Why technology departments and professionals must prioritise IT customer service to stay in control of business technology.
The IT department once held virtual autonomy within the business, serving a captive customer base unable to change supplier even if unhappy with the service offered. Now IT departments have become like any other commercial entity: in competition with others who wish to steal the business. Why has this position changed so dramatically? Why are IT teams under threat from other parties? And how they can safeguard their position?
There are three main developments which have caused IT customer service to become so important:
1) The business woke up
IT was once able to use technical language and lack of understanding outside of its own department to maintain autonomy. If no one other than the IT department understood IT, who was able to question its actions, outcomes or expenditure? Although “IT value” is still a relatively new concept, a collective understanding of IT’s role and contribution to the business has increased over the years. This is because technical awareness has steadily grown in the business community, meaning the cloak of secrecy has gradually been peeled back. And as the business has started asking questions, IT has offered at best patchy answers. Suspicions have grown and the game is up: IT is accountable, dragged out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
2) Consumerisation changed perception of technology forever
As it began to dawn on businesses that their IT department may be hiding behind technical jargon to disguise the fact they were underperforming, consumerisation of technology demonstrated how powerful and easy to use IT can be, even for the non-technically minded. Touch screens, mobile apps, powerful software integrated via cloud; all these innovations that customers were enjoying at home showed corporate IT in a different light. This led to intense frustration as these same customers dealt with rigid, ultra-controlling IT environments at work while enjoying unprecedented IT freedom and success elsewhere. Naturally the question was asked: why can’t our IT department deliver this?
3) Alternatives emerged to challenge IT
Arguably, the two developments of growing awareness and consumerisation would not have radically altered the way that IT was delivered to businesses. Yes, customers may have been frustrated and annoyed, but if they had no choice but to return to the IT department, then change may not have been very dramatic. The main reason why IT departments have to prioritise IT customer service is that the business now has a choice.
It began when outsourcing became a viable option for businesses disappointed with either the quality of their own IT services or tempted by the lower costs offered by external service providers. This was appealing on paper, but the reality was very different because services generally got worse. Businesses then had a choice: either pay for a higher-quality, in-house service or enjoy lower costs but with a poor service.
But while the appeal of outsourcing has dwindled leading to many outsourced facilities being brought back in-house, fresh alternative have emerged that have given the business genuine choice. Businesses can now subscribe to cloud services to introduce enterprise-level applications which previously would have passed through the long-winded internal processes. Technology is available off the shelf that makes most corporate-purchased equipment obsolete – a phenomenon that spawned the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend.
Now, BYOD has become Bring Your Own IT. If the IT department won’t source a new CRM system, the marketing department simply finds one online and subscribes to a free trial. Even IT support – once the sacred property of the IT helpdesk – is now optional for customers who have discovered that searching Google, or asking a friend for help, is often more effective plus it doesn’t demand they adhere to protracted logging and trouble-shooting process.
Choice creates competition, and businesses in a competitive environment must be aware that their customers wield great power. Therefore, if IT departments wish to retain their place as the number one choice for provisioning and supporting technology within the business, they must put customers first and improve IT customer service.