IT support clients don't think like we do in IT — big surprise! They are a different animal, something they would also say about you and your IT staff.
IT support clients have different priorities, they have different backgrounds and experiences, and they have completely different missions in the company than their IT support counterparts. It's not only OK that they look at things differently than we do in IT, it's appropriate.
To support your clients effectively, it helps to understand how they think about IT support. In other words, put yourself in their shoes.
It also helps to realize that, "your client is always right." They may not be factually correct about a situation; but if your client is upset or concerned about IT support, there is usually a reason. It may be as simple as you are not managing their expectations effectively.
Who are our IT support clients?
I put them into two categories:
- Senior managers: this is the C-Suite and includes CEO, CFO, COO and other senior managers.
- Department managers and their employees (commonly called "Users"): this includes the people who use your technologies the most and their managers.
Listed below are ten IT client perspectives that will give you insight about how they view IT support. Being aware of these perspectives can help you deliver IT support services more effectively.
10 IT client support perspectives
1. Clients focus on business, not technology.
Clients use technology but the technology is only a tool to help them achieve their mission or do their job. For example, technology in the banking industry is a critical component but the users who use these technologies are concerned about delivering banking services. The technologies they use are just a means to the end.
2. Clients think about what they need from you.
It does not matter what you have done for your client in the past. They only think about what they need from you now: the open support ticket, the programming enhancement they requested, or the laptop for their new employee. They quickly forget the good things you do for them, so remember: "IT support clients have short memories!"
3. Clients speak a different language.
Clients discuss things in business terms; IT employees discuss issues in technical terms. This language difference creates a gap between the business and IT. Here are some examples:
- IT discusses what and clients want why.
- IT discusses technology and clients want to hear business value benefits.
- IT uses acronyms and clients use business and financial terms.
4. Clients don't understand technology, and they don't want to.
Clients only want to use the technology to get their jobs completed; they don't want to actually understand it beyond what it takes to do the work. It's vitally important for IT to keep things as simple as possible to be most effective.
5. Clients don't like the changes you force upon them.
Technology is changing rapidly. Software and hardware must be maintained with new releases or replaced completely as newer and more cost effective solutions are developed. Users don't particularly like it when IT implements a new change to their technology, especially when it affects a business application's user interface they are already familiar with.
6. IT policies come across as restrictive and burdensome.
We need a few IT policies to help us maintain a stable technology environment. Our clients don't necessarily view an Internet Usage Policy or similar policies as a benefit. Clients tend to view policies that are obviously from IT to be a hindrance in being able to do what they want or need to do.
7. Clients are concerned about getting their jobs done.
Anything you can do to help your client do their job more productively or less costly is a winner, especially to the senior managers and department managers of a company. The great news is that IT offers your company significant leverage in helping all departments of the company reduce cost or improve productivity but your clients may not realize this leverage exists. It is up to us to educate our clients about this.
8. Clients don't see IT as a key part of the business.
Technology is not the core competency of most businesses. In banking it is providing banking services, in manufacturing it is building widgets. Technology is certainly a critical factor in providing these capabilities but it isn't the real business and for the most part IT does not generate revenue for the company. For this reason, clients can view IT as a minor or not so important part of the "real business."
9. Clients think IT services are free.
Most of your users do not think in terms of there being a cost for their IT support. They simply believe it's something the company must provide to conduct business. The reality is that IT support is a big expense for a company and this cost must be managed just like other major expenses are managed such as salary, travel, advertising, etc.
10. Clients don't want to prioritize IT support requests.
Your clients want you to complete all their IT support requests immediately; they do not want to prioritize their requests or even be involved in the process. They just want you to take care of their issue, and do it right now.
Having insight and an appreciation for how business people think about IT support can help you support your clients much more effectively. If there is a gap between the business and IT in your company, it is our responsibility to identify the gap and close it.
Try putting yourself in your client's shoes when dealing with problems — it can help you bridge the gap and build partnerships.
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