Dont Get Thrown for a Loop

You've surely heard the conjugation "I am firm, you are obstinate, he is pigheaded." Similarly, IT architects often seem to be saying, "I am in the loop, you are a system bottleneck, he is an error-prone manual operation."

Youve surely heard the conjugation "I am firm, you are obstinate, he is pigheaded." Similarly, IT architects often seem to be saying, "I am in the loop, you are a system bottleneck, he is an error-prone manual operation." The proper task of IT depends on which of these descriptions actually fits the situation—from the viewpoints of the user and the customer.

Does the situation demand a human decision maker, someone whos authorized to ignore the rule book and make a judgment call?

If so, the job of IT is to make sure that useful and accurate information is available on demand and to streamline consultation with specialists as needed. But how many times do your customers have to repeat the same information, such as their names and account numbers, to a series of representatives as they get referred from one to another?

If it was worth the cost to provide a live-operator option, its worth accumulating data on present and past interactions (phone, e-mail and paper) and making it handy for any operator who becomes involved, now or in the future.

Do your customers come to you with predictable questions and concerns? How often do they try to make a routine inquiry, only to be asked for a ZIP code and referred to the sales rep for that region—who, of course, is never in and for whom they will have to leave a message?

Thats not being in the loop; thats being an irritating bottleneck.

A Web site with an FAQ page, a voice response system with a fax-back option, and other simple and cost- effective measures makes you look responsive and considerate of customers convenience. If the sales rep gets an automatic notice of the inquiry, a personal call can follow—and everybodys happy.

Finally, in every application, systems should aid their users in capturing data. For example, ZIP codes imply city names—no operator should ever need to enter both.

Remember, its a loop, not a knot.