Tuesday, September 7, 2010

...and would you like fries with that?

Everyone who isn’t in IT support thinks their IT support sucks! Everyone in IT support thinks that their users suck!

They’re both right.

A while back I came across a piece by Leon Gettler entitled “Help Desks and Techno-Stress” that looked at the divide between IT support staff and users. I also came across a piece called The unspoken truth about why your IT sucks which is another side to the same argument.

While I don’t disagree with either of these arguments in principle I think that the answer to the problems described in these pieces can be distilled down to the fact that, the expectation gap from either side of the tech support question is where everything falls down.

Users expect retail service and tech support staff deliver professional services - one type of service is based on the customer is always right while the other is based on professional recommendations. They are different.

Go into McDonald’s and ask for a burger and the first thing they’ll ask is “and would you like fries with that?”

If you ask your tax agent to cook the books so that you pay no tax he’ll say “No. I can’t do that”.

Both answers represent good customer service!

You may not like the answer from your tax agent but its the right answer and that’s the difference between retail service and professional service and a tech support desk is providing  professional services. In many cases they are protecting users from themselves.

How often have corporate 1st level support staff heard “if you guys can’t do this then we should be able to go somewhere else to get this done”. That’s retail service expectation. In this case the problem is that the “other” support guy doesn’t know the corporate environment, what are the restrictions, policies and constraints and will create even bigger problems that will have to come back to the corporate support desk to fix.

ICT environments are becoming more and more complex, users are demanding platforms other than Windows, they want to have a choice of mobile handsets and they are more tech-savvy. This increases the workload on the ICT team exponentially and they are having to support an ever expanding list of technology.

There is a cost associated with this expansion - a big one - so your support team needs to find a way to manage this expectation. They only have one weapon in their arsenal and that is to toe the line and keep telling you the honest truth about what’s right and what isn’t.

That means that sometimes they’re going to have to tell you that you can’t have what you want.

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