This is an industry that attempts to redefine “service”. If your server is up and running, then you can’t complain about “service”. If you can contact a service desk out of hours and get an automated email reply, then you are getting “service”. As long as your service provider is providing something you can’t or don’t want to do yourself.. this is considered “service”. It’s a concept that, I admit, I am rather bitter about. I had a dream when I was younger of working in retail (one day when I am an old lady I will serve you at Myer). I love the thrill of making customers happy, going above and beyond their expectations; in IT, however, it seems as though the base level of service is good enough, and don’t do more unless the customer is paying through the eyeballs for it. Ugh!
It gives me hope that there are technical people, developers, IT professionals – whatever you want to call them – out there who agree with me. Who see customer service as more than restarting services when they’re told a website is inaccessible; they will, of their own accord, conduct analysis of the problem, suggest upgrades, fixes, modifications that will improve the end product. I love workplace environments where you don’t mind working overtime because you know that the customer satisfaction is worth it – either for the warm and fuzzies or for the extra income that will come in or maybe just knowing that they’re going to tell their own customers about you.
A company that really struck me as understanding “customer service” is Runic, developers of a game called Torchlight. A single user posted on their forums asking if a feature was available, and with no further ado the developers added it. The customer didn’t have to raise a request via a customer service channel, then wait for it to be acknowledged as an issue (probably only after a percentage of their user base raised the same issue), and then wait for a fix or change to be pushed out with other system upgrades. It may have only been a minor change, but it was done without fuss, and without cumbersome processes.
I think that’s what makes “service” so difficult. It may be that Runic is small enough that its developers can make changes to code without having to go through a huge change control process, but then again: why should any IT company have to go through such processes? Why make the customer suffer for what may be a simple change? I dislike workplace policies that require every little change to go through iterations of reviews until either the goalposts move or grow or just fall over and everybody forgets why it’s happening in the first place.
I would rather fix, install, or make the customer’s life easier than to have to wait for their server to fall over while I’m waiting for internal approval of change requests. Customer service creates satisfaction. Satisfaction speaks for itself: it’s advertising to everybody what kind of service they’ll get if they come to you. And that is good for business. Service levels should imply satisfaction with the end results, not just a way of protecting yourself if an issue is found. It’s good to know there are companies like Runic who are really putting service back into IT.