From time to time, I come across people complaining about their IT providers. Without fail, they use phrases such as “an unhelpful bunch of people”, “they don’t know what they are doing”, “they are wasting my time and costing me a fortune” amongst many others. Similarly, my peers in the IT service provider industry sometimes complain about their clients in a comparable manner.
Because I’ve been in this business for so long, I can fully understand both sides and see how I play both roles as a client and a provider. I am a client to my accountant, suppliers and any other business who sells a product or service to iQuest. I am also a provider as iQuest sell products and services to our clients.
Many people regard IT support services as a transaction. And whilst that’s exactly what they are, I genuinely believe successful business whether between a client and IT provider or something else, transcends beyond just being transactional. It’s also relational, focused on building a long-term relationship where both companies benefit from the business. With that in mind, here are a handful of areas that create the mutual benefits and help businesses build better relationships with their IT provider.
1. Mutual Respect
At the top of my list is mutual respect. Unfortunately, we live in a society where mutual respect isn’t as popular as it should be. Simple greetings such as “good morning”, “please” and “thank you” go a long way. Furthermore, extending common courtesy and respect will significantly help build a better relationship between a client and IT provider.
Back when I used to work in the IT helpdesk, I had a particularly abusive end-user call up and take out all of their frustrations on me. Still, to this very day, I clearly remember this user going on a terror torrent, saying thing such as “what the heck you have done to my computer?! It is your fault that I can’t get my report out,” and they went on and on. Because I didn’t deserve that type of disrespect, I asked the caller “why are you doing this? I am here to help and don’t deserve to be treated like this” and the caller slammed the phone call on me. What’s even more disappointing about that interaction is that it still happens today, countless times even!
At iQuest, we not only treat all of our clients with the utmost respect but whenever my colleagues encounter similar incidents, I will call the owner of the company and demand an apology. Once and only once mutual respect has been established, are we able to work together effectively.
2. Remember Nobody Likes Downtime
Sometimes when emotions push logic out of the window, businesses forget that IT providers are engaged to keep a business operational. IT providers are not here to and we never intend to bring a business down. Whilst it might seem like no one cares about your disruptions nearly as much as your business does, rest assured! Any IT disruption to your business (regardless of who is at fault) makes us service providers feel as stressed and emotional as it does to you, if not even more! I can distinctively remember waiting outside a client’s office at 5am after an overnight maintenance work failed to start their IT system.
3. Treat Us as Part of Your Organisation
At iQuest, I want to create win-win situations whereby both parties not only want to work together but also enjoy it. My business philosophy is “how can I add value to our clients if I don’t understand their businesses?”. One of the key ways to address this is by ensuring our clients treat iQuest as a part of their organisation from the get-go. This involves our clients not only helping us to fully understand their business but also ensuring that they reach out and trust us for all of their IT needs.
4. Be Patient
IT issues are complex in nature. Their intricacy is the exact reason why businesses need consultants and specialists to solve their problems. Within the IT network, there are so many applications/apps and each of them have millions of coding hanging off the operating system (whether Windows 10, iOS or Android). One bug in the coding will cause other apps to fail within the system.
As the IT provider, our task is to first identify the problem before using our experiences and access to a large pool of resources to find the right fix for the issue/s. This is something we dedicate all of our attention to and it’s not something that we can rush through. Like a doctor, the wrong diagnostic and prescription of medication will have significant consequences. It is the same here except we are not talking about life and death situation. The point is clients need to be patient because in most situations, finding the right solution takes time. Furthermore, resolving the problem might involve a few different “tries”. After all, your IT provider didn’t develop these networks, programs and applications.
5. Focus on Good Communication
IT personnel are made up of many personalities. Some workers are introverted, less confident while others are extrovert and in some cases quite ego driven. Despite the different characteristics, many of these workers have poor communication skills to some degree.
Regardless of personality type, workers fear giving clients’ the bad news. Furthermore, nobody likes to deal with the uncertainty of those corresponding consequences and outcomes. If you are an introverted person, this process is even more difficult. The reserved types in IT personnel always try their best (trust me, they really do!) to thoroughly explain the situation technically. The results of this combination of jargon and fear are sentences which are way too complex and confusing. That is how the phrase, “my IT provider doesn’t speak human language,” came about!
On the other hand, IT personnel who are ego driven will tend to put the blame on the clients. Because they perceive themselves as very smart and capable, they often regard clients as clueless about IT hence not worthy of a time-consuming explanation. I’m certain most businesses have come across an IT consultant who has quickly dismissed you with “don’t worry, I’ve fixed it” when you’ve asked about the problem. Another poor communication trademark of this ego-driven IT personnel is they’ll usually fail to inform their clients about the resolution of their problem and let the clients find out for themselves.
In iQuest, I encourage my introverted colleagues to speak confidently, use short clear sentences and focus less on throwing out technical jargon. As for my alpha male colleagues, I push them to be more empathetic and less judgemental in their tone, patient in their communications and explanations to the clients. Because communication is a two-way street, I also emphasise our clients ask questions especially when they are confused, be polite with their communication and patient with our team.
6. Own Up
I’m saying this in a good way – people need to own up for their messes!
Clients need to own up when they make a mistake so that their IT service provider can best assist them.
From my own experience at iQuest and the helpdesk, I assure you more often than not when clients experience a problem such as their computer or program not working, they’ll try to deny or minimise their involvement in the issue. When asked what they’ve done with the computer or program, a majority of clients and end-users will respond with “nothing”. This dishonest and unhelpful response makes the troubleshooting process so much more difficult and longer as we need to go through a whole checklist.
When a client tells the truth about they’ve done, we have a good starting point for solving their problem. Rather than looking for a needle in a haystack, we can pinpoint the problem’s source and this allows us to resolve the issue far more quickly and consequently deliver a better experience.
Similarly, IT providers need to own up when they’ve dropped the ball. I’ll be the first to admit that at iQuest there have been days where our services have been average, our engineers have made mistakes and we’ve caused projects to be delayed. Rather than shifting the blame, it’s so much easier, effective and moral for iQuest to do what we do which is take responsibility for our mistakes.
7. Be Forgiving
Following on from the previous point, whilst owning up is very important, it’s also crucial that both clients and IT service providers are forgiving when the situation requires that. (I won’t lie there are times whereby IT providers do mess up and deserve a good rebuke first!) People, clients and IT providers, are capable of making mistakes and if that does happen, everyone deserves a second chance.
Of course, there are many other factors and aspects which can help a business build better relationships with their IT provider. These 7 points are just a great starting point!