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Never mind the KPI’s – what happened to good old fashioned customer focused services?

Never mind the KPI’s – what happened to good old fashioned, customer focused services?

As an owner and director of a South Wales based Managed Service Provider, I like to keep a watchful eye on trends in the industry. In the past few years I’ve witnessed a few interesting, and concerning, trends.  These trends often focus on unrealistic and misleading statistics around what a good Managed Service Provider looks like.

There seems to be a race to the bottom with providers trying to do outdo each other.  They are often using statistics based around the time it has taken to answer the phone (in seconds!) and service level agreements being met 100% of the time etc – really?  What does this actually mean? Is your call answered and a call logged / fixed / escalated? The devil is in the detail and in my opinion the statistics are mainly irrelevant.

My point is you still need good processes and suitably qualified/experienced engineers to provide a good level of service and not be blinded by misleading and irrelevant statistics and KPI’s.  I would argue the best service would be where there your call is answered by a suitably qualified and experienced engineer who sees you call through to a satisfactory completion at first response. A great ideal but not always achievable.

In my opinion, a more objective view of the performance of a service desk is evidenced by amount of engineering time required to fix the issue and the amount of tickets that are closed without escalation to more senior members of the team. These are very strong indicators of high service levels and properly trained and qualified engineers.

We are constantly meeting with prospective new clients and hear the same stories day in day out – poor service being hidden behind KPI’s and stats.

For example, having an agreement in place where a service provider is contracted to respond within 2 hours in the event of a critical problem – what does this mean exactly?

From what I’m being told, the call is acknowledged within 2 hours and someone may start working on it but as far as the service provider is concerned the service level agreement has been met so no breach of contract.

With business-critical systems unavailable, costing your business thousands of pounds per hour, you are stuck on the phone wasting more time hassling the service provider to fix the problem only to be tied up in an escalation procedure you don’t’ really understand as it wasn’t explained to you in the first instance. We get it, not good enough!

When I look around the South Wales Managed Service Provider market I don’t see many companies where the leadership team is from a technology company background, in our case HP (Hewlett Packard). The point I’m trying to make is that in our time working at HP on service contracts for huge multinational organisations, there were service delivery managers, engineers and escalation teams as you would expect but we never hid behind a ticking clock or SLA where customer service was concerned. Understanding of the customer business was foremost in our thoughts – when the proverbial hit the fan it’s was all hands to the pump and get the job done. That’s still how I see it today.

It’s this element of customer focus and a pragmatic approach to service delivery is what I believe is getting lost in the quagmire of KPI’s and statistics. We understand you need processes and procedures in place (we are certified ISO 9001) or carnage will ensue. However an understanding exactly when our clients  ‘really’ need us is what sets us apart. It’s a bit of a cliché, but there are service providers who see themselves as partners to the business and those that are mainly transactional with a different focus I don’t think I need to point out which camp we are in.

We still believe KPI’s and statistics have a place in service delivery, just not for hiding behind poor service. We rely heavily on this type of information in evidencing business cases for updating systems or identifying training needs, stuff that really adds value to your business.

In summary, I would strongly advise anyone looking at a Managed Service Provider to see past the meaningless stats that seem so prevalent in the industry and speak with companies with similar requirements of their experiences with providers in your area. In any walk of life anecdotal evidence has a considerable gravitas for me, particularly from people I have worked with and trust.

I’ll finish my blog with a point which I believe holds true in almost every walk of like. You won’t get to really know your service provider until you really need them. I hope you are not left high and dry in your hour of need!

Andy Beer, July 2017

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