A Lesson in Service Management

In the Wired magazine article on the relationship between AT&T and Apple (see: Bad Connection: Inside the iPhone Network Meltdown), the author, Fred Vogelstein, presents a classic service management problem.

In the early days of the iPhone, when data usage was coming in at levels 50% higher than what AT&T projected, AT&T Senior VP Kris Renne came to Apple and asked if they could help throttle back the traffic. Apple consistently responded that they were not going to mess up the consumer experience to make the AT&T network tenable.

In this conversation, AT&T fell into the trap that many service providers do: focusing on their internal needs rather than that of the customer. Their service was failing, and the first response was to try to change the behavior of their consumers to match what their service was providing, not to change the service to what the consumer needs.

I’ve seen this happen in the enterprise. A team whose role was to deliver shared services became more focused on minimizing the number of services provided (which admittedly made their job easier) than on providing what the customers needed. As a result, frustration ensued, consumers were unhappy and were increasingly unwilling to use the services. While not the case in this situation, an even worse possibility is where that service provider is the only choice for the consumer. They become resigned to poor service, and the morale goes down.

It is very easy to fall into this trap. A move to shared services is typically driven by a desire to reduce costs, and the fewer services a team has to manage, the lower their costs can be. This cannot be done at the expense of the consumer though. First and foremost, your consumers must be happy, and consumer satisfaction must be part of the evaluation process of shared service teams. Balance that appropriately with financial goals, and you’ll be in a better position for success.

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