If you are in a support role at your job, one of your main responsibilities is interacting with customers. In the Information Technology world, your customers tend to be internal customers or your coworkers. This may make the job easier or more difficult, depending on your perspective. It’s important that you approach your role as effectively as possible. Hopefully the following tips will yield positive results for you as well as your internal customer.
If there is one thing that I have learned over the years it’s that listeningis probably the most important trait of a successful IT support analyst. If an end customer is looking for a solution to their problem, then chances are that person should be able to articulate what their current process entails. This isn’t always true but, more often than not, it is. By simply listening to your customer and understanding what their issues are, you are halfway to coming up with a solution that will satisfy that person.
2. Develop a rapport.
OK, I’m not going to get all touchy-feely with you now but it only makes sense to try to get to know the person you are trying to help out. In the IT world there is a misconception that we are all geeks and we can’t relate to other people on a social level. I’m here to say that most IT workers do have personalities. OK, you might say that I’m just defending my fellow brethren but it’s true. Granted, you do come across some true technical geeks who look and talk like they should be in “Revenge of the Nerds”. But, on the whole, IT support folk are regular people who just happen to enjoy the computer world. As far as developing a rapport is concerned, make it a point to get to know your end customer. Chances are you may already know this person since you are a coworker. But if you don’t, ask them about their job. Ask them about their home life. Chit chat has a way of opening people up. As a result, they may give you more information than you would’ve have gotten otherwise to help you come up with a viable solution to their problem. Maybe it’s really their boss who is harping on them to resolve this issue. They could be completely happy with the current manual process. As a result, it may behoove you to go directly to their boss to get some more details to help you understand the issue. Just make sure you tell them you are going to speak with their boss to get more details or it might look like you’re going over their heads.
3. Develop complete specifications.
After you have listenedto your end customer, the ball is now in your court. Since I do a lot of report development, I think it is very important to develop a document that specifies what the end user will be receiving when my work is done. If this is an interactive report that the end user will be running from a reporting application or possibly a portal, then I will list all of the parameters that the user will be allowed to enter. This will allow the end user to filter the data or slice it in any way that they so desire. I will also list any grouping of the data that will be allowed. The most important aspect of the specification document for a reporting application is to show the end user exactly what the report will look like. I tend to use Excel for this purpose as it allows you to set out the fields in columns and you can also add some formatting if needed.
4. Follow up and avoid scope creep.
After you have now done your part by developing a specification document, you will want to follow up with your end customer. If there is one thing that is a truism in life it’s that what you thought you heard from an end customer wasn’t always what that person meant to say. That is why it is very important to follow up and show your customer the specification document. Make sure they understand what you are about to develop. And if there is another truism it’s that the end customer will always try to expand the scope of the project, after the fact. In an effort to avoid this truism, make sure you get the end customer to sign off on the development effort. Then, any additional work related to this project will have to be developed as a separate project.
5. Give them a bonus.
If there is one bit of advice that I would give to a newbie IT support analyst, it would be to try to give them more than what they asked for. After your initial meeting with the end customer you should now have a good idea of what they need to improve their current process. After thinking about the best solution, you should try to add a little something to the end product that will end up being a bonus to your customer. It may be as simple as adding some more fields to a report that will make their life a bit easier. And since you probably understand the company database a lot better than your customer does, then gathering more information may be very simple for you but will really help the customer. Just make sure you talk to them about this bonus just to ensure that they really want it. In addition to giving a bonus to your end customer it will also make you look like a hero.
Working in a support role requires some effort. Dealing with end customers can oftentimes be a challenge. But, if you heed some of these tips, maybe your next development effort will not only satisfy your end customer, minimize potential issues, and will also make yourself look good at the same time.
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