Friday, August 15, 2008

It's All About the Customer

By Elaine Lauritzen

What do our customers say about us? What do we think they are saying about us? What is the value of OIT to the business? How is that measured? I have an experience I remember every time I think about these questions.

My journey into IT was indirect. I first started working for the Financial Controller of an Aerospace manufacturing company in Park City many years ago. The company was in the process of bringing a new plant online in Utah. I was the third non-management employee hired and I was assigned to process job applications as they came in and to handle any other HR or Payroll paperwork that needed to be done. Up to that point in my life, I had some limited exposure to an early model PC we had at home – yes the screen was only one color and there were two floppy drives and no hard drive—but we’re not going to talk about how old I am, now are we?!

Part of my job required that I do some data entry work to input data from the timecards of the shop employees. When I sat down to learn how to do this, I was facing an old IBM terminal. You know, the kind with the really clacky keyboard and the monster monitor. I remember the first time I tried to get into the timecard entry program by myself. As I looked at that giganto monitor and waited for the screen to turn from black to flickering green, I felt as if I were staring into a huge, unknown black-hole. I had no idea how the technology worked and I was terrified that somehow I would mess up and push the wrong button which would then result in the entire main-frame melting down! I had no idea that sort of thing could not happen.

Once I got logged into the program and entered my data, I would always anxiously wait for the screen to come back and confirm the data was accepted. Every time it came back with an error that forced me to start over, I grumbled and moaned about the stupid ‘system’ and I nearly always included disparaging thoughts about the IT department in my complaining. Little did I know that one day, I would be one of “THEM!”

I guess my point is that within OIT, we need to always be aware of our customers and their experience. We need to be especially cognizant of the fact that many of our customers feel like I did that first day—at the very least, frustrated and at the worst, terrified of technology. Sometimes, we who are so comfortable with technology that a blue-screen-of-death is simply an opportunity to re-image and try out the latest, greatest OS, forget that not everybody is as comfortable with technology as we are. Sometimes we think that the sophistication or ‘coolness’ of the technology we deliver is all that is needed for our customers to be totally satisfied with us.

When the Savior said, “Come follow me,” he could do that because he first walked where we walk. He gave us the ultimate example of customer service. His love and compassion for the least among us should be the model for us to use as we work to meet our customers’ needs.

The process work that we are doing is important work and we need to make sure that we are always keeping our customer foremost in our minds as we mature our processes. It isn’t good enough for us to simply say we are thinking about them, we really need to be engaged with them and working to understand their point of view in everything we do. If we create our processes properly, this focus will be built in and we will ensure that customer needs are being met.

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