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Introducing Experience Management

Guest Host Post by Mark S. Blanke, previously posted on the Owlpoint Blog, March 28, 2021

Are your service-desk customers sitting in 9C? When customers evaluate your service, do they remember the experience or the statistics? What does that mean for modern IT management? Well, there is a better way to measure. It is called Experience Management. It is an evolution and next level of maturity above that of traditional Service Management.

A while back, I read a book called From Worst to First written by Gordon Bethune, the former CEO of Continental Airlines. He led the management team hired to turn around the airline after two bankruptcies and ten CEOs in ten years—clearly a challenging assignment. Gordon, along with his team, established a clear plan to turn around the company. They made remarkable changes that took the airline from worst (in almost all categories) to first in just a few years. Greg Brenneman, the COO, wrote a brief article in Harvard Business Review describing the turnaround read here.

This story is personal to me. I lived near one of Continental’s hubs, so I had little choice but to fly them frequently. In the mid-’90s, I often traveled for work and remember how I avoided Continental whenever I could. However, I too started to see the change that the new team inspired. I lived the transformation from a customer’s perspective. It was exciting. It was one of the few times I can remember following a company to see what they were doing next. Today, we would call this a “digital transformation” Continental leveraged technology in areas no one else had. As a customer, I felt important, and I believed that they were listening to my fellow travelers and me. I became a fan!

Key to Continental’s management philosophy was the “Seat 9C test”. The frequent business traveler that Continental was most interested in pleasing would sit in seat 9C, a seat close to the front, and an aisle seat. The goal was to make sure this customer had a good experience. They experimented to see what the traveler needed and where they would be prepared to spend more money to improve their overall flight. They knew a positive flying experience would create a loyal following and a stronger airline. This focus on experience was core to the turnaround and success of Continental airlines. I know – I went through it first-hand.

The focus on an ideal customer, 9C, worked for Continental; could it work for you?

How does this translate to us in the corporate world, IT, or even HR, Finance, and Legal departments? Well, the consumers of these departments still expect a good experience with the services these groups provide. If we look closer at an IT organization, what is important to the IT Consumer? It is still the overall experience.

Do IT Consumers care how many tickets the service desk worked or the percentage of the time you met an SLA.? Or do they care about the features, functionality, reliability, and quality of service they receive as part of the IT solution? The truth is, they remember the experience, not the statistics.

They remember the frustration when performance is slow or when an application did not work the way they expected. They remember the negative attitude of the person who answered the service desk call, even when the issue was fixed quickly. They remember that service requests take longer than they expected.

But surely, what gets measured gets managed? That’s fantastic when you have an easy way to measure something. Service Management and ITIL best practices have been excellent guidance on how to measure IT Services and establish continual improvement programs. Practices such as Service Level Management and Business Relationship Management are fundamental components to meeting customer expectations. Yet, they often fail to achieve the goal; a customer who feels satisfied by the services.

Service Management, historically, has captured the effectiveness of work. Most SLAs demonstrate performance effectiveness, such as the number of tickets the service desk processed or how fast we completed a request. However, SLAs typically fail to capture one of the most valuable aspects of the service: “was the user’s experience a positive one?”

Many organizations send out surveys to gauge whether a customer is happy with the service, usually after calling the service desk. Unfortunately, in most cases, we ask the wrong questions. Questions that do not point to the user sentiment. We typically ask questions like, “Was your problem resolved?” or “Was the issue solved the first time you called?”. We then presume the user is happy or happy enough to continue to ignore them. We probably already know that the user is not pleased – they had to call the service desk. Why should we ask any more questions?

There is a better way. It is called Experience Management, and it is an evolution and next level of maturity above that of traditional Service Management. Experience Management (XM) is based on the concept of Experience Level Agreements (XLAs). XLAs enable organizations to deliver an experience that changes and evolves over time, and they are dynamic! At the root of XLAs are Experience Indicators (XIs) that measure outcomes rather than the work produced traditionally measured by Service Level Agreements (SLAs) and Key Performance Indications (KPIs).

This is just a brief introduction to Experience Management. Over the coming weeks, OwlPoint, along with our partner XLACollab, will be providing more information on XM and how you can learn to apply it to your organization.

In the interim, to learn more about the anatomy of an XLA, consider ITSM Academy's
 four-hour Essence of Experience class.


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