Blog: Service Culture Brand

Gartner reported recently that 46% of CIO’s believe culture is the biggest barrier to digital strategy transformation.  I believe the barrier to digital change, and the actual root cause of the issue, is the fundamental and deep-rooted attitude towards customer service.  There was no particular reference to the culture they were trying to change, but I believe it begins with how an organization views customer service and the customer experience…..the true origin of the issue.

If you have a customer service culture in place, I believe this barrier will not exist.  The organization recognizes that with the move towards a fully digital experience the customer experience will be enhanced and a customer service culture naturally embraces the digital transformation. If you don’t have a team that believes customer service is a priority, than the incentive for digital transformation is missing and becomes a barrier to change.  Improved customer experience does not stop with the external customer but also includes the internal customer experience.  Customer experience is vital to the reputation of any Private or Public entity. 

Service is a long-term strategy that begins at the Service Desk.  Often considered to be an entry point for technology it is frequently the first chance we get to make our brand.  You can’t simply state that Service is important you must demonstrate that it is important which is why we moved the Service Desk and Operators from an isolated area to the most prominent location in our building…the first thing you see when you enter our main location.

Service Desk


I meet with our Service Desk Manager every two weeks and I have told him one particular story many, many times.  So much that I am sure he is tired of hearing it many meetings ago.  We often discuss Leveraging Knowledge Management to empower our customers to solve their own issues.  We discuss how we can all improve and we analyze where that improvement will make the biggest impact utilizing a multitude of metrics.  One thing we agree on, and are reinforced in this belief by the objective metrics, is that self-service and automation are key in differentiating our Service Desk from others.  In the last 12 months 74% (Approximately 220,000) of all Service Desk tickets were created by our customers using one of our standard Request Offerings.

If you have not visited the Service Desk site lately https://cio.nebraska.gov/servicedesk/ I encourage you to do so.  You can find our goals, metrics, self-service options along with feedback channels and the ability to request a new service.


Service Desk Webpage


We have a unique combination with another customer focused Manager leading Operations and continuously looking for new ways to automate activities, such as the onboarding/offboarding project.  Both leaders look for areas where self-service is the best option for customers in order to increase efficiencies.  The time efficiencies gained are then spent supporting core business activities such as monitoring the health of our IT Systems, and when necessary to notify the correct resources to address alerts.  In order for an alert to be effective it should contain the essential information needed to inform the Operators about what the issue is and the possible impact as well as where to find additional information and which team to contact and escalate if needed.

The third high impact area for our customers is our Site Support team lead by a Manager that focuses on customer service across 8 distinct service regions.  You always need a good story that epitomizes great customer service and the Site Support team gave me that story during the Covid outbreak.  It began with a call from an Agency Director that wanted to thank me for the individuals that delivered the necessary technology equipment to teammates porches that were not able to come into the office.  I had no idea….. which is the best part of the story.  They did not ask permission nor even mentioned it happened, they knew they had the one thing every great customer service organization must have, the authority to do the right thing for their customers.


Service Map

Anecdotes of great customer service are discussed frequently in our OCIO Champions events where we recognize teammates that received nominations from across the State Agencies, Boards and Commission.  These nominations spotlight OCIO teammates that went above and beyond in their customer service.  This is where I found out many of the great things done by individuals and teams. 

Nominations are evaluated by the OCIO leadership team, with the following criteria; the team and/or teammate:

  • Met or exceeded aspirations
  • Provided exceptional service
  • Notably built mutual respect across teams
  • Provided an innovative technology solution

To make a nomination, visit the OCIO’s Champion Award Nomination Form

Goals are also a necessary aspect of a customer service organization.  Measurable goals, not the generic ones we see written in every annual review like “increase customer satisfaction”. We set goals that rely on the metrics that we receive from Incident Requests, Service Requests and Problem Tickets to determine where our reoccurring issues originate and work to eliminate them from our customers environment.  We depend on on the Service Desk, Operations and Site Support to ensure that problems are avoided, but when they occur, we rely on these teams to assist in the recovery and escalation process. I believe they understand their essential role and their specific contributions to the overall service goal of the OCIO. It’s a tough role which requires extreme patience and empathy. 


There are many ways we can all help the Service Desk, Operations and Site Support improve our Customer Service Brand:

  • Improve the timeliness and frequency of status updates – customers need to know the most current status of their request for service
  • Route tickets to the correct group – if unknown send back to Service Desk
  • Encourage others to utilize our self-service offerings which are auto-routed to the correct support group
  • Publish and distribute your groups internal processes – both during and after hours
  • Contribute to the service portal knowledgebase
  • Search for tasks to automate


So what is the story I tell almost every other week?  It starts with a discussion about how the OCIO’s reputation with the State Agencies, Boards, Commissions and Counties is dependent on the service provided by the Service Desk.   It quickly morphs into variations of “Storytelling” regarding the things I learned through the company mergers and acquisitions I participated in during the past 20 plus years. 

The first story I tell is what I learned during my initial engagement as part of an advanced team sent after a company acquisition was announced.  I learned that I could easily determine how mature and customer focused the acquired organization was by simply spending some time with the Service Desk.  Did they have mature processes and tools?  Goals and metrics posted and analyzed for improvement? An up-to-date knowledgebase?

Another story I talk about is my experience taking a position with a new company and within the first couple of days on the job I heard the help desk being referred to as the “helpless desk.” Not by the business, as I did not have enough interaction with them at the time, but by our own IT staff.  The desk was staffed completely by contractors with minimal leadership, processes and inadequate tools.  I moved the entire desk to another State and staffed it with permanent employees, many of which I knew or had managed before, and provided them with the tools to be successful.

The last story is about joining a new company and taking on the job of leading an IT Support team.  I instituted a plan to rebuild customer confidence by restructuring our team that supported 5000+ company stores.  The restructuring included providing the necessary tools, performance measures and detailed training plans to correct long standing operational challenges resulting in poor customer service.  The main challenge included reducing average retail store wait times from 50 minutes to less than 30 seconds (yes, 50 min wait times) simply by answering the phones.  Not with the team of trained technologists which were responsible for all levels of issues, but with temps that were trained in only the top 5 issues encountered.  Transferring all other calls to the experienced support team.  We called it the “Front Line” concept and it drove down wait times not in weeks or months but in literally days after launching the effort. The pilot and the temps were so successful we hired them permanently.

Once again it all starts with the fundamentals of effective and efficient delivery of service to teammates and external customers.  Execution of the basics extremely well will produce improved operational efficiencies, high system availability and the technical resiliency necessary for any technology organization to be successful. 



As always, I appreciate what you do every day for the State of Nebraska.

Ed Toner