Why IT Leaders Need To Know How To Go Find Complaints

by drjim on January 28, 2016

Complaints are not what IT managers normally go looking for

Complaints are not what IT managers normally go looking for
Image Credit: Rev. Xanatos Satanicos Bombasticos (ClintJCL)

With a little luck, as an IT manager you believe that your team does good work. After all, your IT manager skills are designed to allow you to get more out of your team and the thinking is that if you get good at doing this, then you’ll be able to deliver more of what your customers are looking for. Now the big question is are you doing this? One of the best ways to find out is to take the time to search out customer complaints and learn what they are trying to tell you.

Why Bother With Complaints?

I believe that one of the problems that IT managers have with dealing with complaints is that complaints about your team are very personal. The customers that you deliver your projects to are telling you that there is something wrong with the work that your team has done. Deep down inside when we hear complaints, we all have a tendency to feel as though we are being attacked.

When we receive a complaint, often times our first reaction is a so-called knee-jerk reaction. Generally this goes something like “oh, they don’t know what they are talking about”. You and your team have been trying to meet the needs of your customers to the best of your ability and now they are complaining about what you have done for them. That does not seem to be fair. What you are going to need to do here is to create a system. The system is what will prevent you from either discarding complaints when they show up or responding in an inappropriate way.

So what kind of system do you need? Your complaint system needs to be set up so that you have a way to both listen to and then respond to the people who have complaints about the work that your team is doing. What you are looking for is a way to triage – evaluate the severity and take action, and then respond to the complaint. In all honesty, one part of your system has to be to come up with a way to find the people who have complaints about the work that your team is doing – they are not always vocal.

How IT Managers Can Respond To Customer Complaints

One of the key things that IT managers need to understand about complaints about our team’s products is that time matters. Any sort of delay can reflect badly on your team and, potentially, badly on your company. What you need is a multi-channel system that you can use to deal with complaints. Here are four steps that can be used to create such a system.

  • Finding Complaints: There are many different places that criticism of your team can come from both internally and externally. There is no doubt that any criticism can be painful for you to deal with; however, it is part of your job to seek it out and create a comprehensive system that will allow you to gather all of the criticism of your team into one place. Take the time to document where each complaint came from.
  • Metrics Matter: You’ll need to create a scale that will allow you to chart the intensity of each complaint. I would suggest that you use four different classifications: positive feedback, mild complaints, medium complaints, and strong complaints
  • Assign Responsibility: Every complaint should have someone assigned to deal with it. Some of the complaints that come to your team may already have a way of being handled. However, you need to pick a team member and assign them a specific complaint channel to respond to. You may end up picking different people to handle different levels of criticism.
  • Create Deadlines: Your customers who are creating the complaints want to get a response from you sooner rather than later. What this means for you is that you are going to have set some deadlines for dealing with complaints. Each channel that you get complaints on may have a different response priority. How well you deal with complaints will show both your current customers and potential future customers how well your team deals with people.

What All Of This Means For You

Sadly, no matter how hard your team works there will always be customers out there who complain about your team’s products and their performance. As an IT manager this is something that you are going to have to learn to deal with. What you are going to need is a system to handle team complaints.

Your system is going to have to start by collecting all complaints no matter what channel they arrive on. Every complaint is not the same, your system is going to have assign a severity metric to each complaint so that you know how best to deal with it. Members of your team are going to have to deal with complaints and this means that you have to assign people to handle individual complaints. Finally, complaints have to be dealt with sooner rather than later. This means that you are going to have to assign deadlines for handling each complaint.

Complaints are a fact of life. Even if you were managing the best IT team in the world, some of your customers would still find something to complain about. As an IT manager you need to realize that every complaint has to be dealt with and as quickly as possible. Your team is there to help you do this. Create a system and execute the system and you’ll be able to stay on top of every complaint that gets thrown at your team.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: What steps can you take in order to reduce the number of complaints about your team?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Let’s face it – you’re stuck with the IT team that you have. Oh sure, over time people will leave and new ones will join, but you have basically been given a team and the company expects you to make the most of them. Using your IT manager skills you need to find ways to get the most out of your team. This all comes down to motivation: convincing your team to pull together in order to accomplish great things. We can spend a lot of time thinking about how to better motivate our team, but there is something else that we need to think about: how to not kill the motivation that they already have!

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