Time for Courage and Wisdom
Don’t Sacrifice Service Quality While Cutting
Peter J. McGarahan, Founder and President, McGarahan & Associates
As I lay awake trying to make
sense of our current economic predicament, I was comforted by The Serenity
Prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I
cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know
the difference.” There is absolutely nothing I can do regarding
the current economic predicament we find ourselves in today. Nothing
I can do will change any of the many market forces at work from impacting
my daily work situation. There is little good news today being reported
by the media. Personally, I am trying hard to filter that information
and courageously face the situation from a perspective of “What
can I change?”.
I awoke this morning
with a positive mindset committed to working on impacting the things
I control and influence. It’s hard not get drawn into the “doom
and gloom” conversation around every water cooler. At
times, depending on the conversation, you may wish that someone would
have put something a little stronger in the water! Certainly there is
apprehension, fear and a little uncertainty around the corner, but what
a great time for appreciation and action. To reconnect with family,
friends and colleagues and reestablish relationships that got sidetracked
by the urgency to get somewhere fast! I will choose to change the things
I can and take the appropriate action to improve my team, myself and
is certainly in the eyes of the beholder and the customer experience
is an essential part of service quality. If you remove the customer
as the main focus of a service quality strategy, you in essence lose
sight of the purpose around creating and delivering a consistent, quality
customer service experience. As organizations look to reduce operational
overhead across the board and ask everyone to give generously during
the “Blood Drive”, are you confident you are providing value
to your customers? If your customers were asked to defend you, your
team and the services you provide to senior management – would
they? Would your customers voice their concern regarding reduction in
services to senior management as it impacts their productivity and ability
to service, sell and deliver against their business objectives?
must be central to your service strategy and aligned with supporting
your business growth strategy. Your Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI)
should be the barometer for all other operational and service quality
performance metrics. These tough times call for calculated, well thought-out
measures as opposed to the typical knee-jerk reactions usually made
under pressure. Position yourself with a course of action where the
best defense is a strong offense benefited from not
only a first strike, but from a continuous
barrage of planned, purposeful actions all aimed at achieving
service quality victory at the customer level.
1. Know your customer’s
expectations, needs and requirements in order to satisfy them.
2. Set baseline
and target performance metrics to guide you on your journey of continuous
3. When setting
financial benchmarks, ensure that you remain customer-focused.
4. Always measure
the efficiency and effectiveness of your products, processes, and
5. Above all,
eliminate the unnecessary distractions from your work day and services
portfolio – eliminate those things that waste time, money, and
I would like to
share with you ten ways in which you can reduce costs without having
to sacrifice service quality. These are a mixture of strategic and tactical
suggestions that will certainly help you build your arsenal of strategies
and tactics for not only surviving today and tomorrow, but readily positioned
to thrive when the turnaround approaches and the bounty goes to the
prepared ready to seize the opportunity.
Ten Strategic and Tactical Ways to Realize Cost Savings Without Sacrificing
differently about your services and how they are being delivered.
Processes (efficiency and effectiveness).
People (utilization and engagement).
Tools and technologies (automation and integration).
Metrics and reporting (operational and financial).
Customer Service (differentiate and survey).
Build credibility and respect through consistent delivery of services,
communication and leadership practices.
Work with IT to deliver transparent services to the business.
Be EZ to do business with and passionately engage yourself in your
Solve the business problem.
Be relevant to the business – identify proactive activities
that add value and reduce costs.
inbound customer calls and emails
all case types, know why your customers are calling and address the
top ten case types with a proactive plan for reduction, elimination
Provide focused training to your frontline support professionals based
on the top 10-15 call types based on volume and provide the necessary
documentation and solutions baked into your tool to make searching,
retrieval and usage as intuitive as possible.
both call deflection and call avoidance by providing self-service
functionality, content, request forms and services.
on problem management, root cause analysis and targeted call/problem
elimination as a result of eliminating the problem that result in
your cost structure
Identify your cost per call, cost per resolution and escalated cost
structure of incidents resolved by the Level-2 and Level-3 groups.
Prove cost reduction initiatives aimed at having an empirical financial
Justify any investments in tools and processes using an ROI-based
based case format.
Prove value in a disciplined approached to knowing baseline, actual
and target performance measures aimed at positioning all call types
to be resolved at the most cost-effective level.
& streamline operations
Improve efficiency, integration and cooperation across all IT groups
and business functions in your organization so that no matter who
“touches” the customer – they walk away with the
same customer experience.
Discontinue supporting customers through different “band-aided”
systems! It’s extra work, inefficient and expensive.
and integrate everything into one tightly unified, efficient system
that streamlines and strengthens ongoing customer responsiveness.
Be in a position to anticipate the customer’s needs and be proactive
in figuring it out and providing it before the customer requests it.
6. We all
work for IT customer support
consistent and seamless IT services always managing the customer experience
Track 100% of all issues/requests/inquiries.
Measure service and support from the customer’s point of view.
Be the “Face of the IT” -
as well as its central point of all customer communications.
Be the “Voice of the Customer” –
Listening, collective & consolidated customer experience feedback
on IT’s products and services.
on First Contact Resolution
On average, every 1% percent increase in first-contact resolution
(FCR) results in a 0.64% increase in customer satisfaction.
Implement, measure and report on Efficiency metrics:
o Resolution cost & Resource utilization.
Implement, measure and report on Effectiveness metrics:
o Timely closure, Quality resolution, Customer satisfaction index.
track every incident, request and activity till closure - “If
it’s not in the ticket/it did not happen!”
Support - Remotely connect, diagnose and resolve technical problems
Providing support professionals in any location the ability to access,
troubleshoot, diagnose, upgrade, or fix any computing device anywhere
around the world – without ever leaving their desks.
Remotely connect to customer’s device, visualize and resolve
Reduces onsite visits required for break/fix, software deployment,
training, upgrades and/or configuration changes.
Realize immediate benefits of handling more support requests in less
time, lower support costs by reducing costly escalations and desk-side
visits (e.g. travel time), increase first-call resolution rates, reduce
overall incident-handling times (MTTR) and increase customer satisfaction.
Focus on achieving the delivering the end result, shield distractions,
prioritize assignments, tasks and requests and remove barriers for
Instill a continuous improvement mindset of Plan-Do-Check-Act.
a culture of accountability and ownership.
the example for your team.
If it doesn’t fit or make sense, ask WHY and just say NO - Don’t
continue to over promise, stress/stretch resources & not deliver.
Cost Cutting Ideas
Telecommuting at least one day a week.
Establishing a service to support Telecommuters.
Hold online meetings.
Delegate as needed.
Renegotiate vendor contracts.
Reduce and retire old apps, OS, technologies & printers (personal).
Get realistic about cross-training.
Automate the little things and anything currently done manually.
Get involved in some sort of peer program.
The time to differentiate
you leadership, your services and your results is now. This is no time
to be ineffective, mediocre or perceived as a whiner. Being stealth
and hiding under the radar is not the prescribed method for riding these
challenging times out and waiting for recovery to solve all of our issues.
Pick the suggestions that best fit your style and situation and implement
like your career depended on it. See you in the winner’s circle!
McGarahan is the founder and president of McGarahan &
Associates. He recently retired as the Chairman of the IT
Infrastructure Management Association, a sister organization
to HDI. Pete’s value to the service and support industry
is his thought leadership. As a practitioner, product manager
and support industry analyst and expert, he has influenced
the maturity of the service and support industry. His passion
for customer service led the Taco Bell support organization
to achieve the Help Desk Institute Team Excellence Award.
IT Support News also named him one of the “Top 25
Professionals in the Service and Support Industry”
in 1999. Support professionals voted McGarahan “The
Legend of the Year” in 2002 and again in 2004 at the
Help Desk Professionals conference for his endless energy,
mentoring and coaching and his valuable contribution to
the support industry and community. You can reach Peter
McGarahan at firstname.lastname@example.org