Introduction & Background
Two things really excite your Forget Computers team…solving problems and helping people. We especially love helping our clients use technology to gain efficiencies. We love helping them save time, save money and reduce frustration. It's a good feeling.
Conversely, there is one thing that causes us great pain…seeing our clients introduce pain onto themselves. Pain that could be avoided.
After much internal discussion about how best to help our clients we decided that maybe we’re not making enough of an effort to share our knowledge or maybe there are factors we don’t know about because we haven’t started the dialog. This is the start of that dialog.
The creative professional office of today has a significant investment in technology so it’s critical to leverage that investment and not waste it. We've written this for the business owners and department leaders of our clients, but please share it with anyone who might benefit and please participate in the discussion so we can all learn from one another.
I recently read that humans, unlike ants and bees, are NOT hard wired for cooperation and therefore a strategy to encourage cooperation must be developed. I mention this because we see far too many problems arise for one simple reason: no one contacted us for assistance. Contacting us for assistance is cooperation. When users avoid the Help Desk and try to solve a problem on their own, they avoid cooperation. Avoiding the Help Desk typically falls into one of two situations:
- A client makes a change (hardware, software, or workflow) but doesn’t fully understand the repercussions the change will introduce to themselves or to the office.
- A client makes a purchase (hardware, software, or service/solution) that is not recommended and is therefore difficult (expensive) to implement or support.
Our thinking has always been that if we provide our clients with free, unlimited access to our Help Desk, then users will contact us before trying to fix a problem, buy a product, or build a solution.
If a client is paying a retainer for us to support their technology and that retainer includes unlimited Help Desk access, then it makes sense to call us before making technology changes. We have the experience and expertise to help make an informed decision, and if we don’t then we often know somebody who does. Yet the number one reason clients experience wasted time, higher support fees or increased frustration is due to not calling the Help Desk – until it’s too late.
So why do people avoid the Help Desk? Maybe they don't know it's a free call, or maybe our offer of unlimited access is not enough of a strategy to overcome the human tendency to act out of self-interest and avoid cooperation. Below are three possible solutions to encourage cooperation...
Force users to cooperate. Make it difficult (or impossible) for users to make changes. This is an enterprise tactic and involves locking down computers so users can't make changes without the Help Desk. This method can be frustrating for users. Nobody likes to be forced into doing something. However, it does work and is the best way to protect users from themselves. This method, however, doesn't stop someone from making a purchase that is unauthorized or is not recommended, so it only solves part of the problem. (In the enterprise world this is not an issue because making a purchase can be very difficult. In many small businesses, it's not uncommon to make quick, uninformed purchasing decisions.)
- Penalize users for not cooperating. This occurs naturally. When trouble is introduced by the user they often experience downtime, frustration and unexpected support fees. The problem is that the penalty is frequently not apparent enough to change habits. Some problems don't directly affect the offender. Instead they introduce problems for others in the office. Unexpected support fees may be incurred as a result, but only a few people (the owner/manager or bookkeeper) frequently know about the fees and they probably don't realize the fees could have been avoided. Also, some users don't fully understand that they caused the problem.
- Communicate. It's possible that many users simply don't know to contact us for support. A strong internal lead who acts as liaison between Forget Computers and your office can help disseminate this information. In addition, we have plans in 2009 to communicate, more directly and more proactively, how to best use our services (this article is the first step of this plan). Below are more suggestions to consider when speaking with your staff.
- Make it clear that you own this equipment. Let your employees know that a significant investment has been made in the technology they use and it is the property of the company. It is not intended for individual use or expression. I know, this is not a popular approach in a creative office. But if someone in your office needs to experiment with technology then they can make a business case for a spare R&D computer or they can experiment on their computer at home
- Stress to your staff that the computer equipment (hardware and software) is managed by Forget Computers and any request for additions or changes must go through us. Given the opportunity, and with proper communication, we can serve as a gatekeeper to protect your investment or as a scapegoat for unpopular technology decisions. You're paying your employees to do a job, and unless that job is to support technology, is there any reason for them to do anything but use their computer? Let us manage your technology. If we break it, we fix it. If your employee breaks it, you pay for it.
- Consider ALL technology related changes (phone, Internet, applications, workflow) as an opportunity to contact us and see what we know (or who we know). Questions and quoting are always included free of charge for Pro Support clients. It's a cliche, but worth mentioning…"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Clients who say they were too busy to call us often waste twice as much time avoiding the call.
Cooperation – contacting us for assistance early and often – is the easiest way to save time, money and frustration. If you have ANY feedback or questions surrounding this topic please let me know.