Customer Service in IT: Strategize, Communicate and Follow Through

  • from ITtoolkit.com

Image of hand ringing a concierge bell depicting the need for customer service in I.T.

Customer service quality is essential to IT management success. In order to realize the many productivity benefits information technology has to offer, related operations and support services must be relevant, realistic and responsive. This won’t happen by chance.  In fact, it takes a decisive "customer service orientation" -- fully institutionalized as part of the strategic management vision. Read on to learn how it's done.

What is Customer Service in IT Management?

We begin with an examination of the key question - what constitutes "customer service" in IT management?

  • It’s an approach to IT management that focuses on end-user productivity and satisfaction.
  • It’s a strategy to build credibility and ensure optimal usage of IT products and services.
  • It’s an operational imperative to deliver IT services and operations that are fully aligned with a strategic vision for IT management.

IT departments are created to maximize the value of installed technology, providing a wide range of services to address multiple needs, including technology planning, product selection, installations, technical support and related services. No matter what the composition of an individual service portfolio may be, service success depends upon acceptance and credibility. And acceptance and credibility comes from quality service with a customer (end-user) orientation. This means that services are provided with the end-user in mind, considering business needs and a balance between organizational objectives and individual capabilities.

Obviously, quality service begins with appropriate technical knowledge and expertise. . In order to provide support services and solve technical problems, IT department personnel must have sufficient knowledge of the systems in place, an understanding of the technical principles involved, and the ability to apply that knowledge to deliver the IT service portfolio. But, as complicated at that may sound, this technical expertise is only part of the customer service equation.

There is also a “soft skills” side to “service oriented” IT management. To optimize IT acceptance and credibility, end-users must be made to feel that they “matter” and that the IT department is a professionally run organization, capable of understanding their interests and meeting their needs. Considering the need to consistently balance business interests, IT best practices and end-user demands (which may sometimes be in conflict), this is not always easy. There are many techniques and tactics that come in to play, but none are more important for customer service than communication and follow through.

5 Keys to Customer Service Communication

Communication provides the means by which the IT/end-user partnership is executed and solidified, leading to the desired results of acceptance and credibility.  Above all, "service oriented" communication must incorporate the following five (5) characteristics:

  • Accuracy. Communication must be accurate (the information shared must be valid, verifiable and useable).
  • Relevance. Communication must be relevant to the need at hand, whether it relates to a support request, problem, project, policy or other business need.
  • Responsiveness. Communication must be responsive, recognizing the value that “listening” brings to any service encounter or relationship.
  • Timeliness. Communication must be timely and consistent, ensuring that there are no gaps that would leave the end-user in a state of uncertainty as to what comes next and where things stand.
  • Professionalism. Communication must always be professional and courteous (whether verbal or written) to reflect properly on the professional capability of the IT organization.

Follow Through Drives Service Credibility

One of the most common factors inhibiting service credibility in IT management is a lack of follow through. To provide “service-oriented” IT, follow through must be institutionalized as a regular part of the IT service encounter. Follow through is realized when the IT department takes the contact initiative to provide status information and seek input. For example, follow through is essential to report the status of service tickets, to seek satisfaction with services provided, to gather more information as may be needed to fulfill service requests, to provide answers to “how-to” questions and to check on the delivery and/or installation of technology products.

To realize customer service success, follow through requirements should be institutionalized in the following manner:

  • Follow through obligations should be negotiated and established as part of the IT strategic vision.
  • Follow through obligations should be made part of IT job descriptions and performance reviews.
  • Follow through obligations should be formalized as part of an established Service Level Agreement.
  • Follow through obligations should be monitored as part of regularly scheduled service reviews, incorporating “lessons learned” recommendations for service improvement planning.
  • Follow through experiences and collective wisdom should be recorded as part of the IT “body of knowledge”.

As an example, follow through guidelines should set requirements for the timing of service request "acknowledgements" (confirming receipt of a request within a specific period of time after submission) and status updates (regularly scheduled depending on the expected length of time before resolution).  Uncertainty opens the door to conflict and confusion.  Information gaps will always be filled - the question is how?  Appropriate follow through ensures that IT staff remain in control of the "service narrative", minimizing negative perceptions and promoting customer service quality.

Source: Unless noted otherwise, all content is created by and for ITtoolkit.com


About Us

Right Track Logo

ITtoolkit.com staff writers have experience working for some of the largest corporations, in various positions including marketing, systems engineering, help desk support, web and application development, and IT management.

ITtoolkit.com is part of Right Track Associates, proprietors and publishers of multiple web sites including ITtoolkit.com, Fast Track Manage, HOA Board List and more. We started ITtoolkit.com in 2001 and have continued to grow our web site portfolio, Toolkit products, and related data services. To learn more, visit us at Right Track Associates.

Stay Informed

Useful information without inbox overload.

we do not sell our list

subscribe now
I.T. Service Planning The Fast Track Project Toolkit Start For Free

The IT Service Strategy Toolkit teaches you how to fast track IT service planning using the time-saving “service strategy process”. The goals are simple... to manage IT departments, services and projects in a common-sense manner, to align business and technology, and realize maximum value, acceptance, and utilization - all at the lowest overhead costs. It’s all about adding value, in less time and with greater success. Get lifetime access to a growing IT service curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.

Committee Management The Project Committee Toolkit Start For Free

The Project Committee Toolkit teaches you how to manage successful committees using the "committee concept" process. Committees are one of the most effective ways to organize, deliberate and make decisions. But too often, committee success is hampered by conflict and bureaucracy. When you follow the committee concept process, you’ll learn to avoid these pitfalls and ensure that your committees are properly formed, managed and staffed. Get lifetime access to a growing committee management curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.

Project Management The Fast Track Project Toolkit Start For Free

The Fast Track Project Toolkit teaches you how to deliver on-time, on-plan projects using "strategic project fast tracking". The fast track approach is a time-saving methodology, designed specifically for "real world" project circumstances - when you are being asked to do more than time and resources may allow. Fast tracking is the way to work around these obstacles and deliver prioritized results. Get lifetime access to a growing project planning curriculum of lessons, videos, reference materials, templates and more. Start for free.