Mar 212011

People often get double-crossed, procrastinated upon, cheated on, ripped off, lied to and fooled, but they fail to report the problem to whoever is in charge, or to warn possible future victims of the same issue or person.

Throughout my experience of dealing with customers (computer users) I’ve seen a number of people badmouth their IT departments without ever reporting any problems, I guess expecting them to get taken care of by some mind-reading Jedi IT staff. Well, no shop has those on their staff, or crystal balls among their equipment, so it is very important to establish a good culture of reporting problems and bugs and collecting feedback throughout your organization. If you don’t know what kind of problems your users are experiencing, or what type of erratic behavior a staff member is exhibiting, how can you fix it?

One way of capturing this beast from my side during the good times when I had time, was to sometimes wonder around my users and see what kind of problems they are having. That often gave me more information about the situation in the trenches than just talking to my teams because the users often failed to report things nobody asked them about. There was a person who used to work in level 1 support (answering the help desk phones) and all he used to do was ask every single person to reboot the computer and that was his self-instated fix for everything. No escalation, no trouble tickets. He had other issues as well, so people just started hanging up whenever he would answer the phone and they would wait for someone ‘normal’ to answer so they can get their issue resolved. I understand that was saving a lot of their time, but if you don’t report failures, how can the system improve itself? We heard about this only after he was gone.

What made me write this post was the fact that I talked to my neighbor today and his Bluetooth speaker system in the car was probably satisfying for him, but I had a terrible time trying to understand what he was saying. When you buy a bluetooth system, do your collocutors (persons you talk to) a favor and test the system from the other side. Have someone else use your phone and the headset and see what you will be up against, or if you don’t feel like getting your headset in someone else’s ear, leave yourself a voicemail through the new headset and hear how it sounds. You’ll be surprised how many systems sound great on the owner’s side, but give mediocre or bad performance on the other. This is where majority of my animosity towards bluetooth comes from. Fortunately, my sister never had a problem telling me I sound like crap when I’m on a bluetooth, and I love her for that.

Nothing in this world would improve if everybody skipped giving feedback. Second reason why I came back to this draft is a problem with a gadget I had yesterday. I started cursing at the device like it was an evil person, only to realize how stupid that was, not only because of the fruitless reaction but because I didn’t do what technical support has told me the first time I called them – to reset the device to factory defaults. So how can I blame them or the device if I’m not following the instructions they gave me trying to fix it. Things don’t get fixed on their own just because. Communicate and follow instructions.

Both of my sisters and me have this naturally programmed complaining mode, where we are apt to criticize everything to its core. I guess it comes from our dad and it’s helped me in my management career. I used to complain to my institution’s chosen vendor and HP about all and everything I didn’t think was right on their systems, knowing some of my remarks could not be addressed with currently available technology. Still, I’d tell them just so they know what a demanding user like me would like to see. First few times it was taken the wrong way but gradually they started appreciating my feedback, as I kept repeating that I complain only because I believe they can improve. If I ever stop complaining, it’s a sign that I don’t trust the vendor, service provider or manufacturer any more, a sign that they are about to get replaced.

So, for sake of our civilization, please give feedback when you think it’s needed and appreciate when you get one as well, as it gives you a look from a different perspective and gives you a chance to improve and make things right. I used to tell my users and managers that I appreciate negative feedback more than positive, because it helps us improve. If you don’t report bad things, more people will suffer like you did, because you are reinforcing the negative behavior by not acting upon it. No matter how big the offender, there’s always someone who can get them. Sometimes just a word on a web site, a comment warning other people about a scam or bad deal is enough to start the ball rolling and get service improved or the offender removed. Good manufactures and service providers will appreciate it because most customers don’t do it – they just leave. Don’t be like that. People/manufacturers/vendors/systems deserve a second chance. Complain. First to them, then only if it doesn’t get fixed, to others.

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