In an earlier column, I discussed the need for IT service and support pros to know they are in a relationship with their client, and that often misunderstandings will arise. From my research, I identified five “love languages” of our clients.
- Quality and Accuracy of Solutions
- Technical knowledge
- Communication throughout the process
Here’s a quick rundown of those five love languages, and how to implement them into your IT service practice.
Q - Quality and Accuracy of Solutions
Measuring this one is tricky, it took us years to get this score calibrated, but it’s worth getting right. Although it’s a trailing metric, meaning that it tends to rise or fall along with the other four IT “love languages”, it’s also a big pitfall for teams who assume they know the business they support a lot more than they do. The key to measuring accuracy is to do it from the employee/customer perspective, not our own.
The key focus on this one is less quality and more accuracy of solutions, and integrating human-centered design into your strategy design. This will teach you and your team how to build strategy with your business partners, not just for them.
S - Speed
This is the most misunderstood IT love language of them all. IT teams love addressing the “need for speed” with an SLA, but that’s just a lazy workaround for not having to develop empathy. SLAs are a good start, but one-size-fits-all solutions don’t fly with today’s workforce. The key here is to measure the perception of speed. Experience is subjective; there’s no getting around it.
Once you find a way to measure perceived speed of your team, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Understanding your end users is the hard part. After that, you can borrow from the consumer industry that has solved perceived speed a long time ago. Think about how handy it is to have a tracking number, to know within minutes when a package will arrive. Now what if employee requests were handled like that, so they always felt in the loop. Pro tip: Speed scores always rise and fall along with the communication score specifically, so if you’re not sure where to start. Skip speed and work on your communication skills.
T - Technical Knowledge
This one makes me laugh every time, bringing back to mind memories of some very heated discussions I’ve had with teams over this love language. Specifically, I remember one team that was full of Linux sysadmins; everyone had multiple certifications and it was clear this team had some serious nerd cred. However, the business they supported completely clobbered them with a super low score in technical knowledge.
Why the disconnect? This team supported mainly sales professionals, yet the IT technicians had never once logged into Salesforce or the other internal tools that the sales team used every day.
The solution is to get rid of tribal knowledge, and foster a culture where knowledge bases and documentation is constantly updated in real time. In my experience, rather than have a team dedicated to updating the knowledge base, it’s better to save the headcount and cultivate a culture where everyone is empowered and incentivized to keep documentation fresh and updated. Finally, have biweekly or monthly brown bag lunch sessions where product owners and folks outside of IT come and teach IT folks something new each time. A big bonus of doing this is you’ll also build relationships across teams that can help in myriad ways down the line.
A - Approachability
This one is a no-brainer. If you are not approachable, you are never going to be successful at providing serious value to the business. You want to make sure you have a much more accurate, reliable way of measuring how approachable the business thinks your team is.
Feedback early and often is essential. Never make assumptions. There is no one way to become more approachable, because every company, culture and team is different. You have to pour into the feedback, read it again and again, and then get some more feedback. The path to a truly approachable team is only known by our end users. Ask often.
C - Communication Throughout The Process
Communication, along with Approachability, are the two leading metrics of the five IT love languages. What that means is that consistently, after hundreds of thousands of surveys, we saw early on that if you can nail communication and approachability, your team’s competency at the other three IT love languages will improve as well.
Unlike the dedicated knowledge base teams, I actually recommend a dedicated comms headcount for IT. Having an experienced internal comms lead at your disposal can transform the experience folks have with IT more than any other hire. That one decision will raise your experience scores higher than any other remedy for this all-important love language.
Call To Action
When you start measuring things that matter to non-IT folks, like the five love languages mentioned above, executives and leaders outside of IT will take notice. The mere fact that you are measuring things like communication and technical knowledge as perceived by the business will communicate to your CEO and other company leaders that IT is on their side.
Ben Brennan is the author of Badass IT Support, Founder and CEO of QSTAC, and inventor of the QSTAC® metric for IT Customer Experience. Ben doesn't just throw around the term "World Class Support", he invented a tool to define, measure and deliver it at some of the country's leading tech firms, including Twitter, Yahoo, Box, Jawbone, and most recently as Senior IT Director for Verizon Media. Ben has earned a reputation for bringing a "mind-blowing" customer centricity to the heart of the IT culture at companies worldwide. Brennan has been named by HDI as a Top 25 Thought Leader and Featured Contributor for 2020.