The June issue of my monthly e-newsletter, The Leader Letter, went out last week. In it I included an item from my April 30 blog posting responding to a workshop attendee who read one of my articles with a chart on moving from casual or moderate to intense levels of customer service. She also asked for ideas on how to accomplish this top level of service on a small scale inside a large organization. I then asked for examples on increasing internal service levels with support groups like HR, IT, or Admin and Finance.

Kevin Claerhout responded with this post shortly after reading this item in The Leader Letter:

“Hi Jim,

I love your newsletter, Improvement Points, and recently Growing the Distance read (loved it too)!

Regarding “internal service”… I spent the first 18 years of my career in my company’s IT organization, providing service to many different business areas over the years. When members of a business area approached me with problems or new opportunities the first thing I would do is learn as much as possible about the business area involved. I wanted to know as much as they did about how their processes were supposed to work, the information they used, the issues involved, how success is measured, etc.

What I enjoyed most about my role was that I was learning the business and not just dealing with the technology. I also found that I could propose much better solutions, work much more effectively with people and even propose new opportunities when we were “playing on the same field.”

As a result, about 4 years ago, when one of the business areas had an opening in their group they approached me to take the job (which I did). Now that I’m on the other side of the fence and needing service from the IT organization, I find that too often the person I’m dealing with just simply asks, “what is it you would you like me to do?” If only they understood what I now do… that you can give much better service (and get ahead) if you seek to understand more than just the specifics of a single request.”

Kevin gets at the heart of a big problem with many technical service providers. Most of us “non-techies” aren’t especially excited about the technology itself nor do we understand enough about how it works to technically define what we want. It’s like that old marketing example that customers often don’t go into a hardware store to just buy a ¼ inch drill bit. They are looking for a way to get a ¼ inch hole. They want to ever accomplish that in the easiest and most inexpensive way.

Kevin also demonstrates a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EI.) Unfortunately, low EI is a big problem with many highly technical people found in most IT departments. Fortunately, EI skills can be learned. Back in 2007 Writer, Diann Daniel, interviewed me for an article she was writing for CIO and CSO magazines. She also interviewed Daniel Goleman and other leading EI researchers and writers. The resulting article (“Soft Skills for CIOs and Aspiring CIOs: Four Ways to Boost Your Emotional Intelligence”) is excellent. You can read it online here.

Click on “From Casual to Moderate to Intense Levels of Service” to read the full blog post that triggered Kevin’s response. To peruse a large selection of my articles and excerpts on various aspects and applications of Emotional Intelligence mind and skills sets go to http://dev.clemmergroup.com/emotional_intelligence/emotional_intelligence.php.