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As IT people, the world runs on our skill set. Email, printers, workstations, and servers would plunge into darkness never to be seen or heard from again if it wasn't for us. So why, then, are we usually the most unappreciated members of the company?

If the toilet cleaners put an extra biscuit in the bottom of the urinal, it might make the company news letter, but if we increase uptime from 75% to 99.99997% people in the clients and colleagues just think that's the way it ought to be.

So, who else is tired of being unappreciated?

Enter the science of user-ology.

User-ology is a term we have coined to describe the art and science of understanding users on four dynamics: Needs, Wants, Expectations, and Emotions. Once you understand your users on these four levels, you will be able to develop a service mission that will train your clients and colleagues to love you unconditionally.


These are usually pretty easy to spot. The company CEO needs a Blackberry to stay in touch with all the clients and administrators. The sales guy needs Excel to run his projections. The secretary needs a phone system that will show her who is busy, and who is in the office  like an air traffic controller sees planes in the sky.

Needs are easy to spot.


Wants are harder to see. They are not overt, and you have to ask for them. The CEO needs a Blackberry, but in reality, he wants freedom from his desk to play golf during the week without being out of touch.

The sales guy needs excel to run projections, but in reality, he wants to be out there making the sale not doing "busy work"

The secretary just wants one day where the phones aren't ringing off the hook constantly.

Wants are different from needs, and they are harder to spot.


Expectations are usually where we all fall short. Some expectations we can control, and others we cannot.

For instance, we can control what our customers and colleagues think of us. Even though WE understand that computers are computers, and sometimes they fail, the customers do not.

How many times have you showed up to fix a laptop and the customer asked: "Why did this happen?" You don't know. You don't care. You just know how to fix it. Plus, you weren't there when it happened, and there is nothing it the logs to show why it happened. So you answer truthfully: "I don't know, it just does sometimes."

Telling a customer or colleague you "don't know" lowers their expectations of you. Don't do it! Instead, explain the problem, and then tell them that they didn't cause it. "It was a registry error. That's just normal 'wear and tear' on the system. It's not your fault."

Other expectations are not in your control. Many users assume that a computer is a simple machine that should operate as neatly and succinctly and dependably as a microwave. These customers need to be educated. They need to be told that there are, in fact, millions of virtual moving parts inside that computer, and it is not a simple machine.


Emotions emanating from a customer are one of the most important factors in becoming a hero in your customers' and colleagues' eyes.

If a machine fails, a file is lost, email doesn't work, or anything "bad" happens, the customer's first reaction is to begin storing food in their bomb shelter for the end of the world. They panic. Everything feels lost. What do you do? How do you comfort them?

It's actually a lot easier to prepare a client or colleague for this inevitability than it is to calm them down after it happens. For instance, you can put a red envelop in everyone's laptop bag that says "In Case of Emergency". Make it a fancy, sealed envelope. Inside, put procedures and what to do if the laptop breaks along with your company or department's phone numbers. Giving them some control over their situation will invariably bring down the emotion level.

So, What Do I Do With All This Stuff?

Become an expert in user-ology. Keep a diary (or spreadsheet) to manage and make remarks and comments about each of your users every time you interact with them. Find out how their needs, wants, expectations, and emotions match up to real life.

Once you have compiled sufficient information on each of them, develop a service mission that addresses their needs, wants, expectations, and emotions. Then, PLASTER it all over every piece of communication you have with your clients or colleagues. It should be in the department letterhead. It should be in your email signature. It should be on the company website. It must be ubiquitous.

Your service mission might be something like:

The IT department makes work fun and easy by keeping all our systems working properly, and helping you make the most of your computing. If you didn't have to think about your computer today, that means we've done a good job.

or you might have something like this:

The IT department connects you to the rest of the world by maintaining our computers and providing the finest service possible.
Whatever your service mission is, make sure you say it loud and say it proud. If you believe in it, your clients and colleagues will too.

Going from Unappreciated Computer Janitor to White Knight in Digital Armour.

Your service mission is a key part in training your clients and colleagues to love you. There are a few other areas through which you will need to make additional efforts:

1. Survey regularly

Once a month send out surveys to everyone in your company (or all your clients, quarterly) to ask them how you're doing. Make sure the surveys are ANONYMOUS. You have to give them a chance to flame you. Ask for their major frustrations. Give them a 50 / 50 split of multiple choice questions and fill in the blank questions. Then put the results in your user-ology file.

2. Make personal follow up visits

After fixing someone's computer, put a reminder in Outlook (or whatever calendaring program you have) to personally walk back to their desk and ask them if everything is still working. 99% of the time it will be, and you'll score bonus points. 1% of the time there will be another issue that needs to be taken care of, and this is worth triple bonus points.

3. Post Service Standards

On your website, the company website, or once a quarter via email, make everyone aware what the standards are for your service. By dictating to your clients and colleagues what the standard of service is, they will grade you according to those standards. Your service standards may be: "courtesy, education, and a 4 hour response time", which tells your clients and colleagues that you will be nice, educate them on how to use their equipment, and that they may have to wait 4 hours for service. If they are aware of that going into a crisis, they will be better able to maintain composure.

Getting blamed for computer failures is not fun; especially, when it is user failures that get blamed or pinned on the IT guy. The secret to R-E-S-P-E-C-T is to train your customers and colleagues to give it to you by understanding them so well that you can assuage their fears, service their wants, satisfy their needs, and control their expectations months before a crisis actually happens.

Do this right, and your clients and customers will say "Thank God for the IT department" even when their computers crash.

This article was originally published by Total Ticket System. Reprinted here with Permission. Click here for the original.

Comments (8)

Very nice article..
Most Valuable Expert 2012



Love the user feedback line. LOL! The trick there would be to use Survey Monkey or something that is easy to do, compiles it for you.

Those that raise their hands because they don't understand where to install the interwebs in their Outlook Email Express download, are definitely candidates for the user-ology spreadsheet!

They may be "special needs" users. :-)
Bob StoneIT Guru

Survey Monkey might work out, I'll look into it.

I'd love IT it it wasn't for all the damned users.
"The IT department makes work fun and easy by keeping all our systems working properly, and helping you make the most of your computing. If you didn't have to think about your computer today, that means we've done a good job."

Well, I used to be a network administrator and I computer technician for two years. Maintaining 7 servers and 300+ workstation.

Damn! Why is it now? Why not two years ago you wrote this Article so I can explain to my boss why I am not doing anything...
Bob StoneIT Guru

"Of course I'm not busy, I did it right the first time"

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