Creating an organization with service excellence as its foundation

Focus on values and relationships, be sure people have enough freedom and motivation to make the right choices and, ultimately, that will get you to that true service excellence environment.

In "Service excellence in service management," I wrote about why service excellence matters and provided some first steps you can take towards it. Because of all the positive reactions and follow-up questions I received after presenting about this topic at the HDI conference in Las Vegas in April, a follow-up piece with some further steps makes sense.

Creating a positive culture in a service management environment is an extremely important part of the path to provide service excellence to users. Creating a service excellence environment means creating a culture in which its employees consistently deliver excellent customer experiences.

How is that done? Much of it lies with the leadership. In every decision you make, the goal of service excellence should be part of it. Let me provide you with a personal example: the home goods store, IKEA. I’m from Europe; I grew up and began my career in Belgium, prior to relocating to the United States. Along the way, I began working for TOPdesk, which is based in the Netherlands. In the same city where the TOPdesk HQ is IKEA has its concept store where new services and products are offered first to the public. I’ve had the privilege of touring the facility. While there, one of the company’s higher-ranking executives was helping with the tour.

During the tour, it became obvious very quickly that he knew all the store’s staff, and at one point he got down on his knees in front of one of the display racks to move things around while saying that it was not customer friendly enough (not visible and not reachable). Because of these simple acts, it was easy to tell that his focus on service excellence was very high.

Leading from the front lines

When people visit me at TOPdesk’s Florida office, where our US HQ is based, they always ask me where my office is. I then point to a row of desks -- not divided from the others in any way -- adjoining the support department. A few months before that, I was alongside the sales and marketing team. I like to move around. If I speak to job applicants and they tell me an open-door policy is important, I have to disappoint them because I don’t even have a door.

I think leadership behavior like that is truly important to build a team that is also service excellence-focused. Leadership in service excellent needs to be friendly, accessible, truly interested in customers and employees, and passionate about the service excellence vision.

In regard to managing the outcomes of the service desk, many of the reviews are very much performance-based but do statistics about the number of solved incidents or the resolution times really say anything about service desk employee’s happiness or passion for their work. I believe service desk team managers must consider additional, less-measurable factors to base performance reviews on with their service desk employees. For our teams, we have made some changes to our evaluation process, using the customer satisfaction rating and less measurable things like teamwork and 360-degree reviews, as well.

In my previous piece on this topic, I discussed that the customers of the service desk, in most cases the employees of the organization, thrive most when they are in the “zone.” The same is true for your service desk employees. So, it is important to know who has which skills, values and what their preferred skills are so you can challenge them with learning and growth opportunities.

Employee engagement

Service desk employee engagement requires a passion for serving customers. Doing so is a choice that employees make, often several times a day. When they're happier, they're more likely to make the right choices even if it's harder, and they're more likely to stay with the company. A culture driven by service excellent doesn’t require the setting of too many rules and allowing enough freedom so that decisions are based on values rather than on rules.

If you want to implement a job atmosphere with focus on a good life-work balance, perhaps you can base it on rules like have recently been rolled out in South Korea where the computers of people working for the government shut down at 8 p.m. on Friday. Now they do have their reasons to implement this rule, but what if you implement this approach at your service desk, and right at that time they are helping someone? That’s not providing service excellence experiences. Instead, perhaps base this balance on values and let your employees take the right decision. If your employees decide to stay later a particular day to help out the end user maybe they can come in later the next day.

Outsourcing services  

We are outsourcing more of our services than ever before, working with one or multiple suppliers as part of service delivery. More and more strategic items are being outsourced. So, just as we want to create an empowering environment for our employees we also need to account for our strategic partners. Here we have three factors to consider: agreements, motivation and freedom.

It’s where those three come together that we have meaningful partnerships. Creating a partnership is not solely focusing on penalty clauses and contracts, but also on a joint motivation for each party. I also have some sales experience, and I currently have quite a few sales contracts passing by me in my current role. I have long ago learned that tight waterproof agreements and clauses in the contract do not always work best. These clauses can make things worse. Asking, for instance, for a fixed pricing agreement usually means the supplier is also going to put in very detailed and specific clauses about what is and is not included. It takes away freedom from both parties, so motivation is lost.

What works better is making the supplier part of the team for your strategic items. Knowledge gives understanding and that leads to a common goal. These goals lead to collaboration, which helps rid silos within organizations as well. It is so hard for people these days to know which department they must go to when they have an issue, and when we are empowering employees and focusing on service excellence towards them, getting rid of silos and working towards enterprise or shared service management is key.  

Thus, work on true inter departmental collaboration, which is more than just offering a nice fancy interface to your employees. It is also about creating great back office processes where IT, facilities, HR and finance really collaborate and share processes. Doing so will bring all these pieces together so that you can best understand your audience, adapt your culture, and work on employee and partner engagement and collaboration.

Keep the journey in mind

Remember the journey is really a mind shift that has to go throughout the entire organization. Service excellence is not a goal or checklist, it is something people will breathe and take in. Think about the IKEA example I gave you. This commitment is not just a top-down decision or a decision whatsoever, but a culture that empowers all the people involved -- not just your customer, but also your service desk employees and partners.

Focus on values and relationships, be sure people have enough freedom and motivation to make the right choices and, ultimately, that will get you to that true service excellence environment.

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