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Check Your Game: Are You Relevant in The Age of the Customer?

July 08, 2014  

Can you imagine any World Cup audience getting up and walking out 10 minutes into a match? Of course not! Professional soccer fans are hardcore, and attending the world championship is the ultimate “touch” from FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association).

Attendance at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil is an obvious customer-satisfaction measure for FIFA , as is attendance at preceding games and spending on team merchandise. In business-to-business relationships, customer satisfaction isn’t as obvious, and dissatisfaction can brew undetected until there’s a crisis, such as a decision not to renew a contract.

Two assets can provide IT services providers (ITSPs) ongoing insight into what customers want and how well they are meeting those expectations.

#1 - Customer-Driven Culture and Strategy

Technology research and consulting company Forrester said that in 2010, we entered the Age of the Customer where “empowered customers demand a new level of customer obsession.”

Forrester: Age of the Consumer
1900-1959: Age of Manufacturing. Mass manufacturing makes industrial powerhouses successful. (Ford, Boeing, GE, RCA)
1960-1989: Age of Distribution. Global connections and transportation systems make distribution key. (Wal-Mart, Toyota, P&G, UPS)
 1990-2009: Age of Information. Connected PCs and supply chains mean those that control information flows dominate. (Amazon, Google, Comcast, Capital One)
2010-Ongoing: Age of the Customer. Empowered customers demand a new level of customer obsession.

For ITSPs, this means that they need to put customers at the center of everything they do. Good User Experience (UX) is no longer a “nice to have” offering; it is a “must have” expectation, according to Forrester. This is a huge culture change, and each ITSP will have a unique experience transitioning, but some common gaps they might identify could include:

  • Retraining team members and widening leadership capabilities;
  • Collecting timely, quantifiable data about customers that can be used to drive strategic planning; and
  • Reorganizing functions and roles to better support customers’ strategies.

#2 - Technology to automate a perpetual customer-feedback loop

What keeps global soccer fans so engaged? Lots of things: loyalty to the team, cultural indoctrination, the excitement of winning, camaraderie with other fans, and the build-up to a possible world-championship berth every four years.
Ultimately, though, it’s about all of these coming together to weave a relationship between fan and sport that grows as the fan grows and always offers something exciting, relevant and accessible.

To find out what customers need—something that could change daily—ITSPs need granular insight. As Forrester’s research and observations attest, this information is too important to be a mid to low-level operational priority. It needs to be the top priority. If your company doesn’t have an automated customer-survey process, then it needs to reconsider how it collects customer input.

Gathering opinions about your services, products and support impacts your effectiveness in steering short and long-term customer relationships. By asking customers for their perspective on competitors’ offerings, you can intervene with the right solutions and better retain your clientele.

The service desk is the hub of almost every IT services business, so it makes the most sense to start there when thinking about polling your customers. Tying surveys directly to service tickets can rapidly produce meaningful metrics to help evaluate your business, make necessary efficiency and service improvements, and build your bottom line.

How far are you from your strategic goals? The next time you evaluate your business to answer this question, be sure to consider your customers’ strategic goals as well. And if you’re unsure what those are, take the evaluation deeper into your culture and technology. You might need to change both to stay relevant in the Age of the Customer.
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