What is the importance of customer service in IT? I mean, seriously, we just provide access to the internet, we set a PC on a desk, we do a bunch of stuff that amazes our moms and dads. But, do we provide a service in the same sense as we perceive service delivery by a restaurant, doctor or hotel?
So often, I observe geeks demonstrating the very traits that our customers loath about IT. We speak in acronyms and assume everyone understands what we are saying, including the obscure Star Wars reference. We assume our customers will follow our every direction on what application to use, how to use it, or what equipment we need. We restart servers in the middle of the day without consideration for those using them. We make changes without documenting them. Is this service? Is this how we would want to be treated in our favorite restaurant? More importantly, what value do we bring? How do we contribute to the business this way?
The truth is we don't! The IT department is, first and foremost, a service organization, much to the chagrin of the geeks. Most see the Help Desk (or Service Desk) as the “Public Face” of IT when the entire department must be service oriented. Unfortunately, the majority of techs are introverts with little patience for the interpersonal dealings with end-users. Most techs project the problems of system adoption or product acceptance on to their customers, demonstrated in a response to a typical discussion board question:
“It's more of the fact that a lot computer users are the "illiterate" ones, causing a lot of problems and issues, like not running anti-virus, proper firewalls, etc. That can be easily proven by reading the questions (and repeat questions) here [on Yahoo Answers].”
Our customers use our products and services nearly every moment of every work day. Yet, how often do we really consider the user experience? Is the problem that the end-user is “illiterate” or is the IT team isolating themselves by their own actions? In an ideal world, a new program or device has been tested in the field, the tech or programmer has met with those that will be using the technology to determine needs and requirements, and enough research into “what the business need is” to identify issues that would impact the end-user. The reality, however, is that this rarely happens. Traditionally, the concerns of the IT folks are compatibility with other applications, equipment, and the rolling out process with little concern for the day to day operations of the organization. While the systems administration aspect of IT is very important in terms of security, reliability and interoperability, it is often accomplished to the detriment of their relationship with their customers and the success of the business.
This isolation from the business is exactly why senior leadership consistently overlooks IT as a strategic benefit. This paradigm holds many organizations from the very benefits that technology has to offer, such as driving growth and reducing costs. In a time when businesses need to differentiate themselves, technology offers the competitive edge needed.
The quickest way to accomplish this is through delivering outstanding customer service. Think of the immediate and satisfying experience you have when you receive great service. We should strive to delivering such an experience to the end-user. This involves clearly and concisely communicating what we are doing, listening to our users (both audibly and visually) to determine their needs, and acting responsibly by accepting ownership of issues and being accountable to the organization. If you are walking around like Nick Burns, you may have fixed a problem; but, did you really provide a service?