use this opportunity to ask probing questions to get a handle on how needs are changing and how future offerings might be driven.

The satisfaction survey process provides an opportunity to capture consumer needs, consumer consumption behaviors and service offering usage as well as satisfaction levels with your services. It is a tool you can use to better understand individual and overall service requirements. This is what we mean by aligning IT with business needs. Your metrics reporting should have already allowed you to identify frequent consumers from the occasional. You should also have a good handle on who is consuming what and be able to classify small, medium and large consumers. If you have offered services that lend themselves to being turned off as easily as they are turned on, you can also get a handle on the mean time-to-live of the various service offerings.

Survey Can Help Set Your Roadmap for the Future

The above information allows you to craft an intelligent survey that seeks information to assist you in planning new services to meet changing needs, changes to existing services as business drivers change, and even end-of-life decisions for some services that are no longer in demand. This knowledge is critical to retaining your relevancy to the consumer for your service offerings, and to remain competitive with outside public operations. It’s always a good idea to formally review what your competition is up to. Just because you think your consumers are captive doesn’t mean they see themselves as captive. Review the competition’s service offerings at least monthly, and follow their PR news feeds for service offering announcements. These new service offerings may well be suitable grist for your survey, to identify if there is a need for these within your organization.

Finally, there is room for the classic component of the satisfaction survey. How well did you do? A scale of one to five is usually sufficient. Further levels of granularity add little. One through five provides a high, medium and low score with something in between for those who want to be picky. Start by asking consumers to assess the service offerings themselves. Are the service offerings meeting their needs? Would more offerings be helpful?  Be sure to allow for written feedback as well. Then move to questions around ease of use. Can they find the service offerings they are looking for? How easy is it to find the service offering they seek? How easy is it to select the service offering and place an order? Are the terms and conditions of the service offering clear? Do they think the costs of the service offerings are reasonable and competitive?

Next, move on to the deployment process. The key question here is to ask how they feel about the mean time to provision the service they ordered (self-selected). Did they get the service they asked for? Were there any additional clerical steps required for approval? (This allows you to count such instances). Was the service delivered as promised? Were SLAs met on each occasion? Was the monthly/weekly reporting adequate? Did they need to escalate any issue? (Capture, count and classify). How do they feel about IT’s ability to respond to their issues? How do they feel about IT’s ability to resolve their issues? How do they rate the internal IT cloud against the competition (Amazon)?

The creative mind can conjure a number of other questions to include in the survey; however, there is a risk of driving boredom or even dissatisfaction once a survey gets beyond a certain size. Perhaps 10 to 15 questions should be sufficient to capture key information about the services you offer, your ability to respond to consumer demands, and trends and future service offering needs. There are quite a few Web-based survey tools, and many are free like Survey Monkey.

By running regular surveys, and even embedding mini surveys in your selection, approval or quote process and the provisioning and deployment process, a wealth of information becomes available to the IT organization dedicated to improving consumer satisfaction and continuous improvement. In summary, here’s the top tips to keep in mind:

  • Build surveys into your service order and service fulfillment procedures;
  • Run a quarterly satisfaction survey on your clients;
  • Differentiate between large clients and most frequent users, and small clients and least frequent users; and
  • Use the information to ensure you are delivering the service offerings your consumers need, with attributes they value, at prices they can afford.

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