by Lorraine Cosgrove Ware

Hold Vendors Accountable

Mar 01, 20032 mins

Every business says it offers world-class service, but what does that really mean? According to a recent study by the Service and Support Professionals Association (SSPA) of 150 IT support managers, world-class service includes four key elements: customer service, customer loyalty, service levels and people management.

Customer loyalty: the expression and action that defines the commitment of a customer to maintain an ongoing relationship with the service provider.

Service levels: effective resolution of customer problems within a mutually agreed upon time frame.

People management: effective management of support staff.

In many categories, there’s little discrepancy between the service of world-class and average providers. However, note the significant difference in call return?something to consider when choosing a provider.

It’s what you complain about most?the time it takes to resolve complaints. It’s what separates the world-class provider from the average provider. Since it’s cited as the biggest concern, seek out world-class service.

Best Practices

Seek out vendors with high-quality support staff. A support staff that has strong skill-set training will most likely have greater business knowledge and a better understanding of your business needs, and will respond and resolve your problem more quickly. Ask your service provider about the support staff’s training and certifications, how quickly your case will be escalated and who’ll be involved in the resolution process. A world-class service provider should have this documented.

Demand to be heard. Top-notch support providers conduct periodic customer satisfaction surveys based on recent transactions. World-class service providers also conduct surveys of senior-level executives and have representative advisory councils. CIOs should look for support providers that have a process documented for the customer to voice their opinions?both good and bad.

Search for good customer relationship management practices. The IT organization should hear from its support provider any time something interesting or relevant to that client occurs (for example, a patch is released). Tom Sweeny, SSPA research director, suggests that “communication with the client should occur frequently and well before you need money from them.” World-class organizations proactively check in with clients when they haven’t heard from them in a few months. “Technology makes it so easy to touch base with clients, there’s no excuse not to,” says Sweeny.