A few years ago one of the engineering VPs I provided IT support for called me up and asked if I could help fix a problem with his laptop. I told him he could open a helpdesk ticket and that they would take care of him. He refused, so I opened the ticket for him and kept him apprised of the situation, and they fixed the problem without a hitch.
Why would he refuse to place the call himself? When I asked him this very question, he replied, "Oh, they are just the 'Helpless Desk,' because they are rude, and they will do nothing for me. I was confident that you would take care of me by fixing the problem properly and keeping me informed about the situation until it was resolved."
Another time, I was interviewing someone for a systems admin job. He had an impressive resume with lots of IT buzzwords and certifications. He looked like a good match until I asked the candidate what his ideal job would be. He replied, "I would love to manage a data center with hundreds of machines and no people. People just get in the way when I am managing machines." Needless to say, he did not get the job!
You are probably wondering, what was the problem in these examples? Clearly it wasn't technical competence. In both cases, it was that they did not have a customer-focused mindset. A friendly attitude, a smile, and good communication skills can go a long way toward helping you support your company's IT infrastructure and keep your job. By being focused on your users, you are creating satisfied customers and in the process ultimately delivering more value and productivity for your company.
Customer service is nothing new, so why do so many IT people ignore it at their peril? We will explore the reasons why being technically competent is simply not enough these days, and why top-notch communication skills are the new IT differentiator in today's highly competitive IT job market. We'll also cover some basic customer relations skills that will help you perform your technical job faster with fewer distractions.
So what exactly does customer-centric IT mean? Craig Bailey, president and founder of Customer Centricity, Inc., explains, "As companies continue to downsize, they need to get the most out of the resources they have. Technology is not the answer; it is only a tool. To build a customer relationship, you need to build 30% processes and 50% people skills, training, and empowerment. Only 20% of the relationship is based on technology."
This seems counterintuitive; aren't IT people hired for their technical skills? Well, if you talk to any good IT manager, they will tell you that, "You can teach bits and bytes, but what's hard to teach is a customer-centric attitude," says Bailey.