An IT manager must be a teacher

Let me share a personal story that goes far back into the dark  ages of time, , , the mid-1980’s.

I was with a company and we reorganized the company to place more focus on our clients. In this reorganization I was assigned the IT support manager position to support 25 hospital clients using software applications our company developed.

I inherited 25 or so IT employees, , , mostly programmers with a few Business Analysts, Help Desk and Infrastructure people. Most of my new staff had 3-5 years experience in supporting these clients. It was a young group but very smart and high energy, , , one of the best IT organizations I’ve worked with.

They knew the software application inside out, , , knew a lot about client service, , , and were very conscientious about doing a good job for our clients.

Experienced, smart, and conscientious, , , seems like we would have been very successful without the new manager (me) having to do very much.


What the team was missing was processes and insight about what it actually takes to take care of your client. I would learn the hard way over the first few months that I would need to teach them some of the basics in:

  • Troubleshooting problems
  • Follow-up
  • Communication, , , especially listening
  • “The client is always right”

Let’s take just the first one, , , troubleshooting.
We had a very large client who had apparently always had problems, , , people from this large hospital were difficult to deal with, demanding, and could even be rude.

If you step back for just a moment and think about these things, there is usually a reason why people act this way. In this case, it stemmed from a recurring problem the client had every month end. It was a real problem for them and my staff either discounted the issue or did not fully understand the problem, , , so the same issue came up every month.

After getting hit with this issue myself, I decide to take a small group to the client to observe what was taking place. To resolve a problem, you have to know what the specific issues are, so that’s what we set out to do, , , troubleshoot the problem.

The issues were immediately apparent because we were there and “heard” what the client was saying, , , we experienced it with the client so we understood what was actually taking place.

Here is where it gets important:

  • We quantified the specific issues
  • Got the client’s agreement these were the issues
  • Recommended a solution
  • Gained client agreement again to support our recommendation
  • Implemented the solution

This solved our client’s issues, , , and guess what!

They became less demanding and more pleasant to work with. Interesting how this works.

The point
Even though my team had tremendous knowledge and experience and they were very intelligent people, , , they were not troubleshooting the issues with this client very well. They could not quantify the issues for me when I asked about the problems the first time I received a phone call from our “unhappy client”.

It was a great teaching opportunity that helped the team develop into a more capable organization.

Inspect and be sure your people know how to troubleshoot a client issue.

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