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Next Practices in Business Service Management

 

 

IT as a Service Provider: Strategies for Building Trust
by Steve Lesem

Business Service Leadership

Steve Lesem is the CEO of Mezeo Software, a leading cloud storage company. He blogs at CloudStorageStrategy.com.

Building Trust: The Key to IT Service Quality

How do you build trust? According to Stephen Covey Jr. trust is built through behavior. His work has identified 13 behaviors which build trust:

1. Talk Straight
2. Demonstrate Respect
3. Create Transparency
4. Right Wrongs
5. Show Loyalty
6. Deliver Results
7. Get Better
8. Confront Reality
9. Clarify Expectations
10. Practice Accountability
11. Listen First
12. Keep Commitments
13. Extend Trust

But how do these behaviors translate to a IT service delivery model

To answer this question, I dug up an old model for assessing service quality - SERVQUAL -  which was introduced to the world of service and retail back in 1988 (those were the days before ITIL).  SERVQUAL has its share of detractors, but even recent research reminds us that it is still a useful model.  In particular, I'm interested in how it can be used to help service providers improve and extend their intangible advantages over the more impersonal big shops.

Over the years, the SERVQUAL instrument has been a popular methodology used to measure consumers' perceptions of service quality. Its five generic dimensions or factors are still valid for IT in particular:

  1. Tangibles: physical facilities, equipment and appearance of personnel.

  2. Reliability: the ability to perform the promised service dependably and accurately.


  3. Responsiveness: willingness to help customers and provide prompt service.

  4. Assurance: includes competence, courtesy, credibility and security; the knowledge and courtesy of employees and their ability to inspire trust and confidence.

  5. Empathy: includes access, communication, understanding the customer; caring and
    individualized attention that the firm provides to its customers.

None of these dimensions will change in the cloud, with the exception that some of these dimensions are now virtual and must be proven online (customer support, for example) or through superior automation of work processes.

Let's also analyze the SERVQUAL "gap model," as it was called, and see how it applies to IT service delivery:

servqual.gif

Let's look at the meaning of each "gap" - the possible breakdown areas in service delivery:

Gap 1: Customers' expectations versus management perceptions: caused by the lack of a marketing research orientation, inadequate upward communication and too many layers of management.

Gap 2: Management perceptions versus service specifications: caused by an inadequate commitment to service quality, a perception of unfeasibility, inadequate task standardization and an absence of goal setting.

Gap 3: Service specifications versus service delivery: caused by role ambiguity and conflict, poor employee-job fit and poor technology-job fit, inappropriate supervisory control systems, lack of perceived control and lack of teamwork.

Gap 4: Service delivery versus external communication: caused by inadequate horizontal communications and propensity to over-promise.

Gap 5: The discrepancy between customer expectations and their perceptions of the service delivered: caused by the influences exerted from the customer side and the shortfalls (gaps) on the part of the service provider. In this case, customer expectations are influenced by the extent of personal needs, word of mouth recommendation and past service experiences.

Gap 6: The discrepancy between customer expectations and employees' perceptions: caused by the differences in the understanding of customer expectations by front-line service providers.

Gap 7: The discrepancy between employee's perceptions and management perceptions: caused by the differences in the understanding of customer expectations between managers and service providers.

Three of these gaps are directly connected to customers: Gap 1, Gap 5 and Gap 6.  IT teams will find their optimal "trust-building" opportunities here.  Apply Covey's 13 behaviors to each one of these gaps to build on your commitment to your customers.

IT teams that adopt a service provider mindset and who dedicate themselves to closing the gaps will succeed in this new world.

The quest for quality service didn't start yesterday. I highly recommend that IT gives Delivering quality service: balancing customer perceptions and expectations by Valarie A. Zeithaml, A. Parasuraman, Leonard L. Berry, a second look.

 

 

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