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"Big firms have a lot to learn about IT" - avoiding catastrophic customer failure.

13 Oct 2010 - by CHRIS SEVERN
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Did you read the weekend article in the AFR on Oct 9? – “Big Firms have lots to learn about IT”. It highlighted that the nexus of customer service and technology is an area where a failure of risk planning can lead to substantial failings in customer experience. However while IT risk management is important, to avoid failure we should focus on customer experience risk.

The article describes how thousands of Virgin Blue customers were stranded around Australia in an event that started with an airline reservation system glitch. In a single event they threatened both their brand reputation and relationships with their customers. Importantly, the issue was related both to the initial failure, but also to their ability to recover the situation e.g. they struggled to even access the customer contact details to re-schedule their flights.

This kind of failure is probably closer to happening in most organisations than they’d care to admit. But how do you think up all the possible IT or process risks lurking in an organisation? It takes a combination of a good process, and the time and imagination to understand the impacts to the customer and their experience:

  • Start with an understanding of how customers access your servicesand want to interact with you. This means taking a more ‘outside-in’ or customer focused approach to identify what will really create a risk to your customers’ experience.
  • Identify all the key customer-impacting risks and the way to manage them. Probability-based risk models are often deeply flawed because there are “unknown unknowns” of internal risks or customer behaviour. A focus on IT risk management is too narrow – it needs to be policy, people, processes, technology and data that are all important for that experience.
  • Design management of these risks into your future service delivery model and implement. Update your policies and processes to manage customer-experience based risks and have the right technology and service provider failover plans.
  • Don’t forget to plan how to respond in the event of failure. It means providing a consistent response & experience such as handing out hotel vouchers to everyone, or communicating regularly by SMS at regular intervals. And remember customer contact information is a strategic asset so keep it close.

If you’re worried about similar risks or need help to manage them, you may need to contact us about our customer and strategic assurance services…

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Mimi Hayton

"There is one thing stronger than all the armies of the world. An idea whose time has come."