Just finished a great training session on Service Strategy over the weekend – great in terms of some insightful discussions with some senior IT folks who attended the training. Some of the discussions were essentially clarifying some very basic concepts, at the same time called for in-depth debates taking scenarios to establish a concrete understanding of those. Thought of blogging the essence of some of those discussions.

One of the area that called for lengthy discussions were on the ‘Service Assets’ and ‘Customer Assets’:

To set the context for Starters: ITIL® (especially the Service Strategy) views a ‘Service’ in terms of Business outcomes facilitated. Basically, these Business outcomes are delivered by the Customer Assets (Customer’s  Resources and Capabilities – people, processes, information, business services etc etc).

What does the IT Service do? They enhance the performance of those Customer Assets to deliver better, or increased business outcomes (and hence delivers business value).

How does the IT service provider deliver these Services? It is by effective use of Service assets (Their resources and capabilities).

So in this context:

  • Service Assets are the Resources and Capabilities of the Service Provider (Service Provider’s Assets) that are utilized to deliver the IT Services to the Business/Customer.
  • Customer Assets are the Resources and Capabilities of the Customer (Customer’s Assets) that are utilized to deliver business outcomes. These assets make use of the IT Services to enhance their performance or to remove some constraints.
  • The Service Provider has to define a Service always in connection to the specific Customer Assets to which the Utility of the service is delivered to (ITIL describes this as the Service Archetype-Customer Asset combination).

So every Service has been defined, planned, designed and delivered with specific Customer Assets in mind. So far so good.

One of the discussion started with some very basic question:

  • Are ‘Users’ and ‘Customer assets’ the same? Or in other words, are Users always the Customer Assets that we talk about in IT Service Definition?
  • If not, how do we differentiate users from the Customer Assets that we are talking about?

The question arised from the basic understanding that ITSM and ITIL used to establish so far: Services are used by Users (and paid for by the customer).

Some of the salient points that were derived from the discussion were: (more…)

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It is a well established fact that ‘How’ a service is delivered is of utmost important to the customer – and influences the customer satisfaction to a great extent.

Now, talking about satisfaction, are there different attributes of the service that impact ‘customer satisfaction’ and ‘user satisfaction’?  Anyone who has been associated with the service industry will definitely know the answer : Yes!

While customer gives a bit higher priority to aspects like SLA parameters (such as availability), cost-effectiveness (and in a broader sense – ‘value’ of the service), user satisfaction is influenced more by soft aspects of the service delivery & support (behaviour, attitude, interpersonal skills, follow-up, empathy etc etc) and SLA parameters like response, performance etc.

In corporate environments (where the service is delivered to a ‘business’), the distinction is easier to manage, as there are distinguished roles of ‘customer’ and and ‘users’ – and generally, a corporate gives higher priority to the business value (or ‘customer’) aspects of the service

It could be easily observed that the overlapping of ‘customer’ and ‘user’ in the consumer industry making it difficult for the service provider to balance the two (often conflicting) priorities. Since the same individual often becomes both the ‘customer’ and ‘user’, even his/her priorities tend to shift to the ‘user’ side – the role he/she plays much more than the other.

I strongly feel that the issues faced by most of us as ‘bad service’ from service providers are because of this conflict.

The users tend to give more weightage to aspects like response, personalized service, behaviour, follow up etc – while the service providers treat them as customers and give priority to those factors on which a ‘customer’ would be satisfied!

A recent experience of a friend of mine reinforced this thought process in my mind:

(more…)