The Importance of the Individual – IT Champion

The Importance of the Individual – IT Champion

Written By Matt Phillips, Managing Director – IT Champion

When I think about the theme for the November Grow Exeter magazine, wellness in the workplace, I think about what we try to do to help our team handle the pressures of working in a business which effectively handles other people’s IT problems. Furthermore how we, as an IT Partner for many local businesses, can directly influence how IT challenges impact the people we support.

Perhaps the hardest thing for me when we started IT Champion was getting used to people ringing us with problems –  not because of something we’ve done wrong, but because it’s what we are paid for. No matter what we do, companies will always have these problems and ultimately that’s a large part of our business. The major differentiator between one IT provider and another is how these problems are handled.

Working in a company that provides IT support can be tough and, despite having some of the best tools available and a proactive team constantly looking for and fixing problems before our clients know about them, a huge amount of what we do is responding to issues that affect the businesses we support.

When a call comes in to the support team it could be virtually anything, and the person helping at our end must be able to very quickly get a handle of the problem, what and who it may be affecting and to try to determine what may have happened to have caused this. All whilst knowing that every minute we take to fix the issue probably means one or more people are unable to work and will have mounting pressure on them. This can be stressful for all concerned and we are rightly measured on how quickly we respond, how quickly we fix the issue and the overall performance and reliability of the IT systems we support.

Many IT companies focus very heavily on automation and their support team is driven by how they perform against their service level agreements and this seems like a sound path to go down for any IT company. Why wouldn’t an IT service provider want to keep their support team away from answering the phone? It takes time to take information from the client and to chat to them whilst finding out more about why they called. It makes perfect sense for them to submit their issue via a web portal or by email so that the issue can be prioritised and ensure contract based SLA’s are met, right? Wrong in our case.

Many of the clients we help transition from their existing provider do so because that first point of contact is difficult to get to and, despite their current provider sending them glowing reports on how they met all their SLA’s that month, the feedback from people who needed help is poor.

One of the things that makes us different and adds to pressure on the support team is that all our calls are answered by a tech and their aim is always to help at the point of the call. Like any support provider we have SLA’s and we think they are the best around. However, if we find ourselves discussing these with a client once they have come onboard, something has probably gone horribly wrong somewhere and it’s being raised because the service is not being delivered at the required level.

We currently handle around 200 calls a day and, whilst that could be reduced by various forms of automation, we know that when something goes wrong, when one of our customers has a question or they simply need some quick advice, having someone on the end of the phone, accessible within a few seconds makes a huge difference to them.

In our experience, the best way to handle a pressured work environment is to have a strong and stable (I think I’ve heard that somewhere before…) team. In our case, that looks like us recognising the challenges of what we do and trying to find ways to manage this. Having grown from just two of us in 2009, we have benefited hugely from the government’s National Apprenticeship Scheme and seven of our team have come straight from either school or college to us. By building a close-knit team and not suffering from staff turnover we really get to know our clients and care that they are able to do what they are supposed to.

Whilst this does represent a huge investment in time and commitment from us and the apprentices that join us, it enables us to help shape the people that form our front-line team and that builds a bond between the team that is strong enough to handle the daily challenges we face. With two of our first team members now managing parts of the business, we hope that we will be able to continue to help our team progress as the businesses grows.

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