Monday 15 December 2003

When the customer needs you, you need help

The Visit
A regional director was pulled over the coals for the sluggish performance of his region. No manager wants to have to give excuses for not performing because of intransigent IT problems that recur and never seem to be solved.
In the technical Ivory Tower, ever customer problem is easily discounted with the simple credo... "The customer is always right, only when you are selling tomatoes".
This has served me well when on average many customers do not know if they have a problem, are probably confused, need education or are just a vexatious nuisance.
However, customers do have genuine problems, the context of which gets lost in the processing from the helpdesk - read "Helldesk", through second line support to any other level of tertiary support.
Poorly documented problems
If a problem is not properly logged capturing the necessary and essential detail and scenario, it gets stuck in a quagmire of clarifications of intention, detail, context and validity. By which time, there is an escalation and you have a priority without a purpose. Suddenly, it is at the highest priority and the clogged up communication channels open like floodgates. You get all the information you need because the intervention of some bigwig has put aside the absurd organisational practice that stops the techies speaking to the customer.
A resolution then materialises because the thinking man's thinking man has been able to think with the thinking but frustrated customer to find out what the problem is and sort it out. The resolution then has pride of place in the... wait for it... PowerPoint of the week.
Crisis Averted!
However, the solution really lies in employing properly educated and knowledgeable helpdesk personnel whose skills can overlap into second-line support. Logging intelligent calls that need little further clarification between teams would go a long way to providing resolutions without using the classic "Problem solving by escalation" - in a perfect world it should be "Problem solving by understanding, analysis and final resolution"
Furthermore, you wonder about the names that certain companies give their products that it becomes virtually impossible to search for decent support because of ambiguity.

Microsoft WINS
Windows Internet Naming Service
A method for identifying computers on a local network. Ask the techies, there is nothing winning about WINS apart from winning the battle that creates some of the biggest headaches.
AmDocs Clarify
This is possibly the most common CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool for managing customer related events and procedures. You cannot search the internet for Clarify and get anything that relates to this tool.
There are a number of modules within this tool as ClearSupport, ClearHelpdesk, and ClearQuality; however, one's view is we are missing the mostly important module in a customer support tool - ClearThought.
This is another CRM tool with its accompanying application called ASAP. One aims to get rid of such silly application acronyms ASAP.
Wise Solutions' Wise
A utility used to repackage an application for automated installation on computers. The wisdom in choosing this name escapes one. Other products that are probably as wise at doing the same job better.
Microsoft Windows
From the 13th Century until the beginning of the 20th Century, windows had only 6 meanings. With the explosion of knowledge in the last century, we had a few more meanings until 1990 when a growing company called Microsoft launched Microsoft Windows 3.0 - the rest is history.

So today, we challenged one absurd organisational practice and visited the customer to find out that they had real problems that require immediate solutions. The Regional Director must be relieved he would get Christmas pay for the problems have nothing to do with his management skills.
The visit came about because the Regional Director lodged a formal complaint with the CEO and we are now working on a resolution.
One needs a holiday.

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