this is a necessary but insufficient approach. Marketing people often assume that if you address perception, actually improving service levels isn’t important—but let’s not dwell on those evil impulses.
People who receive occasionally poor service are used to complaining (justifiably) about it. Poor service and jokes about poor service become an expected part of the culture. Good service—the occasions when help is timely and efficient—may often go unnoticed, but bad service gets noticed and reinforces expectations. This gives expectations a great deal of inertia, because they have been reinforced over a long period of time.
When I began to explain my recent “neck lock” as an example of changing my perception and helping me appreciate a well-oiled neck, one of the meeting participants asked, “Do you mean we should go on a campaign of providing really bad service, so that people appreciate what they had before?”
I explained that the relevant part of my neck story was how much I appreciated the lack of pain when it returned to normal. When did you last wake up in the morning and feel thrilled that your neck felt normal?
“But ‘normal’ here hasn’t historically been very good service,” another participant offered.
“That is exactly why we need to encourage people to look for an improvement.” I said. “We need to get people to look for a change in service levels.” I pointed out that I was carefully monitoring the mobility of my head for the first few days after my injury had healed and really appreciated what I had taken for granted before, primarily because now I was aware of it.
We discussed the challenge of changing perceptions. Many of the people on the business side of the organization had been there twenty years or more, and it would be difficult to change their perceptions. Historically, business users had often been forced to fend for themselves when faced with technical issues. They were jaded, and their perceptions would be slow to change. When new people joined the business organization, it wasn’t long before they learned from their peers that they should expect the IT organization to provide poor support.
That suggested one target audience for changing perceptions: people newly hired into the business organization. How could we inexpensively provide them with a good customer support experience right after they joined the organization?
One of the initiatives that we identified was a program of assuring that new users received a welcome soon after they started with the organization that included providing them with a new workstation that was ready to go and a quick briefing about the software used by the organization and online resources with more information about the software (user’s guides and FAQs). Providing new workstations normally happened within a week of the new employee starting anyway, so it wasn’t net new work; it was a matter of prioritizing the activity so that new people had an initial positive experience with IT. The FAQs existed, but standard procedure was to direct users there when they called for tech support (which didn’t win hearts and minds). It was further suggested that for the first week, new employees would be assigned a member of the technical team they could go to directly with questions. It was even agreed that, after a week, the formal hand off from their “IT buddies” could happen over coffee, assuring that the new person had all his questions answered and knew what “normal” channels for support were going forward. Net cost of this initiative was pretty much zero.
Another prong of the approach was to publicize the changes