On Customer Service and IT

“Difficult” interactions between IT users and IT professionals are not unique to schools. The difficulties can arise from users’ frustrations that IT is interfering with their abilities to do their work, the perceptions that their priorities are not receiving proper attention, and other factors. In many cases, the IT professionals contribute to the difficulties by failing to understand the symptoms described by the users, the tendency to project their level of familiarity on to users (things we find easy, they find difficult and that is your problem, not theirs), and the tendency of many IT professionals to blame the users. The most customer service-oriented IT professional will display:  

  • Empathy without being patronizing—User who report IT problems want the sense the technicians understands the problem and it taking is seriously, but over scripted statements like “I’m sorry that happened” that appear insincere interfere with the perceptions that the technician is displaying good customer service.   
  • The ability to not take criticism personally—All IT professionals are going to encounter users who are frustrated at malfunctioning technology and who are unable to manage that frustration, so they will direct unwarranted criticisms towards the IT professionals who is present to resolve the issue. The best IT professionals realize the situation and will overlook unwarranted personal criticism. Of course, workplace bullies are not uncommon, and the best school and IT leaders will recognize those individuals and address them before drastic human resource interventions are necessary. 
  • Clear and professional communication—IT professionals who display good customer service skills are active listeners; they will asked questions to seek clarification and use comments and cues to have users who are reporting problems to give them sufficient details that they accurately understand the symptoms. Many also find this active listening increases the users’ sense of empathy from the technicians. IT professionals who display good customer service skills can also explain what the problem is and how they intend to fix it along with a timeline in clear and appropriate language. Most IT users do not care to hear all of the details of the problem and the solutions, especially if the details are filled with jargon, but they do appreciate knowing what they can expect.