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Why It's Time to Lose the Snide IT Attitude Fri 08 Dec 06

I happened to come across an eWeek.com article by Deborah Rothberg entitled "Why It's Time to Lose the Snide IT Attitude".  A couple of things about this really grabbed my attention.

First, by saying it is now time to lose this attitude she seems to be implying that up to now it was acceptable.  I guess I missed that first memo.  But what foolishness to ever think it was ever proper to deal with a snide attitude to customers.  It never has been acceptable and it never will be!  Someone please tell me that isn't what she meant.

I thought perhaps I was reading too much into the above "implication" until I started reading the comments (the second thing that really grabbed my attention).  There are quite a few from people that still believe in that mode of operation.  The whining about how our customers ask "dumb" questions (and even worse, do it repeatedly), do things that are clueless, and show no interest in learning as much about IT things as we know is truly amazing.

We are in a service business.  We're here for the benefit of our customers - not the other way around.  So what if they ask "dumb" questions again and again. Our job is to help them. Instead of asking why won't they learn maybe we should be asking how we can do a better job of educating them.

If our message isn't getting out and being understood maybe the fault isn't with the listener but with how we are sending the message. People have different ways of learning and absorbing things. We have to be prepared to use multiple teaching and communication styles if we are to be effective. In my experience a snide attitude is usually one of the most ineffective styles.

As a service organization we have to remember the goal isn't what makes IT efficient but what makes the user/customer/client more efficient.

Those with this snide attitude frequently talk about the pressure to be efficient, cut costs etc. and bemoan that our customers are often impediments to this.  It might just be our lack of service orientation that could be causing this.  If IT isn't really providing me good service but I need IT in order to run my business than naturally I'll try to minimize the cost.  Why spend any more money than absolutely necessary on something that isn't giving me what I want?

Dan Morrill also commented on this article in his blog post, Dumping the traditional IT attitude.  He sounds a similar theme:

"The concept makes the idea that business just like any other customer will go elsewhere when service is not what they are getting, or the service is not what they need, or even worst, they think they will get no service or lousy service from the internal IT department. Every outsourced contract, every outsourcing decision made by the business units then becomes a failed project for the IT department. It is another lost opportunity to show business value, and an understanding of the business by the IT department."

If we "dis" our customers why should we be surprised if they take their business somewhere else?

Getting beyond the "implication", Deborah's article did have some very good points about why we may need an attitude adjustment:

  1. You don't want your users to hate you
  2. It's bad for business
  3. It makes for compromised end-products
  4. It could be career suicide

If we won't do it because we think it good for our customers maybe these points will convince it is good for us.

Your thoughts?

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» Oh why won't they ever learn? from Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms
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