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IT customer relationship management encompasses all the activities surrounding establishing and maintaining a relationship with a customer purchasing IT-related products. This can include hardware, software or services. Tips for effective management of such relationships include managing customer expectations from the start of the relationship, understanding the client's needs, responding appropriately to requests and problems, and providing a contact who knows how to work with non-technical customers.
Setting realistic expectations at the beginning of a relationship is important, not only in IT customer relationship management, but in managing any customer relationship. Sales people who over-sell benefits or under-estimate costs in order to make a sale do a serious disservice to the customer relationship. When the customer finds out that the information is incorrect, he will be less likely to trust the company. For example, if a sales person sells a new software program, but neglects to mention that it will not run on the customer's hardware unless he purchases an additional program, the customer will feel deceived when he finds out that he will have to spend more to make the software work.
Understanding a customer's needs is also critical to IT customer relationship management. This means knowing what a customer wants his IT hardware, software and services to accomplish; how technically-savvy he is; what his existing IT capabilities are; and what his budget is. It also includes understanding where customers want to go in the future so that the IT company can provide services that can be expanded appropriately as needed. This will make a customer feel that his vendor has his best interests in mind.
Effective IT customer relationship management involves responding appropriately to requests and problems. This does not necessarily mean giving the customer anything he wants, as unprofitable business can sink a company. Genuine problems and concerns should be handled within the time frame initially quoted, in a way that is fair to both the customer and the vendor. Vendor employees should be polite and patient at all times, even if they have to tell the customer something he doesn't want to hear.
Not all customers understand IT lingo. Help desks, customer service people and account managers should be able to work with users at all levels of expertise. This is an important part of IT customer relationship management because these service people have the ability to build a rapport with clients and make them feel valued and appreciated. Impatient employees, or those who speak in terms the client cannot understand, however, will have the reverse effect.
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