Nov 15 2012

IT Workers Should Provide Service with a Smile

Customer service values apply to everyone in the organization, including IT.

In many IT departments, a personal touch is often absent from the day-to-day operations of staff. In the race to keep existing systems running and new systems deployed, there is often a noticeable dearth of compassion when it comes to resolving user issues.

It’s evident in the dry, detached tone users hear when they call on their IT department for help, only to get “Did you reboot the computer?” as a reflexive response.

Yes, user error is often at the root of many user complaints, but it is no longer an option for technology professionals to fall back on this stolid persona.

Taking the time to be human, relatable, communicative and understanding can be a real differentiator, not just for your career or your department, but for your entire organization.

I recently had the pleasure, along with two fellow CIOs, of presenting a panel titled “Putting the ‘Personal’ back in Personal Service” at the annual International Legal Technology Association conference. (For more coverage of the ILTA conference, go to biztechmagazine.com/ilta-2012.)

The crux of the message we tried to convey can be found in the book Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit by Leonardo Inghilleri.

Inghilleri suggests four basic principles for good customer service: provide a perfect product, delivered by a caring and friendly person, in an efficient and timely manner, backed by an effective problem resolution process.

How can you apply these principles to your IT work?

  • Get your IT house in order. If you’re always chasing down issues and putting out fires, it’s much harder to focus on users. When I first came to my position, I made sure to put excellent monitoring and reporting in place. You should know when a server is out of disk space or a process is spiking before the phone starts ringing.
  • Have regular meetings with your staff. I meet with my staff individually on a weekly basis in addition to our weekly team meetings. Consistent communication with staff is crucial.
  • Keep your help desk ticket count low. The change in attitude from coworkers when there are fewer tickets in the queue will be very noticeable.
  • Perform root cause analysis to prevent repeat problems. This process will help resolve issues and give you the bandwidth you need to provide great customer service.

IT Work Is About More Than Fixing Technology

The CIO who is only worried about “keeping the lights on” isn’t providing full value to the company. Cutting costs, improving efficiencies and working with other business units are essential aspects of today’s IT management.

CIOs don’t have to go it alone either. The best ideas often come from the front lines, so be sure to foster a startup mentality in your department. Encourage cross-training among workers to build skill sets. The IT generalist is making a comeback, and the soft skills needed to deal with people are part of that.

If you can see beyond the fairly mundane duties and work toward improving user satisfaction, you can make a real difference in your organization.