8 signs your business isn’t getting the IT customer service you deserve

No doubt you spend a big proportion of your time ensuring that your staff are able to deliver exceptional service to your customers. However, how often do you consider the level of service your staff receive themselves?

As you know, IT has a significant impact on the kind of customer service your staff are able to deliver to your clients. However, with all the things going on in your world, it’s not always easy to see when poor IT service may be compromising your customers’ experience – especially when that’s become the status quo.

Poor IT customer service: what are the signs?

Whether you outsource or have an internal team, your IT department have a duty to your staff to deliver exceptional customer service on a daily basis – thus enabling them to do the same. However, this is not always the case. In helping businesses drive value from their IT, I’ve seen a lot of ‘bad IT’. So based on this experience, here are eight common signs your IT is letting you down.

1. Your business doesn’t have an IT strategy, or if it does, it’s not aligned to the overall goals of the business.

You know what your goals for your business are, and the steps you have to take to achieve it. But, do you know how IT fits into the equation? If you don’t have an IT strategy that’s aligned to your business objectives, it means that a key factor in achieving those objectives is going unconsidered.

While most SMEs don’t need a full-time CIO, you do still need IT’s input and alignment into the long term plan, and an understanding of how IT is going to continue to deliver value to your business.

2. Your staff’s issues aren’t always resolved in a timely manner

Are your staff waiting for days or weeks to have their issues addressed? Are some issues falling through the cracks and not being resolved at all? If this is not a sign of bad customer service I don’t know what is – it’s the very definition of bad IT customer service!

When IT issues go unresolved, your staff’s productivity invariably drops. Whether it’s having to restart a PC four times a day or having to ask a colleague to print out their documents for them, it’s inefficient and it’s costing you money.

Some savvier staff may take it upon themselves to find a work-around, but this can cause things to get very messy very quickly, creating inconsistencies in your IT environment can take hours or days to reverse.

If your IT team don’t have a Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place that clearly defines priority level of each issue-type and the associated follow up and resolution time, or have one and fail to adhere to it, they are letting users down!

3. Your executives are preoccupied with putting out fires instead of thinking strategically.

Something I’ve seen happen surprisingly often is executives getting dragged into dealing with the day-to-day side effects of poor IT customer service. For staff hardened by months of unresponsive IT support, the leadership become their first port of call… especially if they have even the slightest sense of tech savvy.

What this means for your business is that your top resources are essentially doing the job of someone else and covering up for their ineptitude, at the cost of their own responsibilities – costing the company thousands of dollars and impeding growth.

4. Your business is trying to run before it can walk

This is a big one, and I blame the ‘cloud’. Ever since it came about, everyone seems to be rushing to get on the cloud. While the benefits of moving to the cloud are numerous – believe me, I recommend cloud solutions to my clients all the time – it’s not a silver bullet solution that will solve all your IT problems.

For instance, if your staff struggle to find the right files on a locally hosted server, moving to the cloud isn’t going to make it any better. Instead, you should first focus your efforts on rationalising your folder structure and getting your files organised. Any IT provider that is recommending otherwise is doing you a disservice.

5. Your IT environment isn’t fit for purpose

Who your IT team consults when driving change within your environment can be very telling. While nobody will know your staff’s requirements like they will, most IT departments or providers rarely seek user input when making decisions for these users.

As a result, the IT environment your users operate in is at risk of not being fit for purpose, and depending on the nature of the unsuitability, can result in reduced productivity, staff frustration, and business risk.

For example, if your Sales team don’t have uniform access to proposal templates and other collateral, they may be going out to customers with outdated and / or contradictory information.

One occasion in which I saw this play out with some quite significant consequences was when two sales people were engaging the same client with contradictory terms and conditions – one of which was current, and the other, extremely out of date. Understandably, the client was not impressed and chose to pass on both deals!

6. There is a lack of consistency across your IT environment

Many businesses are happy to accommodate a few inconsistencies in their IT environment, without realising the potential impact on their business. However, even simple inconsistencies like one department using Adobe Acrobat to read PDF documents and another department using a different tool can create unnecessary costs for the business, such as:

  • Doubling up on procurement, support, and maintenance activities;
  • Unnecessary learning time when staff shift from department to another; and
  • Variances in the prices of products that essentially do the same thing (Adobe is a lot more expensive than a lot of other similar tools).

However, if your IT team are not effectively monitoring your IT environment, such inconsistencies can combine to have a significant (but avoidable) impact on your IT budget.

7. The IT team speak their own language

The ability to communicate effectively is perhaps one of the most under-valued skills, and when it comes to IT folk, it certainly isn’t presumed knowledge. It’s almost comically stereotypical, but unfortunately often true: many IT people don’t understand how to communicate with less technically-oriented people.

As a result, while IT is always called upon when something goes wrong, they are rarely consulted on everyday operations, thereby missing out on valuable opportunities to deliver value to your business.

8. You lack the performance metrics you need to evaluate how IT is doing

How can you tell how well your IT team and environment are functioning if you can’t even measure their service delivery? IT staff who don’t effectively track their performance will be hard pressed to identify and drive meaningful improvement initiatives and as result, are likely failing in their customer service promise to your business.

So what does really good IT customer service look like?

Customer service-oriented IT should:

  • Be active in defining an IT strategy and ensuring that it aligns to the overall objectives for your business;
  • Resolve your staff’s issues in a timely manner and to their satisfaction, while adhering to the guidelines of the SLA;
  • Take complete ownership of BAU IT support, allowing business executives to focus on driving the strategy of the business;
  • Provide guidance around initiatives that will provide the best outcome for your business, rather than getting distracted by bells and whistles;
  • Consult a cross section of your users when making IT decisions on their behalf;
  • Identify and take steps to eliminate or prevent inconsistencies in your IT environment;
  • Drive communication as a real skill, enabling them to effectively engage staff with various personality types and varying levels of technical aptitude and interest; and
  • Leverage a clearly defined IT service delivery framework not only to measure performance, but also to consistently drive improvement and customer service excellence.

Are you missing these essential characteristics in your IT environment?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’ve personally worked with numerous business leaders who, when they first came to me, were operating in IT environments that were far below what they or their staff deserved. Working together, though, we’ve turned these environments around, to make IT an operational advantage for these businesses.