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10 good reasons to measure IT customer satisfaction

In the office, we’ve been talking about the extent to which striving to improve the IT customer experience and overall customer satisfaction with IT is a ‘must do’ for CIOs (like air conditioning the data centre) or a ‘nice to do’ (like air conditioning the office).

The debate was triggered by recent conversations with the senior IT managers of two different organisations. One said that improving customer satisfaction with IT was his most important goal, the other said it wasn’t even on his radar.

Is improving IT customer satisfaction on your radar? Should it be?

I believe that it’s a ‘must do’ that’s unfortunately disguised as a ‘nice to do’ (like dealing with climate change). Remember Steven Covey’s Importance/Urgency matrix from ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’? Improving IT customer satisfaction is an important but non-urgent activity that’s often ignored due to the relentless and all-consuming focus on urgent things.

You can choose not to do anything but eventually your neglect is going to catch up with you. One day a new CEO is going to come in who won’t swallow the line “if you want us to provide better service you’ll have to spend more on IT”.

Thinking that IT’s job is to purely to buy/build/run systems is old school thinking (in a bad way, not a cool way). IT’s job, as with any service provider, is to find out what its customers value and deliver that value. And to do that you need to seek feedback from your customers, learn how satisfied they really are and determine how you’re falling short of meeting their needs and expectations. Based on that you can identify what needs to be improved and where you’ll get the biggest bang for your limited bucks.

The starting point for any improvement program is measurement. And if you’re feeling a little old school about why measuring IT customer satisfaction in particular is important, here are 10 good reasons:

  1. The findings arm you with facts that can be used to defend IT against ‘false accusations’ and can be used to promote IT, illustrating IT’s strengths to business leadership.
  2. Proactively identifying weaknesses enables you to put improvement plans in place before issues fester and customers start complaining.
  3. The facts gathered from measuring customer satisfaction can be used to ensure you apply your limited service improvement resources to the most beneficial areas (and prevent you trying to ‘fix’ things that customers see as strengths).
  4. Positive findings gained through the measurement process can be used to recognise strong team and individual performance and improve employee motivation.
  5. When you rely on key suppliers to deliver IT services, data from customer satisfaction surveys can provide facts and insights to support discussions with IT’s suppliers regarding their performance. This information can be priceless when contracts are due for review or renewal.
  6. A customer satisfaction metric can be used to identify trends (are we getting better over time or worse?), show the impact of changes and service improvements (did that particular improvement have the desired affect?), and benchmark performance (how are we doing compared to similar IT departments?).
  7. According to this study published in the Harvard Business Review, it is possible that the act of measuring customer satisfaction can in itself make customers happier. You can check out the article here: http://hbr.org/2002/05/how-surveys-influence-customers/ar/1
  8. If you think you already have a gut feel of how your customers feel about IT, then objectively measuring their satisfaction is a small price to pay to confirm you are right and hugely beneficial if you were wrong (you would want to find out you’re wrong, wouldn’t you?).
  9. Measuring customer satisfaction demonstrates that you are interested in improving, rather than burying your head in the sand. If there’s a change of management what will you say when asked why you’re not doing it? Are you really going to say “I didn’t think customer satisfaction was important enough to measure and manage?”

I’ll leave number ten to H James Harrington, a prolific writer on business process improvement. Although the esteemed Lord Kelvin, Deming, Drucker and Tom Peters have all had similar quotes attributed to them, Mr Harrington’s is my favourite:

  1.  “Measurement is the first step that leads to control and eventually to improvement. If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it. If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it. If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.” H James Harrington

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