5 Ways to Improve Your IT Department's Reputation

Let's face it. We all know IT doesn't have the greatest reputation in many companies. We can be considered aloof, obstructive, or even rude. Most of the time that is simply due to a lack of resources (both time and money) or a difference in personalities. Despite that, here are five ways to improve the image and reputation of IT in your organization with just a little bit of time and patience.

1. Set the Expectations

A slow response is a common criticism of IT departments, but it is difficult to change your response times without adding staff. To combat this, you need to set an appropriate expectation level for your IT services. This means clearly publishing how long it takes your department to respond to certain priority help desk tickets. If your average response time to a low priority case is one week, come right out and say that. Even better, display that right in your help desk application so it is visible when a case is created.

Don't leave people guessing as to when they'll hear back from you because their guess is probably going to be a much shorter time than which you can actually respond. Being forthright with how quickly you service tickets will avoid disappointed and angry users.

2. Quick Updates on New Tickets

Even though your published response time for a ticket may be a week, make an effort to update all tickets as soon as they are received. This does not mean you should start troubleshooting the issue immediately but just give a current status of your "queue." You need to let them know A) a human has actually read the problem and B) an estimated time of when the issue will be looked at.

Additionally, should the user have an update on the problem, they now have a real person to contact instead of the faceless help desk.

3. Ask for Feedback

When closing out a ticket, provide some way for users to give you feedback. The three areas to collect information on are the quality of the solution, the individual responding, and the software or service that had the problem.

Additionally, make an effort to follow-up on that feedback. If it appears the solution is not acceptable, reopen the case or talk to the user to get more information. If a bug is resolved in a future software update, let the user know so they realize their feedback is valued.

4. Take a Field Trip

With the tools available these days, 90% of support could be handled remotely, so there is nothing forcing us to get out of the office and meet users. That may make the IT staff appear to be inaccessible, hiding behind the "help desk wall."

I suggest you and the rest of the IT staff spend a day working in another department's area. Send out a short email to the department, and let them know they can find you by Jim's desk and will be available throughout the day to answer any IT-related questions they have.

Sure, you may not get a ton of work done that day, but I bet you get a lot of small nagging problems solved. And this is not just for people who work desktop support, as I'm sure most network admins know how to attach a printer or set screen resolutions in Windows. An Exchange admin may not be able to troubleshoot an SAP problem in Accounting, but they can certainly help gather information and screenshots to get issue routed to the correct person.

Not only does this process solve a bunch of small issues that would have never made it to the help desk, but it also makes the IT department appear more available.

5. Drop the Attitude

We can make jokes all day about (l)users, PBKAC and ID-10-T errors, but when dealing with people just drop the attitude. The sooner you realize that IT really boils down to customer service, the better and more enjoyable your dealings with the end-users will go. Maybe it is time to take the BOFH down off of his pedestal.

To summarize, it all basically comes down to how well IT communicates with the end-user. Focus on these five areas, improve the communication coming out of IT, and just maybe you will find yourself invited out for a beer with sales at 5:01PM on Thursday (assuming that's a good thing.)