IT Managed Services: What Does the CIO or IT Director Need?

The need clearly, is to find a strategic partner, who can drive business growth and transformation, rather than remain a mere supplier of IT capacity. Many global organisations want more than an IT vendor. They seek a highly flexible, broadly capable partner with global reach to help them simplify, optimise and advance their technological investments.

Today’s IT Leaders have to meet the challenge of increasing business demands while controlling IT costs and alleviating management headaches. CIOs are continuously looking for a provider to improve the performance of their IT Infrastructure, as technology is becoming more and more complex.

Transformation from Traditional Models

In the coming days, we will see more of managed infrastructure services and CIOs will want to adopt and engage with a flexible managed services model to have the convenience of using best of breed technology and services without losing control of IT. A lot has changed and the market has gradually transformed from body shopping contracts or facility management services to a strategic process-oriented & flexible delivery model. We will see more of a hybrid of offsite services delivery either through Remote Infrastructure Management (RIM) or a combination of offsite remote management and onsite delivery.

Initially, managed services were mostly adopted by large enterprises but now small to medium enterprises are using them because of competitive pressures and operational concerns. Today, organisations from different verticals are very keen on using workplace management services, managed data center and network and security support services rather than traditional outsourcing models. The managed services providers need to focus on service excellence and offer bespoke services to different customers. They must expand their local delivery capabilities by having a truly global model with the required knowledge, customer-facing partners and distributors worldwide.

New Flexible Delivery Model

Companies need to begin 2011, one step ahead of the game. They can do this by adopting a flexible managed service provider who can manage the peaks and troughs of their business demand to meet future IT infrastructure requirements. In this collaborative approach, both parties (organisation & IT managed services provider) share risks and responsibilities for better output. This model helps in rationalising headcount, whilst focusing on cost efficiencies within the organizations existing ways of working.

Through a partnership approach to their managed services program, organisations can focus on their core competencies; lower the cost of managing IT infrastructure through improved productivity and operational efficiencies with access to a dedicated team of highly qualified and talented professionals from their service provider.

It is an investment that gives organisations the most advanced IT capabilities while allowing them to maintain as much or as little control over their IT operations and infrastructure as they wish.
IT Managed Services (IMS) consists of various service level offerings that provide proactive IT management and support. Companies can opt from a range of IMS designed to optimise the technology investment and maximise the productivity of their people and business.

IT Managed Services offerings cover the entire array of IT outsourcing services including:

– Data Centre & Network Management
– Desktop & Server Management
– IMAC
– Virtualization and
– Cloud Computing services

Infrastructure Management Services gives organisations access to highly qualified support professionals to resolve issues related to desktop & laptop support, routers, switches, firewalls and wireless access points. Acting as a single point of contact for all IT based inquiries, the service logs all issues as incidents in a service management tool.

Business Benefits

This model will provide an effective and proven Infrastructure Management Services for organisations to reduce costs and improve on service delivery efficiencies. The other business benefits are:

– Reduce total cost of ownership
– Pay less for a higher quality of service
– Better control and efficiencies of scale
– Gain access to best of breed tools & best practices
– Speedy knowledge transition and reduce dependency on individuals
– Shared service delivery platform within business units and industry
– 99% -100% of SLA maintenance
– Peace of mind

Service Delivery Is the Key to Business Success

The difference is in the details. To stay ahead of the competition, major retail companies must meet the demands of high service levels supported by a range of operational equipment, infrastructure to sell and store merchandise, and a transportation fleet to distribute goods to a network of stores.

All of this must be orchestrated to have the right merchandise in front of the shoppers in an allotted space of time, such as daily hours of operation for a single store location, or for a specific time period for a seasonal sales promotion.

Behind this first-wave of the service imperative, is another level of service delivery that can separate the good business operators from the very good business operators. It’s the legion of field service representatives who handle all levels of on-site work, ranging from copiers to cash registers to electric door openers.

This level of service delivery imperative is marked by “best practices” retailers who place as much emphasis on their business-to-business operations and policies as they do their business-to-consumer programs.

The service imperative is critical for these retail operators before, during and after a service call. The service provider must have a business operation in place that can handle and field incoming service requests. It must provide the level of training and supervision so its field employees can handle the repair on-site and handle additional inquiries at the retailer’s place of business. The service provider must offer a system that allows for efficient follow-up requests.

Yes, the difference is truly in the details, and a service provider who can hire and train a staff to meet the demands of the highest quality of service delivery before, during and after a service transaction will be the provider who succeeds and grows.

Successful service starts with the hiring process. The company mission statement must be clearly explained to new hires. Further, the service provider’s training levels must match the mission statement and its goals.

Hiring and training must instill in the employee that his or her work in the “behind the scenes” support of a retail operation is just as important as the customer service provided to the in-store shopper. The challenge is to empower the service provider with the tools and skills to make decisions on-site that best serve the retail operator.

These high quality service levels are imperative to support a retail partner in maintaining an efficient and successful business operation.

Judgment Day: Assessing Your Service

Many businesses are looking at this year as the year when they finally ramp up their service delivery. They have realized that service is the great differentiator in business. They understand that the products or services they offer are available from a variety of other sources. They know that if they want customers to return, and to bring their friends, family, and colleagues with them, that they have to create a special customer experience that shines in comparison to the competition.

The question is: where do businesses start when trying to build world-class service? As with any sort of new initiative, the best place to start is with a full assessment of where your business currently stands. You must have a baseline with which to compare any improvements you make.

An assessment of customer service must be viewed from at least three separate angles: The Customer, The Business, and the Service Delivery Team. That is, you must view your service through the eyes of those who receive the service, those who pay for the service, and those who render the service. To focus on one of these groups without the other two is akin to rowing a boat with just one oar; you will find yourself going nowhere but around in circles.

Assessing Customer Service through the Eyes of the Customer

Contrary to popular belief, all customers are not looking to strike a huge payday through some loophole in your service policy. In fact, very few of them are. Most customers simply want the product or service they seek, delivered to them at a fair price, served to them with some courtesy, and maybe a smile. They are spending their money, or their company’s money, and they just want to feel good about doing it. They want to be assured that they are making the right choice, not just regarding the product or service, but in the vendor, as well.

Is your service meeting or exceeding your customers’ needs? Ask them! Not with a generic “How are We Doing?” survey, where the customer gets to check off little boxes next to categories that the business decides should be important, and where one lucky respondent will win an MP3 player or PDA. Instead, truly ask your customers, human being to human being, when they call in, or email, or visit you. Or, if you have not heard from them in a while, take the initiative to call them, and ask questions like:

“How well have we been handling your orders?”
“What things we can do better?”
“What things are we not doing that you wish we would?”
“What things are we doing that you wish we wouldn’t?”

Invest the time to engage your customers in dialogue on these matters. It’s worth it.

At the same time, put yourself in your customer’s shoes. We all have experience as customers; we all know what good service looks like from the customer’s viewpoint. Look at your business as a customer: would the service you provide satisfy you? Be brutally honest – answer with your customer hat on, not as the service provider. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Assessing Customer Service through the Eyes of the Business

If providing world-class service was easy and inexpensive, all businesses would deliver it all of the time. But it goes much deeper than just remembering to smile when speaking with a customer. You must ask yourself tough questions, like can you afford to provide the level of service you want to? What level of service can you afford to provide, and is that enough to distinguish your business? Are there cost-effective things that your organization can do to enhance your service offerings? Hey, it doesn’t cost anything to smile at the customer, and make eye contact or call them by name.

Strategically speaking, you must decide how far you are willing to go to resolve a customer complaint, before the problem occurs. Then, you must decide how much leverage you will give your front-line reps to resolve those issues on their own. If a rep is empowered to resolve an issue on the spot, whether it is offering a discount or replacing a defective product, or exchanging the wrong product for the right one, or simply apologizing for late delivery by giving something extra to the customer as a gesture of goodwill, it speaks volumes for your business and how much you care about your customers. On the other hand, if reps have to find a manager to approve everything they do, it screams of mistrust – of both the customer and the employee.

Do you have a clear understanding of how much you will do to please a customer? It is imperative that you do, because all the front-line service training in the world will not help if your business is not committed to the swift and thorough resolution of customer complaints. Don’t wait for problems to arise to figure out what you will do to remedy a customer crisis. Give your reps the opportunity to be problem-solvers by giving them clear guidelines on what they can do to satisfy customer issues without bringing in a senior staff member to make decisions.

Assessing Customer Service through the Eyes of the Service Delivery Team

Providing memorable customer service is not an instinctive task; a strategy must be designed and planned, and service providers must be trained on its execution. The best service strategies in the world will not make for happy customers unless those strategies are put into practice by the service team.

Service reps must be trained thoroughly and consistently. They must be taught everything from proper courtesy and protocol to products and pricing to problem-solving and trouble-shooting. They must be empowered to resolve issues, and therefore must understand how far the company is willing to go to satisfy its customers.

In-depth product training is imperative, and not training from the developer’s view or the marketer’s view, but from the customer’s view. The service team needs to understand what the customer does with the company’s product or service, how they use it, how it serves their needs, and the role it plays in their lives. Only then can they be sure to provide the level of customer service appropriate for the matter at hand.

It is also necessary to evaluate the tools your service team has to work with. How many different systems are needed to fully address customer needs, orders, history, preferences, and pricing? The ease with which your service reps can put their hands on pertinent customer data plays a huge role in the level of service they deliver. Do your systems talk to each other? Do they convey and share customer data and information with marketing and sales, as well as customer service? Are all customer-focused departments getting the same information? Even the smallest gap in customer knowledge can show your company in a negative light. Give your people the right tools for the job.

Fine-tuning your company’s service delivery is a worthwhile but complex task. In order to fully appreciate where you want to take your service going forward, you need to have a good understanding of where it stands currently. Take the time to honestly assess your service delivery, from top to bottom, before reorganizing, or making tweaks to a part of your service team. You will make better decisions, and you will have valuable benchmarks against which to measure your improvements.