Who needs a hug? Too many small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) operate without the comfort of knowing there is someone nearby, who will look after their technology needs. In a series of posts, I will describe how companies can move away from the pain of managing their own internal IT services towards a more satisfying and stress-free experience by outlining the benefits of “managed services.” Wikipedia defines managed services as “the practice of out-sourcing day-to-day IT management responsibilities as a strategic method for improving operations”.
To begin, I want to highlight a mismatch that often exists between what computer manufacturers promise – that their technology is ‘easy to understand’, versus the reality – that it is often confusing. The overall experience may be improving but customers still throw their hands up in the air in frustration when their technology lets them down. How often have you been let down by technology?
Part One: Kingdom of Pain
“The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.” – Aristotle
I enjoy analogies and a good one is to view technology problems in an office as an invisible monster. While the monster is invisible, you can feel its presence because you know it will strike sooner or later. With each new computer problem, the monster gets bigger creating major headaches for everyone at the office when it attacks. Most people take the monster (akin to their technology) for granted when it is quiet. But when the office comes to a standstill because a single technical issue leads to more problems, people get frustrated and angry.
What effect does such a monster have on productivity, morale and stress at the office for one person? Multiply this by the number of people in any given department and then the entire company. I have witnessed people unable to work because they cannot access the network from their computers. In most cases, people create “workaround” solutions that “kind of work” as long as they follow the same steps each time and nothing else bad happens. Sooner or later, another problem happens causing a “workaround” solution to fail, which often ripples across the company. Is this practical or realistic for a business that has multiple deadlines daily? Imagine the productivity and revenue lost when employees are unable to do what they are hired to do. As stress levels rise because employees must spend their time away from their core responsibilities, projects are delayed and deadlines are not met, which in turn ends up frustrating customers.
Returning to our analogy, reactive businesses must respond to a monster after an attack and the damage has started. An employee that is regularly unhappy leads to unhappy customers. The solution many small and medium sized businesses use is to appoint the “most computer literate” person (with a different job title) in the office to address computer problems. While this person may have good intentions, they are often no match for a full-blown attack from a monster that threatens a few computers or the entire system. They become overwhelmed because they do not have the time or expertise to address issues. Ultimately, they become frustrated because they cannot manage employee expectations or meet their own deadlines. In battling the monster, they have sacrificed their morning, afternoon or both, not to mention revenue they may have been able to generate doing their own jobs instead of trying to fix an IT problem.
A 2011 survey by American Express Small Business Monitor of Canadian small and medium sized business owners reports that:
“Three-in-five would be in a much better position if they could focus on what they’re good at – but most just can’t let go” Furthermore, business owners spend 48% of their valuable time on technical support.
A 2012 survey by American Express Small Business Monitor reports that “96% of Canada’s small business owners say client retention is a top priority for their company… 98% said exceeding expectations is the best way to ensure repeat business.”
Most professionals universally agree that the best way to maximize customer experience is to keep all communication channels open and be available. Customers demand quick response time in the age of connectivity. As offices increasingly connect people anywhere, anytime with laptops, smartphone and tablets, the technical challenges and monsters will continue and likely become even more complicated.
Isn’t it time that every employee has a dedicated IT person to call when he or she has a computer problem? Shouldn’t employees focus on doing what they were hired to do and deliver results? Great employees that do what they love in a workplace that takes care of their needs often exceed customer expectations. Having a dedicated person and team, familiar with employee needs and systems, effectively tames the monster before it causes chaos.
Down-time, loss of business continuity and security breaches are close cousins of the technology monster. In my next post, I will discuss how managed services keep these at bay.
Photo Sources here and here