IT Support: IT Failure Impacts Business People and Business Performance. Comprendez?

Warning: my soapbox is well and truly out …

When will our IT Support people learn (or be taught)? Listening to a family member talk about the issues they’re having with their corporate laptop and how IT Support has responded has made me both angry and embarrassed to be associated with the IT Support community.

Sorry for the potentially gross generalization, I do know that there are a great number of excellent IT Support people out there who bend over backwards to help their internal customers; with “customers” the key word here. However, like many other internal functions, IT Support can forget that they are dealing with internal customers or the internal consumers of IT services (OK, they can only forget if they knew it in the first place). They forget that it is not about the IT, that it has to be about the people and the business.

So what happened?

It started with a virus (where was the corporate antivirus when it was needed?). The IT Support first contact response was “Bring it into the office tomorrow. You will be in breach of contract if you don’t.” Say what? Is that how we treat our “customers”?

Anyway, two days later the laptop is handed back with an older version of IE and no shortcuts to anything other than Office. “There was no time to do more” the IT Support response. The “customer” response: “I'm giving up on my work laptop and using my own” and I&O continues to encourage its own downfall.

OK this might be an extreme example but I think it emphasizes the point; that despite our investment in ITIL and our talk of service-centric and customer-centric IT, we are only as strong as our weakest link. It doesn’t help either when the “weakest link” is where the internal customer can see and feel it most: IT Support.

So what?

The I&O organization as a whole can’t afford to just sit there and ignore such a big issue. Having great ITSM processes and the latest and greatest enabling ITSM technology is somewhat pointless if our people fail to deliver on our IT service delivery promises. Something has to give, or the business will vote with its feet and its checkbook.

The I&O organization needs to revisit or review the people-side of IT service delivery in the context of the changing IT and business landscape.

Internal customers or consumers expect so much more by way of corporate technology and IT services BUT they also expect way more by way of overall quality of service and user experience (please don’t start an IT customer vs. consumer debate in the comments section … after all we don’t send out “consumer satisfaction questionnaires”).

So the desired level of customer-focus has to permeate the IT organization as a whole, so that we succeed together, otherwise we fail. That is failing the business and us.


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Move over on that soapbox and

Move over on that soapbox and make room for me too please, Mr Mann.

Great blog and I totally agree with everything you have said. I only hope that it gets read by those who need to read it and that they actually take it seriously, take note AND TAKE ACTION as a response.

It is appalling that these unprofessional attitudes and behaviours are still rife in too many parts of IT.


Well put

Absolutely. *nodding vigorously*

Even before the days of ITSM, I've seen "tickets closed" unceremoniously just to game the built-in metrics. The attitudes have been there for too long a time. The difference now is that the customers are no longer locked-in and so can "definitely vote with their feet".

No amount of restrictive policies will save IT if they don't shake out of their stupor.

Not All End Users Are "Customers"

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for the article. While I appreciate and understand your point, I'd like to point out a few things...

FIrst, I'd like to remind readers that not all "End Users" are "Customers." A Customer pays for his or her Products and Services. An End User, on the other hand, may or may not be a paying Customer.

Second, most enterprises do not have the funds to invest in utopian Customer Support and have to offset by investing what limited funds they might have available in other areas of their enterprises that focus more on activities that promote revenue generation, like Product Development, Marketing and/or Sales. Such activities are, almost always thought of as being far more important than Support because if there's no revenue, there's no need for Customer Support. As a result, many Customer Support organizations are overworked and can't handle everything that comes their way.

While striving for utopian Customer Support is something everyone would wish for, in theory, reality tells us that not all enterprises are equal in their ability to fund and staff levels of support that every Customer wishes they had. This is not even to mention that you can't please everyone, even if you did have all the money you wanted to spend.

My point is that it's not always "IT's fault." Sometimes, the business doesn't fund IT properly (for many reasons) and suffers for not being able to do so, regardless of the drivers.

Anyhow, I hope this adds value.

My Best,

Frank Guerino
The International Foundation for Information Technology (IF4IT)

Frank - if we put aside the

Frank - if we put aside the dreaded ITIL definitions of the people to whom we provide service and support, then they are all customers, which is what they used to be called in ITIL world until we got too clever for our own good! The term 'user' was absolutely FROWNED upon.

I've never yet produced something called a user satisfaction survey (nor do I want to), and we talk about customer satisfaction levels not user satisfaction levels. Everyone who uses our services and products whether internal or external is a customer as far as I am concerned. When I first started in IT (a while back now) it was made very clear to me that the term user referred to people who stick needles full of illegal substances into their ams and was not how we should refer to our internal customers.


End Users vs. Paying Customers

Hi Jo,

I have to be honest and say that while your experiences show that the term "user was absolutely FROWNED" upon, I've found the complete opposite, throughout my entire career. I've worked for many enterprises that range in size from small to very large and delivered solutions to markets where End Users and/or Customers numbered in the tens of thousands. I also currently have multiple clients that fit the same profiles. In "most" of them, paying Customers have been and are treated very differently than End Users.

Paying Customers aren't always End Users. May times they pay for solutions that get used by many other people (End Users).

And, End Users aren't always the paying Customer, as is the case when you build or deploy solutions within an enterprise for internal consumption.

It's important to understand the distinction because, in a mature organization, we have different expectations from and accountability to both. If we don't know the differences between the two, then we're not tracking their expectations and our accountability for each set of expectations in a clear and responsible manner. It's only when we know the difference between both that we can get to things like good Service Level Agreements or Service Contracts.

Also, it's only when we clearly understand the difference between the two that we start to understand why the Customer might be very happy when the End User might not... because the Customer who "pays" isn't always willing to pay for everything the End User "uses" or wants.

And, by the way, the people paying almost always expect better service for themselves than they expect for the End User community they may be purchasing the solutions for, and they absolutely expect you to know it when they call your support staff. They don't call it "V.I.P." treatment for nothing...

My Best,

Frank Guerino
The International Foundation for Information Technology (IF4IT)

Customer vs. Consumer

I agree with most of what Frank has to say. The distinction between "customer" and "consumer" is significant. Yes, we must do everything in our power to meet and exceed the expectations of BOTH groups. However, if we have to choose due to resources constraints and other issues, I have a responsibility to defer to the needs of my paying customer, even if it means not meeting the needs of the consumer of my services.

Facebook is a good example of this. They certainly try to provide a great consumer experience; but at the end of the day, they must provide the best possible product to their paying customers. So they tick off consumers from time to time in order to meet and exceed the expectations of the paying customer.

Stephen's example of the IT police state is an exaggeration of what can happen when IT forgets about the needs of either group. We (IT) used to do that all the time. I hope this is an extreme minority nowadays. Even Facebook knows that if they anger enough consumers, they won't have sufficient product to sell to the paying customers. If IT doesn't clearly provide the best possible consumer experience on a consistent basis, the people paying the bill will stop.

I would amend Frank's statement to where I still believe it IS always, or least almost always, IT's fault. Insufficient funding for IT means that we are not sufficiently defining our value. It could also mean that we're using resources in ways that don't provide enough value to justify the investment.

Now, I want to provide better "consumer" service than Facebook. At the same time, if they are so bad, why aren't people leaving them in droves? Why hasn't G+ taken off? Because the value consumers perceive they are getting from Facebook outweighs the "costs". We in IT would do well to keep that in mind. Yes, most of the consumers of our services do not pay for it, and we do need to occasionally do the bidding of the paying customer at the expense of the consumer. However, we must still provide them enough perceived value so that it far outweighs any pain felt due to the occasional consumer-customer trade-off.

Dan Kane
HazyITSM Blog

End users are customers if ...

... You have a customer centric mentality. As I state in the blog, we don't send out consumer satisfaction questionnaires. I know this debate has run and run in other forums but I personally want to call them internal customers. When I had a proper IT job they were my customers and my team treated them as such.

10 years running my own IT

10 years running my own IT business has taught me one very important lesson. Customers can 'buy' you! In other words you might be the best IT geek for miles around but unless you have the right social skills and are approachable you won't win custom.

I've been in the business long enough to have made a lot of mistakes (thankfully none of them cost me too much financially) But the one thing I am always sure about is how the customer feels about me and the service I have given.

There's no room for complacency on this subject when you're running your own business. Every customer counts!