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Service Level Management Relationships

One of the most important goals of Service Level Management (SLM) is the need to build strong relationships between the customers and users of IT Services. It is incumbent on the roles of the Service Level Manager and Business Relationship Manager (a role defined with Demand Management) to serve as the Voice of the Customer. SLM must act as an agent on behalf of business customers, since those individuals or groups must focus on executing business processes or serving further the end-users of a company’s goods and services. The business should not have to spend its time worrying about the value they need from IT Services.

SLM needs to create a strong bond with the business and end-user customers. This bond needs to be a familiar and personal link that shows the customer that IT truly cares about the needs and success of the business. Good Service Level Management cannot be conducted solely through emails or phone calls. A good Service Level Manager knows they must meet their customers face-to-face and understand the customer to serve them in the best possible manner.

So how can a Service Level Manager (or Business Relationship Manager) build a strong personal and professional IT Service-based relationship with their customers? Here are some suggestions that I have found invaluable:

1. Visit your customers—Do not wait for your customers to come to you looking for help. Go to them proactively and offer your help. Find out what their needs and issues are before they even realize they have needs or issues.

2. Take your customers to lunch—Take some time to learn about your customer in a more relaxed and less intimidating atmosphere. Your company may have policies about actually buying the meal. That’s okay. But you can sit down and talk over coffee or tea about their needs.

3. Get to know your customer—Not just from a business and professional standpoint. Learn about their families and hobbies, likes and dislikes. They will begin to reveal their needs in subtle and informal ways.

4. Create a relationship of trust—Build a bond based on mutual respect, admiration and trust. Honor your customer with your words, deeds and behavior. Give them a reason to fully trust you.

5. Change the conversation—Move away from the never ending loop of “What do you want? What have you got?” to the more pragmatic “What do you do for your work? How can I help you do it better using technology?”

These are just starters. It is up to each Service Level Manager to build that individual link and bond with the customers they represent. That is the key—you must not simply serve your customers, you must represent their best interests before your own. This fosters trust and respect. They will then reward and compensate you equitably based on that feeling of trust. That is what a truly excellent IT Service provider and receiver relationship looks like.

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