xMatters’ Teon Rosandic tells TechWeekEurope how IT is becoming increasingly customer facing
Sometimes, it seem that the IT department only exists to keep the lights on – monitor and maintain systems, protect against data breaches and attacks, and fix or replace computers. And, far too often the customer is not in the middle.
However, with the growth of third-party cloud services and new technologies, IT has begun to break through the barriers of mundane maintenance and monitoring and into the everyday lives of enterprises, with communications being key. IT team have had to become more customer facing (yes, customer facing) both internally and externally.
IT has traditionally been a support function, so communication often doesn’t come naturally to IT leaders, but sometimes your accomplishments are not enough. If people don’t know what you’re doing, they will complain about your perceived inactivity. IT communication also helps drive desired actions. For instance, if you need all users to restart their computers or install the latest software, it’s probably a good idea to let them know. Communication becomes only more important as your department and your company grow.
Importance of transparency
IT needs to become more transparent within its own organisation and to the company. That means not only celebrating successes, but also owning up to where there are issues and developing a remediation plan. Imagine your Internet connection went down. Businesses come to a standstill without access to cloud-based e-mail or services including CRM and marketing automation. Consumers can’t pay their bills, families find themselves without home phone systems (or some would claim: even worse – no on-demand TV), digital tickets temporarily disappear, and delayed directions to an important job could be life changing.
IT leaders and engineers certainly have their hands full with ever more sophisticated always-on and always-connected customers who are more empowered and easily disappointed than ever. They are placing greater demands to “get it right” and deliver immediate access to information, products and services.
IT issues can affect an end user in seconds, so there is no longer time for organisations to work through layers of IT, business, customer relations and communications before communicating to customers. By that time, call centers will be inundated with inbound calls of complaint. As issues become more immediate and directly impact end users, timely communication and transparency are as critical as the service license itself.
Some departments scramble like hamsters to remain productive during an outage, and the chaos generates an avalanche of questions, notifications and complaints from consumers and employees – exactly the sort of activity that prevents IT from taking action. A more proactive approach that sends notifications from IT to employees would both give IT more time to resolve issues and create better relations between IT and the company at large.
You can’t send after-the-fact communications about down or unavailable services anymore because employees experience these outages immediately and in every area of their work. They want immediate answers; and if you don’t send them, you’ll get the avalanche.
Virtually everyone has a smart phone and most have tablets; but by 2020, networks will host more than 30 billion wirelessly connected devices, reports ABI Research. But a smart phone is one person’s lifeline and another person’s albatross. With more devices linked to the cloud, consumers will have even closer connections to brands, products, services and businesses. Their expectations for superior customer service and speed of issue resolution will sky rocket. IT will have to answer to this demand and let their users know when they can use their services again.
Immediate, targeted notification and communication are one key to speedy resolution of IT service issues. The first step is to establish the infrastructure for automated interactions. Companies that put repeatable processes in place can activate them instantly and communicate in real time during critical incidents.
The real trick to effective communication, even in a crisis, is to tailor the messages to specific audiences. It’s important to send the right information to the right people via the right channels. Businesses can and should follow suit, targeting customers in the ways that suit them best and then keeping them regularly informed throughout the resolution process, even if only to check in.
There’s more to targeting than just preferred devices. Depending on the situation, maybe not everyone needs to be notified. So it is a good practice to target recipients as well. Targeting recipients will also reduce the number of responses IT is likely to receive.
As IT adopts a more strategic role in helping companies achieve strategic goals and meeting financial targets, they need to be aware of being more than just a fix-it shop or just keeping the lights on.
So how can IT departments achieve the speed they need? I recommend automating messages where possible, so certain events trigger messages. I also recommend automating escalation processes so if the first message is not answered, a second message goes to an alternate device or a second person.
Of course, sometimes an automated message is not quite right for a given situation, the answers are too limiting. So I suggest giving managers to ability to write custom messages, and to add free text fields so people can respond with more detailed messages if possible.
To ensure businesses don’t fall victim to a customer uprising, IT should be asking themselves – how are my customers’ service expectations evolving in today’s highly-connected world? Is my company prepared to deliver excellent customer service? How can rapid communication help me meet their customer service goals? If one or all of these answers involved the adoption of a rapid communication platform, then they are one step closer to ultimate customer and end user satisfaction.
Teon Rosandic is VP EMEA, xMatters
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