Howard M Cohen

Compelling Content Creator/hmc@hmcwritenow.com/520.779.0779

Oct 14, 2021
Published on: Provance
2 min read

Just as a great coach is a major component of creating a winning team, a great service manager is a major component of creating great customer service.

There are some things we know instinctively about great service managers. They must have a tremendous commitment to delivering great customer service, and to earning high grades on customer satisfaction. They know the importance of creating great customer experiences.

They also know the importance of creating great employee experiences, enfranchising everyone to truly feel they are part of the team and vital to its success. They know how a happy employee impacts the creation of happy customers, reduces errors, and promotes a more productive team.

What They Need to Know

Beyond knowing how to effectively manage people, here are a few things the great service manager must also know:

Know Your Customers

It might be more accurate to say you need to know your customer’s business and how the IT infrastructure you’re supporting impacts it. A great service manager needs to know and appreciate what it means to their customer to have any downtime. You’re building a business relationship. You can keep it transactional, but then you’ll miss out on all the insight available to you when you get closer. Insight that will help you serve them better and win more of their business with quality.

Be all about customer satisfaction and customer experience, but also be all about customer success. Their success is your success.

Know Your Costs

In the service business, this is nowhere near as easy as it sounds. To assure profitability you must know all about all your costs and your revenue. When pricing an hour of technician time its not enough just to know their base salary. You must know the fully burdened cost of that hour, including salary, your contribution to their benefits, their training, their tooling, their travel, their portion of your office rent, electrical power, heat, etc. In fact, this is not a complete list. Your accountant can provide you with one.

Yet even that won’t be enough. That total represents your cost assuming you bill out every available working hour for that technician. If you only bill out half their hours your costs just doubled. No, knowing your costs is by no means simple.

Know Your Resources

True statement: You never have to say “no” to a customer. Seriously! No, you don’t want to try to be all things to all people, but if you know enough of the right resources to tap into, such as other IT specialists with other specialties, and you know what you’re capable of, you can always select the right resource to solve a problem. It’s not just what you know, it’s who you know, too!

Know the Best Tools

Ever try to carve a roast with a dull knife? Painfully difficult. Makes the resulting slices look all ragged. Not a good solution. Same with everything you and your people do for your customers. If you have the right tools and they’re kept in the right condition you can do the right job every time.

Know Your Own People

Knowing what you’re capable of also refers to your team. What skills do each of your people possess? Who is best at what? Knowing this helps you make fast, accurate decisions when it comes to deploying your troops to help customers.

As was said earlier, manage the whole person. Not just their technical skills. Not just their attendance record. Develop the ability to know when one of your people is facing any kind of challenge that requires your support. Get to them before they either complain to you or leave. You get far more traction by expressing your concern before they express their problem. Their attitude and demeanor contribute heavily to their impact on customers.

Know Your Data

Just about everything you and your people do generates valuable data. When you know each technician’s billable hours as a utilization ratio you can price accurately and determine their value to your company correctly. By knowing what parts you use most you can maintain a far more effective inventory to satisfy more customers faster. By knowing the start and stop times for each activity you can calculate how long it takes on average to do something. Then you can spot outliers where someone took far too long or finished far too quickly. You and manage workloads and visualize spikes in certain issues and customer problems, and proactively mitigate.

That’s a Lot to Know!

But that’s only a part of the plan.

The key to great IT service management lies in taking everything you know and putting it all to best use. Like any tool, success is all in how you wield it. Here are a few major tasks you should always be performing to improve your performance:

Keep the Customer Informed

Burn two words into your mind, and the minds of everyone who reports to you: “No Surprises!” Customers hate surprises. We keep the customer informed so we can keep the customer satisfied and so we can keep that customer!

Fix the Customer First

Here’s a magic trick to avoid.

In a situation where your team is busy working to fix a customer’s problem, something suddenly goes wrong that’s going to delay the resolution and push you past your committed completion time.

If you call the customer, tell them this bad news and reset their expectation, it is all but certain the customer will understand the problem, appreciate being told, and give you the time you need to resolve the issue.

If, on the other hand, you choose not to call the customer and they end up calling you, your explanation may be exactly the same, but it’s a sure bet you now have an irate, upset customer who is likely raising their voice at you.

Same message. Different outcome. Bad magic!!

Before you worry about fixing anything else, be sure to keep the customer up to date on status. Be ready to share the worst news. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how much latitude customers will give you when you’re up front with them.

Understand the Difference…

There are several phrases we frequently hear used, and sometimes it’s clear that the person using them is mixing them up. Let’s be clear on these important definitions to assure the best possible outcomes:

Customer Service

Customer service is a high-level term that includes everything you do for your customers. How you engage them, how you address them, how you regard them, how you inform them, how many extra miles you’re willing to go, and how capably you perform your work.

Customer Experience

Think about beauty being in the eye of the beholder. One person’s meat being another person’s poison. The customer’s perception of what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, and their response to the results you create are all part of their experience working with you. Customers who have great experiences may share that information with friends. Customers who have a terrible experience get out there and complain about it to anyone who will listen, and many who won’t!

Customer Satisfaction

There is no way you can create customer satisfaction. It’s not yours to create. Customers create and express satisfaction when they have a great customer experience of the customer service you provide. One of the most important metrics you should track is just how much customer satisfaction your customers generate.

Customer Success

And here’s the real holy grail. The reason customers engage you in the first place. Every customer desires success. Not success in the performance of the infrastructure you support. Success in what they do for a living. Business success. Personal success. Financial success. Any and everything you do to help them achieve that success creates the kind of appreciation and customer satisfaction that results in customer retention.

Read our second post in the Great IT Service Management series: Most Important ITSM Tools

Howard M. Cohen

Senior Resultant Howard M. Cohen is a 35+ year executive veteran of the Information Technology industry who today writes for and about the IT channel. He’s a frequent speaker at IT industry events that include Microsoft Inspire, Citrix Synergy/Summit, ConnectWise IT Nation, ChannelPro Forums, Cloud Partners Summit, MicroCorp One-On-One, and CompTIA ChannelCon, frequently hosts and presents webinars for many vendors & publications.