What if Your Plumber Gave You “IT” Customer Service?

Written by lewsauder

January 13, 2014

customer service

Would you put up with poor customer service from your plumber?

Imagine a scenario where you have a pipe that leaks under your kitchen sink.  You may be an expert user of water and all things plumbing, but when it comes to the technical solution of fixing a leak, you know enough to turn to the experts.

So you call a plumber who comes to your house to investigate.  You show him the leak and tell him, “That pipe right there needs to be replaced.  How much will you charge to replace it?”

The plumber, by virtue of his title, knows a little more about plumbing than you do. He investigates the leak and determines that, in addition to the pipe you have pointed out, there is another pipe that needs replacing.


The plumber has 3 customer service options:

  • Follow your orders.  You want this pipe replaced.  So he’ll do exactly as he’s told.  The customer is always right.  Why make waves and tell you that you’re wrong?
  • Tell you you’re wrong. Say something like “I’m the professional here and you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.” That will put you in your place and teach you a few things about telling him how to do his job.
  • Advise you. He could just say, “You’re right, that pipe does need to be replaced.  Something else I also notice is that there is a problem with this other pipe.  It would be a good solution to replace both of them to prevent this from happening again.”

The first option will please you for the short term.  The plumber is doing exactly what you asked him to do. But sometime down the road, there will be a problem again.  You might call that plumber back.  You might call another one. But you’ll be calling someone for help again.

Option two may address the technical problem correctly.  But no matter how well he solves that technical problem, your customer satisfaction is going to be low.

See my related post: Developing Trust With Conflicting Priorities

The final option is just right. The plumber solves the problem correctly. And while he corrected your suggested solution, he did it diplomatically by mentoring and coaching you. And he did not do it in a condescending way to make you feel stupid.

What customer service do you get from IT?

How does your Information Technology group approach similar situations?  When a user calls for support and tries to suggest what the problem is, do you simply do what they say without providing any analysis into the solution?

Or do you put them in their place by proving them wrong…with a little arrogance and condescension thrown in for good measure?

For more information, see Client Relations for Consultants

Most of my blogs and podcasts are focused on consultants and the need to provide good customer service to their clients. But a good IT organization should strive to be a consulting group for their own company.

Instead of replying reactively to customer issues and simply fulfilling orders, when an issue arises, spend the time to investigate it.  Analyze it and determine the root cause. It may take a little longer to resolve their issue, but they’re less likely to have additional issues further down the road.  And you will have time in the future to deal with other issues instead of solving the same problem over and over.

By becoming their mentor, the IT group could eventually become trusted advisors to the business. You might even get the recognition and respect that you’ve always thought you deserved.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

Lew’s Books at Amazon:

Project Management 101
Consulting 101
The Reluctant Mentor

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