What is culture?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:
The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society
In any organisation or group of individuals, there are learned and shared patterns of behaviour or shared values that give us the culture of that organisation or group. Good, or bad, customer service is catching and can become engrained in the organisation’s culture. Traditional IT can sometimes lose sight of what the business as a whole is trying to achieve and often goes its own way, focusing on the technology but not on how it contributes to a service that is enabling the overall business goals. This, in turn, can lead to the business viewing IT as a hindrance rather than an enabler.
Ask someone who works in the internal IT department of a company that manufactures gym equipment, for example, about what they do, and more than likely they’d say “I work in IT”, not something like “I work for a company that manufactures state–of–the–art gym equipment that aims to completely change the way people exercise”; they are focusing on IT and the technology rather than the shared goal of the business.
Where should we be focused?
A cleaner sweeping the floor of the NASA building in the 1960s told a visitor that he was helping to put a man on the moon. That cleaner had a very clear vision of the organisation’s goals and how he contributed to achieving them!
So, to change the focus of the traditional IT department, it needs to be very clear on the organisational goals. And as much as IT needs to change its attitude towards the business, the business needs to change its attitude towards IT. Therefore, it’s essential that the business leaders and IT engage fully so that everyone in IT understands their contribution to achieving the goals.
This isn’t achievable through a one–off training course, although that would certainly help at the beginning of the journey. What’s required is a consistent approach, led from the top of the organisation, to how to treat customers.
Some suggestions for IT to start off:
- Have an increased induction programme for IT employees that exposes them to other areas of the business – including all customer–facing departments – to give an understanding of the interactions between them.
- Define the services that IT provides to the business. Show how they contribute to the business objectives and make sure all IT staff understand the priorities for these services.
- Put in place a service level agreement between IT and the organisation – and regularly measure performance against this – so that both parties understand their expectations and responsibilities. Agree what KPIs the organisation wants to see and regularly review them with the customer to make sure they are still in line with the overall objectives.
- Shout about successes as well as failures – your customers may not notice them otherwise!
- Adopt a service–orientated framework such as ITIL®, or aim to be accredited to ISO 20000, which will be a continuous measure of the effectiveness of your service management system.
This focus on service improvement should then become a way of life for the IT team. Remember that good (and bad!) customer service is infectious: once a few core members of the team have adopted this attitude, others will follow and slowly the culture will change.
Is it good enough? Ask the customer…
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