If IT Departments Were Like Self-Service Check-Out Lines

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Service model excellence: Giving business access to services they can complete on their own with a user-friendly, app store front-type capability.

 

In a recent study of consumer habits, findings showed that 19 percent of respondents disliked the supermarket experience because there were too few open check-outs. This was the number one dislike reported. checkout.jpg

 

Every time I go to the supermarket, I wonder why the self-service check-out lines are not heavily used. There are pros and cons with traditional checkout lines as well as the more modern self-service check-out experience.

 

Benefits of self-service can include: one staffer can manage four to six self-service kiosks, self-service can lead to reduced check-out times, and better customer satisfaction and costs savings can translate to the customers since they will have more time to be productive. On the psychological front, self-service provides a sense of power and control to customers.

 

Self-service 5/seem to provide a shift in labor skills from entry-level, such as “bagging” (required in traditional checkout lines), to more skilled labor, like the ability to make electronic self-service machines components. Self-service also enables a better demand-side control. When demand is very busy with checkers, the self-service system can capture overflow.

 

There are some obvious disadvantages to self-check-out, too—like shoplifting (bypassing the lane entirely or circumventing the weight system) or price-switching (putting a different tag on the item they’re scanning, a subtler form of shoplifting). Still, the potential costs associated with self-check-out 5/be seen as tolerable compared to the costs of traditional check-out processes, such as manned checkouts.  Self-service checkouts 5/likewise be criticized for reducing the possibilities for customers and store staff to interact, and the possibilities for customer service in general.

 

For me, the biggest negative is that self-service check-out doesn’t make buying fruits and vegetables very easy, and I often hear that dreaded “unexpected item in the bagging area” message.

 

Even with these negatives, there are clearly benefits to the self-service world. The world is chock full of self-service concepts, not just at the supermarket. Banking interactions, insurance and permit requests, retail exchanges, and countless other historically face-to-face service models have all adopted self-service models.self service.jpg

 

Why not implement self-service style concepts for your IT services? The benefits we see in the supermarket example directly apply to the models we have in IT.

 

One staffer: Not that an IT service desk will ever get down to one employee, but by leveraging self-service capabilities for the business, an IT department can reduce staff and costs. By providing autonomy to the end user community and giving users more data and more accessibility, calls and other requests directly to the service desk are reduced as well.

 

Reduced check-out times: By giving the business access to services they can consume on their own with a user-friendly, app store front-type capability, and by understanding much more information about the user or the requested service, IT can reduce the effort and time required to fulfill services and get the request to the business quicker. In contrast to email and phone, these new self-service tools allow IT to provide much more information, and thus cut down on the time required to deliver service.

 

Better customer satisfaction: With today’s consumer-friendly tools, customers are accustomed to supporting themselves. By providing tools users often access for their at-home services, along with empowerment to serve themselves, an IT service desk can improve customer satisfaction.

 

Time savings & productivity: Through automation and information gained from modern self-service tools, IT will have the knowledge required for service fulfillment, at a glance. No longer will staff be required to gather knowledge from multiple systems, nor will they have to perform manuals steps on items required to finalize a request—automation and requester information will provide these.

 

Labor skill shift: Through call deflection concepts like self-service or peer-to-peer collaboration, IT teams can shift skills commonly required of L1 staff to other projects around the IT environment.

 

Remember, a system is only as good as its parts. In writing this blog, I did encounter reports of some stores scrapping self-service to improve customer service overall. For instance, Costco got rid of self-service kiosks because they believe humans do a better job providing check-out service.

 

Fair enough. If you agree, why not implement a hybrid approach?

 

We often see banks (ATMs & tellers), airports (mobile check-in and agents), and gas stations (pay pumps & attendants) providing a hybrid environment. Apple adopted the hybrid service model in a very useful way: I can go online and purchase any Apple product available in market, but I can also book an appointment at the Genius bar to get in-person attention.

 

Let’s adopt the same hybrid service model for IT. Provide self-service tools, but also provide in-person appointments—concierge-style support where an employee can book a time slot to meet face-to-face with support staff. Combining these types of self-help and in-person support could be the ultimate service model.

 

Jeff Moloughney

@jeffmoloughney

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These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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Jeff Moloughney

Jeff Moloughney

Jeff has been in the enterprise software business for close to 20 years working at Oracle, FrontRange Solutions and most recently BMC where he is a member of the BMC ITSM solutions marketing team. He has expertise in both product management and product marketing for customer relationship management, customer service & support, and IT service management solutions.