As I begin an 8-month project to setup, test and implement a new internal system for our helpdesk, I have started thinking about the bigger picture of what we do on support at SYSPRO’s European office, and what exactly determines the quality of service that we provide on a daily basis. It's all too easy to get 'bogged down' with day-to-day office life, without giving thought to how entire teams, departments and systems interlink to perform valuable functions. In terms of the Helpdesk team, we rely heavily on a number of systems that enable us to provide what is widely regarded as a highly competent and helpful application support function. So exactly what determines good customer service?
During my career I’ve come into contact with a vast array of customer helpdesks, support portals and various IT support teams, large and small. I have detailed what I see as the seven most important cogs to the "support" machine.
- Consistency – A key part of any customer service or support department is a level of consistency in the assistance provided. To ensure we are able to provide this we have published guidelines as to the level of service we provide and this is communicated with customers on a regular basis.
- Self-sufficiency – one the major requirements of a customer support team in the modern era is the expectancy that customers can support themselves, to a degree, without needing to contact the physical support team. This means having accessible, published documentation that end users can access to fix a problem on their own, at their leisure.
- Knowledge – A knowledgeable member of staff, and indeed a team in its entirety, must be evident when dealing with the support team; This instills confidence with the caller.
- Visibility – t is important that we communicate our support framework guidelines as regularly as possible to our customers so that everyone knows where they stand. This visibility means that expectations on all sides are realistic, and in turn this helps build strong commercial relationships on the support desk - after all, for many customers, these are the only contact you may have with an IT supplier after the initial purchase/implementation.
- Responsiveness – The times I've felt I have received good customer service are when I have received prompt responses to queries; not necessarily with a resolution, but simply with acknowledgement that my query is with the right team and will be progressed in due course. I also think it is important for the support team to work within an established standard initial response time (this goes back to my initial recommendation for consistency).
- Communication – One of the most important parts of the whole machine. Communication to customers goes without saying. Communication with other team members on all aspects of day-to-day support as well as communication with line managers, project managers, customer's IT helpdesk etc., provides all interested parties with an overview of a current customer, product, version, update or otherwise. This also ensures that the customer receives a cohesive and consistent service.
- Systems – As with any process in today's world, a manual system is not accepted any more, nor is an old system. A system that underpins all of the qualities above is what is needed, one that fits with existing processes whilst also providing improvement - and without turning the business upside down. As with the process of choosing and implementing an ERP system, this can be a lengthy process. We looked at around 20 different systems before moving forward with our choice, due to be rolled out in 2014. So, we go through the same challenges as our customers, just for different systems!
Not only are these comments my take on what makes a good customer service level, but they will be taken into account each step of the way as we work to improve our own internal processes and ultimately the service we offer, over the coming months. Watch this space!