Customer Experience of IT: Impressive Changes at Flinders University

Technology is a wonderful thing while it’s working. But we all know how difficult it can be to get our jobs done when even the slightest blip occurs in our systems. After two consecutive years of impressive improvements, Flinders University has topped the ranking for the best internal customer experience of IT services. They say that critical to their achievement was listening to their customers, changing their culture and expectations around communication, and placing customer experience as the highest criterion for all change initiatives.

Voice Project’s IT Service Quality Benchmarking (ITSQB) survey is specifically designed to help IT Support teams increase their effectiveness, and to improve internal customer experience within the organisation they support. Each year, we announce awards in the CAUDIT newsletter for the Universities that have achieved the highest results and the most improvement.

At the end of 2019, Flinders University achieved the largest amount of improvement for the second year running, bringing them to the highest benchmark score we’ve ever seen in the survey. I recently had the pleasure to visit Flinders University and discuss some of their changes in person with Feisar Joya, Associate Director Client Services.

Q&A with Feisar Joya, Flinders University

BE: Flinders University has achieved some impressive improvements in staff’s experience of IT service quality over the last couple of years. Clearly there have been many factors contributing to this, but is there any one initiative that you think was particularly pivotal in achieving these results?

FJ: There were many activities and changes implemented, challenging and changing the way we perform our day to day tasks. If I need to highlight the one initiative that was pivotal to the change in direction we took, it was that of putting in place the right effort to listen to our customers. As such, the feedback received from the IT Service Quality Benchmark survey was the foundation to the awareness required to know key areas that required immediate attention.

This was followed by identifying ways to receive customer feedback and measure customer satisfaction on a daily basis, in order to respond and adjust the path that followed.

BE: One of the areas our clients typically struggle to make significant improvements in is how ongoing complex problems are handled. The challenge often relates to difficulty keeping the customer appropriately informed by highly specialised technical staff that are working on the problem. However, this is one of the areas where you have demonstrated the most improvement, up over 30 points from where it was a couple of years ago. How did you do it?

FJ: The challenge relates to the culture of the organisation and the expectation that some technical staff have with regards to customer communication. Customers are ok with failures in technology, and as a matter of fact they expect these to happen from time to time. What will make the most difference to our clients when they have an issue are only two things:

  • First, fixing it immediately (on first point of contact).
  • Two, if we are not able to fix it – taking ownership of it and keeping customers up to date on our progress, right up to resolution of the problem.

Important to note is that customers don’t care who in fact resolved the issue; in their eyes there is one IT team, regardless of how many subdivisions exist within it.

BE: Driving such significant change inevitably involves challenging people’s assumptions and shaking things up a bit to find new ways of working on old problems. What are some of the ‘barriers’ that you saw were in place, and how did you challenge people to try doing things differently?

FJ: Questions are key to help understand better ways of doing things. Challenging the ‘Status Quo’ was critical to kick start the transformation of a culture that was doing the same activities while expecting different results.

Initially most of the activities conducted focussed on quick wins, which generated momentum. This was then followed by reassessing our structure, roles, expertise, customer engagement, tools, processes, ownership etc.

We took into account the ITIL approach to people, processes and technology; but added customer experience with higher value and as a key criterion for anything that was proposed.

BE: Change also entails a certain level of risk, and often meets with some resistance. How did people react to some of the changes that were happening, and how did you manage to keep things moving forward?

FJ: Resistance to change is a misunderstood concept. Organisational change has many aspects including processes, methods, technologies, structure, and strategy. Resistance for an individual can relate to what they personally associate with any aspect of the change proposed/implemented. They may see this as catastrophic or as exciting, depending on how we help them make those associations.

The value and benefits of each change were explored and shared with all stakeholders. There was a combination of decisions that were consulted on with staff, and others that required a direct management execution; understanding that, as leaders, at times we are required to make decisions that won’t make everyone happy, but regardless needs to be done.

Do you have the wrong person on a role, or do you have the wrong role on the person? Some of the changes included helping individuals to realise their full potential in other areas that they have never explored.

BE: Is there any other advice you would give to support teams in other organisations trying to improve their customer experience?

FJ: Understand that improvement is an ongoing activity for which we are all responsible and need to be part of. In order to improve we need creativity and innovation; however there is no creativity and innovation without failure.

Allowing the space to fail will drive your teams to identify the areas that will help you achieve higher IT Service Quality, whilst also creating an enjoyable place to work at.

We congratulate Feisar and his team on the impressive results that they’ve achieved. In talking through some of these results, a pattern emerged that we have seen in many other contexts as well. When it comes to understanding organisational change we often focus on the specifics: decisions, processes, technologies, structures and strategies, to name a few. However, the overall success of these is often more about the way in which we go about it; the attitudes we have, the perceptions and expectations that we put in place, and the personal understanding we have for the people involved in the change process.

You can read about some of the broader trends we’ve noticed across the sector here. If you would like more information on the ITSQB survey and how we can help you to improve the effectiveness of your own support teams, please give us a call.

Ben Eastment
Senior Consultant
+61 (2) 8875 2810