What do your end users expect when it comes to IT services - considering both quality and quantity? In the most practical sense, IT service "expectations" are defined by two perspectives - the IT department delivering the services and the end-users receiving them. To maintain customer service satisfaction, these perspective must share a common set of realistic expectations. Without that, there is no basis for a shared purpose and strategic vision. Read on for more.
Service expectations are influenced by four (4) key factors including the composition of the IT service portfolio, service terms (availability, response times and performance), respective roles and responsibilities (IT and end-user) and existing constraints (time, funding, technical capabilities, resource availability). The key to IT service value and acceptance is alignment - to ensure that service expectations match needs, commitments and capabilities. What happens when expectations fall out of alignment? You have an expectations gap. (Also Read: Keys to Customer Service in IT Management)
Expectations gaps occur when there is a mismatch between the services end-users "expect" to receive and the services made possible through negotiated commitments and actual capabilities. It's easy to look at expectation gaps as just a matter of perception, but that is potentially dangerous view. As the saying goes, left unchallenged "perception becomes reality". In the absence of a direct, concerted effort to set realistic service expectations, your end-users are likely to develop and sustain their own expectations, which may or may not be "aligned" with actual service obligations. The resulting consequences can be very real - leading to diminished service value, increased dissatisfaction (on both sides) and reduced ROI.
Expectation gaps can develop in any number of areas including the IT "mission", the products and services provided as part of the IT service portfolio, the use and functionality of installed technology, the enforcement of IT policies and standards, and related service level obligations, including response times, and systems performance, reliability, usability and availability.
In all likelihood, expectations gaps will develop from these common IT management missteps:
Human nature being what it is, it is very difficult to avoid every expectation "gap", so you need to be prepared to minimize and mitigate. The key to minimizing expectation gaps is to "define - align - approve".
In order to take further action to mitigate existing expectation gaps, you must first take stock of what you are up against and how firmly these service "viewpoints" are held. Can you read the warning signs of an expectations gap?
This expectations analysis begins with one question - "Are the identified expectations currently being met?". If the answer is "no", the analysis must continue to determine whether the "expectation" in question is arguably "realistic" considering service capabilities and commitments.
Depending upon the nature and source of "expectations gap" condition, specific response strategies will vary, but will always be built on the following five (5) elements:
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