Tales of an IT Professional – Customer contact is king

IT Support  Customer ContactI'm writing this blog while sitting in a cafe in London. It's 07:30 and I have recently arrived from Birmingham after departing on the 06:00 train and I have a short while until my client's office opens. I'm not telling you this because I'm looking for sympathy after an early start, but to demonstrate than when I talk about Managed Service Providers (MSP's) offering an 'eat as much as you like' service for our clients, I mean it.

Today's visit is to carry out some setup work on new printers while undertaking a site survey for some network cable installations and its part of the service we offer to all clients. Personally, I think it's important to visit clients and although 80% are within the West Midlands, a growing number are in London and the South East, so trips like today are an increasing part of my work.

A Day in the Life

It's a far cry from yesterday when I attended an IT seminar. There were lots of IT people looking wistfully at the latest Dashboard Control Panel from a well-known provider which shows clients IT infrastructure at a glance while allowing the opportunity to update any number of Server's at the click of a single button. Additionally it was demonstrated how to use this tool to warn of IT issues and so the seminar highlighted the many ways you could setup alerts and automatic tickets which technicians can respond to quickly.

However, I sat there thinking "how wonderful, but Abussi already has a fool proof system which created tickets when problems occurred"; It's called 'clients calling / emailing in and telling us'. Now, before anyone from an IT background shouts at the screen "by then it’s too late you fool" I am not talking about all the standard stuff we monitor and manage like servers, security updates and backup. They are covered and we check them daily. What I mean are the day-2-day activities where users experience a problem and need support. You can't often 'ticket' this kind of stuff, yet the person with the problem sees it as the most important thing in their world for that 15-30min timescale.

Ticket to Hide

If you turn their problem into a ticket, reply to it by email and say "we are looking at it", then update them later to say "we are elevating this to Level 2 support" then email them again with things they need to try / replace / wiggle then all you do is create a barrier between you and the customer. These barriers are a hindrance not a help. In large organisations they are necessary due to the volume of people being supported, but for Abussi (and many at the event yesterday) we support businesses with 5-25 users so not huge numbers and each client might only make 1 or 2 calls per day. What you should do in these situations is pick up the phone and talk to the client in order to offer reassurance, resolve the matter quickly and get them working again as soon as possible. After all, as a Managed Service Provider (MSP) your role is to make sure the client has the most 'uptime' as possible.

Pick up the Phone

So, ask yourself this; Does your IT provider hide behind tickets ? When was the last time you saw them for anything other than a PC failure or hardware fault ? Have they come to just 'chat' to you, ask about your business and find out about the future ? If you think that IT Support is just about fixing PC's when they fail then you might be missing a trick, and maybe my last Blog can convince you that IT Support providers can be so much more than guys with screwdrivers.

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