Great IT Client service is much more than just fixing someone’s PC, writing the software they specifically request, flawlessly execute nightly production, and/or provide a stable general computing environment. These are, of course, incredibly important and the basis of IT’s value to the organization, but they are not the whole story.
As doctors are judged on their ability to interact with the patients, not just on their medical expertise, IT professionals are judged on their ability to interact with their business partners/users, not simply on their ability to perform a technical task. Yes, when an employee calls the user help desk his/her prior goal is to solve his/her technical problem not to interact with a charming conversationalist, but that by no means diminishes the importance that client interaction plays in overall client/customer/user satisfaction.
That said, as technical professionals we obviously have to get the job done on time, with quality and within budget. This is job #1. Your additional ability to appropriately interact with those you serve, however, will change your client’s experience from good to great. The following soft skill based client interactions will help you provide great service.
Clear communication: The concept of clear communication has many aspects and could be a series of columns in itself (hmmm, maybe it will be). From an IT client service perspective, I’m referring to communicating with your client in a way that he/she will understand it. Most business people are not interested in hearing about the technical nuts and bolts. Generally speaking, when talking with non-technical people, think benefits not features, deadlines not details, budget not bitmaps.
Knowing the products/services being supported: Understanding the products and services you are supporting is key to your ability to be of value to your clients. After all, if you can’t perform the needed tasks, then you can’t solve the client’s problems. As an example, say that you were having a problem replying to email on your cell phone and call your phone provider for help. They empathize with your issue, communicate clearly with you on the phone, are pleasant and are courteous during the call, but have no clue how to solve your problem. When the conversation ends, all they did was waste your time because your problem is still unsolved.
Being a good listener: Please know that I’m not saying you should be a great shoulder to cry on. By being a good listener, I’m referring to not trying to solve the problem before you truly understand the issue. You should make the time and effort to truly listen to your client’s issue and needs before acting or providing advice. As said by John Maxwell, “People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Keep your promises: If you make a promise to an internal client that you will perform a task, make sure to do it. Following through on promises is good behavior, good business and good client service. This may sound like a simple concept and it is. That said, if you fail to follow through on a promise to an internal client it can immediately and permanently reduce your credibility with that client.
Be available: Being reachable by your internal clients is very important to their satisfaction. This means you should be returning phone calls, returning emails, calling them proactively if you hear about a problem, and generally being available to assist them either personally or via a staff member if the need arises. A quickly returned phone call or a visit in person to a client having an issue with your department's service can go a long way toward correcting an issue with an unhappy client.
Be courteous: As the expression goes, “Chivalry is not dead.” The use of standard words, like “please” and “thank you”, may feel unnecessary, but at the end of the day, people are people. Courteous actions are a show of respect, humbleness and appreciation. These attributes can go a long way when trying to maximize client satisfaction.
Provide proper follow up: A quick call to a client after the service has been provided is a great way to assure the work met the client’s expectations. If you did, you’ll get extra credit for checking in with them. If you didn’t meet his/her expectations, it gives you a second chance to meet his/her needs.
Properly record your activities: Properly recording your activities allows your work to be recognized, measured, and reported to your manager, clients and others. This information, in turn, becomes a chronicle of your great work, which can be of significant value at employee performance review time.
If you have any questions about your career in IT, please email me at eric@ManagerMechanics.com or find me on Twitter at @EricPBloom.
Until next time, work hard, work smart, and continue to build your professional brand.
Read more of Eric Bloom's Your IT Career blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Eric on Twitter at @EricPBloom. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.