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Next Practices in Business Service Management



Business Service Leadership: The Time is Now! [Part 2]
by Peter J. McGarahan

Business Service Leadership

Details, details, details

I always remember being challenged when trying to communicate the impact of any upgrade, update, rollout, download, new release or change gone bad to management. The frustration of experiencing the steady state call volume spike and trying to get the attention of the project management team who were already claiming victory and celebrating success. I felt like an idiot when IT management challenged my initial report of the impact, what caused it, what types of calls we were receiving and what we were doing to handle it; both reactively and proactively. “You know Pete, the production change was not intended to impact that area of the customer’s functionality – you must be mistaken.”

It’s always important to know the facts, the details and what you are planning to do about it before ever engaging IT management. In fact, your credibility relies on your ability to extract the details regarding anything you do to proactively change the situation for the better. If you talk to any service leader, they will quickly give you the areas of opportunity for positively impacting business services.

The areas of opportunity for positively impacting business services:

  1. Minimize the impact of any change, rollout or upgrade by working closely with the project team to ensure the quality in testing, documentation, communication, knowledge and escalation/resolution.

  2. Always working with Level-2 IT management on minimizing escalations by focusing on what your team can resolve at Level-1 and what knowledge, training, documentation and tools you need to make it happen.

  3. Reporting aging tickets and link the follow-up, status and resolution to the Total Contact Ownership philosophy that has guided many best-in-class service and support organizations.

  4. Hold your team accountable for mastering the role of service and support professional. Industry best practices range from attitude to 100% incident tracking, validating resolution to anticipating the customer’s needs and proactively identifying trends and quality ticket documentation. These are Business Service Management (BSM) best practices that any and all customer support professionals should practice on a daily basis.

  5. Creating an IT culture where everyone works for the Service Desk. Where the Service Desk is seen and treated as the “Face of IT” and the “Voice of the Customer” / Customer Advocate. They are given the benefit of the doubt and respect when they bring the impact details and case for taking immediate corrective action.

Deliver tactical results

As I struggled to find my ‘voice’ in the organization, a mentor of mine reminded me that my audience would take us seriously if we had a track record of results. He called it credibility with the IT organization and stated factually, “they won’t listen to you strategically, unless you can deliver tactically.” That single piece of advice changed my day-day operational management focus. For me, the daily focus was establishing a foundation based on help desk basics, metrics and best practices – right from the book. I established the standard operational procedures, configured the tools of the trade to support the best practice processes, trained the team on how and why these daily practices were critical to our success and then I held each of them accountable for meeting those performance targets.

It ALL makes a difference!

IFrom the way you configure the ACD menu options, to your staffing schedule and individual adherence, your consistent customer greeting to tracking every call / issue/ request, quality ticket documentation to Total Contact Ownership (status, follow-up and validating satisfaction / resolution), managing call volume spikes, and finally to create operating level agreements (OLAs) with peers to letting customer satisfaction be your telling guide that from the customer perspective - you are doing all the right things the right way. Once you are doing the job consistently and you confidently know you are doing the job because you see it, measure it, report on it and live by the daily numbers …it’s time to hand over the day to day operations to your team.

It’s time to begin the role you were meant to play. The role of:

  • The customer advocate,
  • The problem solver,
  • The voice,
  • The ambassador and
  • The communicator
  • …The Business Service Leader!

Engage your team

It’s not easy handing off the day-to-day operations to your team, but it shouldn’t be hard either. I often thought my main focus after implementing the continuous improvements was removing myself as the “bottleneck” in decision-making. You have engaged your team throughout this continuous improvement journey. They helped you make decisions, provided you with advice and bought into the service and support strategy. It passed the common-sense and “why it’s important” test. It was up to you to create this sense of urgency, sense of empathy and sense of purpose that would lead the change in culture, behavior and attitude.

As you leave the day-to-day operations in the capable hands of your team, make sure you take the time to mentor / coach them first-hand leadership by example. They need to see you in action to know what’s important, why it’s important and how to handle situations (something like the way you did). Never assume that everyone can figure this out. Make yourself available to them for coaching, answering questions and make sure they know the boundaries for making front-line decisions.

I will never forget the lessons I learned when trying to re-engage myself into the operations and decisions when the team was functioning quite well without me. I called into the help desk from vacation and a senior team member was insulted when I asked how everything was going. She said, “Pete, we have everything covered, you trained us yourself. Go and enjoy your vacation with your family and do not call in her again – got it?” Lesson learned.

Just the facts

I learned quickly to take the emotion and personality out of reporting. IT Management does not necessarily enjoy hearing about problems on a regular basis. In your reporting you need to establish the facts, the actual numbers, the real business impact, the costs, the trends and what you plan or recommend doing about it. Establish reporting that meets the needs of your business audiences and stakeholders. I always tried to separate operational reporting which was geared for me and the team versus management / marketing (BSM) reporting which should focus on areas that impact all of IT and the business.

One of my CIOs became actively involved in Service Level Management and was interested in the response and resolution times for all IT resources based on priority, impact and urgency. She was focused on aging tickets and worked with the different group managers to ensure they understood that this was a priority for her and should be for them! She regularly took them on customer tours to see the “face” behind every ticket. It was few month later that she informed all of her direct reports that they ALL worked for the Help Desk. She surprised them by “putting their money where her mouth was” and stated clearly that 25% of their performance review would be based on the success of the Help Desk. You could have heard an aging ticket being closed! Business Service leaders must know the numbers, the story behind those numbers and how to tell / sell their success story.

Sell the success story If you don’t tell people your BSM success story, who will? Or, asked in another way, if a support success story is told and no one is listening, does it make a sound? A support success story is a brief, eight-to-ten-slide presentation on the business value proposition of the support organization. It should include:

  • Breadth and depth of your services
  • Value proposition
  • Involvement in current IT/Business projects
  • Business impact measurements
  • Cost-effective best practices
  • Customer testimonials
  • Org Chart showing the many proactive roles in your organization

Tell your BSM support success story to whoever will listen. It works. I know one CIO who was so impressed by the “Success Story” he had it mounted on an easel outside his office. As senior executives walked by and inquired about it, the CIO told the support success story. That’s high visibility / impact marketing.

For unexpected encounters with senior management, prepare an Elevator Pitch - a focused, deliberate, 20-30 second message that paints a memorable picture of delivering business value (e.g., impact, results, continuous improvement). Leave them with the confidence and impression that all is well the service and support organization. For example: “Thank you for asking; everything is going very well. We’ve recently completed an assessment of our support operations against customer needs, industry benchmarks, and demonstrated best practices. From there, we created a 30-60-90-day continuous improvement plan, which aligned our support strategy, structure and services to better address business objectives / needs of our customers. We delivered against phase I targets and have eliminated 10% of our calls, are solving more problems, faster at Level-1 while reducing the total cost of support to the organization. Our “Shift-Left” strategy is working and I’d love to share additional results, our focus on delivering more business value and customer testimonials at your convenience. By the way, please stop by the Service Desk at any time so you listen yourself to the “voice of the customer” and see us in action!”

Please look for the next installment of Business Service Leadership: The Time is Now! Part 3. See Part 1 >>

































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