Last week some people at a British company called Touchpaper released a study of IT service quality called When it goes wrong: Can IT services rise to the challenge?
The general answer is "no", but the report is worth reading because knowing more about what people see as wrong, could help you improve what you do.
The report tries to take a "360 view" of the IT experience with reviews of experience and opinion among users, help desk people, and IT management. Here's a bit:
The sense that IT is not delivering on its promises is gaining ground. According to research commissioned by Accenture and conducted by The Bathwick Group among a sample of 300 CIOs in the UK and Ireland, 56 percent of business managers believe that IT is under-delivering against investment. Remarkably, 38 percent of CIOs agree with them!
The report discusses the direct effects of "IT glitches" with a reported 75% of people in the 25 to 34 age group having had to stay late because of them and 52% of respondents reporting having missed work deadlines because of them. So how do people react?
Generally badly. Swearing is a common response, admitted to by two thirds (66 percent) of those who have experienced an IT issue. While swearing might provide a short-term outlet for the frustration of an IT hiccup, the effect seems to last much longer for many people, with 43 percent having to leave the room and 45 percent "feeling in a bad mood all day".
One in seven of us (15 percent) actually starts throwing things as a result of an IT problem, with this number rising to a hefty 79 percent for those who have also missed a deadline as a result.
So how are the service desk people who're supposed to be there to help viewed? Actually quite positively, with the proviso that:
Automatic responses (IVR systems) were top of the list of things that should be abolished, with 80 percent either agreeing or agreeing strongly that the world would be a better place without them, including the highest figure for "agree strongly" at 48 percent. Men (83 percent agree or strongly agree) seem even less happy with IVR.
Reflecting the strong trend towards (and backlash against) outsourcing and offshoring, there was strong support for the proposition that service desks would be improved if agents had a better standard of spoken English.
Basically, if the help desk person is reachable and speaks your language in some reasonably interpretable fashion, the social experience will be acceptable - but the quality of the help is generally not viewed quite so positively:
The consensus view is that engagement with IT service is not a happy experience. A recent study from analyst house Forrester ("How Do Users Feel About Technology?", May 2005) revealed that service desk staff are perceived as the poor cousins of the technology world, with staff in business-related roles reporting that the more often they use the service desk, the more dissatisfied they feel.
The bulk of the report (when they're not selling their help desk solutions) is really about unmet expectations and the frustrations that arise on both sides when a user demands that unrealistic expectations be met.
As I said earlier, this is a report that's worth reading - because ultimately that's all the IT job is about: serving users, and most of us aren't doing it as well as we could.