Friday, October 12, 2012

Customer Service, Part 1: Know Your Role

This is the first in a 3 article series titled simply "Customer Service".  I know I said that the next article would be more IT related.  While this is not a technical post, it IS IT related.  And it is a key topic for those of us in the IT field.  This first part, "Know Your Role", is a sanity check for all IT professionals.  It may sound like I repeat myself by saying the same thing multiple times the same way in this article.  That's because so many people do not get this topic, and I want to make sure I drive the point home.  My point: despite what many people think, the IT department/staff is not needed at any company or organization.

I'm not saying IT people are worthless.  Nor am I saying that IT people are not helpful at a company.  What I'm saying is that most business can get by without an IT staff.  They are not key to getting the business' job done (unless it's an IT consulting company of course).  The IT department / staff provide a service to the rest of the company, similar to the building maintenance department.  They deliver services that make the employee's tasks easier.  For example, running a Microsoft Office Share Point Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, and keeping the Blackberries running.  If the IT staff does not recognize this as their role in the company, then they cannot properly serve the company and their customers.  Remember...the company could get by without those things.

"Customers" is another key point to drive home.  In a typical IT department, the customer is the end user.  It's the person processing accounts payable in accounting, the receptionist entering names in a log, the manager making project plans, and so on.  The IT staff MUST consider the end user as a customer, and must treat them as such (we'll be talking about that in part 3).

The IT staff must remember that they are there to deliver a service and they are there to help the people in the company...not the other way around.  Most IT people walk around with a "holier then thou" attitude, which puts off most people, including their customers.  The customers typically put up with it because they feel they have no choice.  This makes doing support difficult on both sides.  The person needing support is hesitant to call, and hesitant to say much at the risk of being ridiculed by the IT person.  This means the IT person may not be working with all the necessary information from the user, which make troubleshooting problems a lot more difficult then it needs to be. Remember...we (IT professionals) are there to help the user.  Not publicly ridicule, or humiliate.

If the customers aren't happy, the management will hear about it.  This reflects badly on the misbehaving IT professional who thinks they can't get fired because "they need him/her".  That mentality CAN get you fired.  The unemployment reate in this country right now is quite high.  If an IT person is not respecting their customers, there's someone that's standing on an unemployment line that will.  And the management knows that.  If you want job security, recognize this fact and realize that you are there to work FOR management, not make management do what you want.

So a note to all IT professionals: know your role in your company.  You'll be happier, and so will everyone else around you, including your customers.  IT people are there to help...

Stay tuned for Part 2: Asking For Help, and Part 3: Delivering Help.


  1. "For example, running a Microsoft Office Share Point Server, Microsoft Exchange Server, and keeping the Blackberries running. If the IT staff does not recognize this as their role in the company, then they cannot properly serve the company and their customers. Remember...the company could get by without those things."

    I tend to question the validity of that statement. Business today has become very dependent upon IT and the services it offers. Most all of business’s communication’s are now email based and in a technology savvy company much of its record keeping and management documentation is migrating to SharePoint or similar platforms. You are correct in saying that IT needs to understand its place in the company but the operative word here is “place”. The IT professional is like the airline pilot. They don’t get paid so much for what they do; they get paid for what they do when the guacamole hits the fan.

    1. It was more a thought provoking statement with little explanation...I was trying to keep it short. They have become dependent upon IT, yes. It makes business easier and more efficient. My point was if IT never existed, the business would still be there. For example, a company that makes widgets would be fine if IT never existed to take orders, send emails, etc. But if their workforce that hand makes the widgets disappears, then there would be nothing to sell. If the sales staff went away, none of the stock would be getting sold. Business CAN happen without's just not as efficient.

      And totally...IT people get paid for when everything goes wrong. Anyone can open a book and read how to install a server. It's a real IT pro that knows how it works and how to fix it.

  2. While a company may need IT, that doesn't mean they actually need you. I know one IT worker who consistently shifted work from themselves to services hosted outside of their area. They are now in danger of losing their job because we just don't need them. There are always alternatives to problematic people.

    1. That's a problem I have with "Cloud Services". The few I've had experience with have little to no tech support available to the end users. That's where the IT staff at the company come in. The IT staff needs to know the ins and outs of the service so that they can support their users using it. depends on the service. I'm sure there are fantastic services out there that actually provide decent, if not great, support. The company I work for, for example. We don't even have an automated voice response system. You call, you get a person right away.


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