Cherwell IT Service Management Blog
Resources, Best Practices, and Solutions for ITSM Pros

Raising the Service Desk Bar

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Cherwell Software welcomes guest blogger Dan Wood, head of research and publications at Service Desk Institute (SDI).

Greg Rutherford is a name that probably didn’t mean much to anyone bar the most ardent athletics fan prior to his sensational gold in long jump in the 2012 Olympics. Rutherford came seemingly from nowhere to snatch gold and in many ways typified Britain’s glorious tournament where it collected gold medals that many would have thought unachievable. What many people didn’t realise is that whilst the Olympic glow was still warming the nation, Rutherford competed at a DiamondLeague meeting in Birmingham at the end of August, and finished third, falling well below his Olympic winning distance, a result he said that made him “annoyed.”

So what has any of this got to do with customer service?

When Rutherford jumped 8.31m to win gold, he set an expectation — if he can jump that far once, surely he can do it again (or even go further). Rutherford must believe this himself, hence his anger at his best DiamondLeague jump of 7.88m. We as an audience and as fans had our expectations raised by Rutherford’s Olympic performance. Indeed, how could we not? Prior to the Olympics, the British population’s expectations on Rutherford’s shoulders were slight; now they have exploded. Whilst it is unrealistic to expect that every time Rutherford competes he will win, we expect and demand more from him. Rutherford said after the event that he felt he had let people down; a year ago his third place finish would have been cause for serious celebration.

Which brings us to the point of this blog: every time one of our customers has an excellent customer service experience, the expectations are raised. The bar (or in Rutherford’s case, the distance) keeps increasing. Service desks don’t compete just with other service desks but they compete with everybody and every organisation that provides a service whether this be local news agent or the customer adviser that you speak to when your phone crashes, taking all of your contacts with it (Note to self: the cloud is there for a reason; use it). And in a world where customer experiences are increasingly a key differentiators in consumer behavior, experiences are improving and expectations are rising.

Customers expect and demand more and will quickly forget that the last time they called you,they had a great experience, whereas this time it was a mediocre one. The customer does not care whether they’re your first or last call of the day, or if you’re feeling unmotivated or unengaged at that particular moment; they still demand excellence.

Are we in danger then of becoming victims of our own success? Is it better to be average all of the time so that expectations are managed? Tempting isn’t it?

But remember this: no one ever won a gold medal by being average. For Greg Rutherford, you can be assured that he will work harder and train harder than ever before to meet his own and the fans’ expectations that he is the best in the world and can jump further than any man in the world.

What is your service desk doing to set higher expectations and compete for those gold medals? Average and OK are no longer that; in customers’ eyes they are the new poor and mediocre.  So, keep pushing up that bar. You never know how far you and your team can go.