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The Importance of Being Available

In our previous post, we discussed the importance of maintaining the Moral High Ground and gave an example of the impact it can have on your support escalation adventures. In this post, we’re going to talk about the often-overlooked importance of Availability, and how not being around after you’ve called for help can have a detrimental effect on your ability to maintain the Moral High Ground, which can drastically affect your ability to get your problem resolved.


Imagine a scenario where you have raised the alarm about a situation. You’ve called ValueFlow and you’ve said “My business is down! Sorry if I sound harsh. I don’t mean to. I’m very stressed. We’re actually losing ten thousand dollars a minute. Please help!” In this case, you’ve been great about empathizing and understanding the person who answered the phone, you effectively and calmly communicated the severity of the situation, and you’ve done so in a way that maintains your Moral High Ground in the situation, and your support person - we’ll call him Larry - has risen to the call. He jumped off the phone, ran over, grabbed his supervisor, got several experienced techs lined up, and they all jumped immediately on the call to help you.

And then you said, “Oh, but I have to go to lunch. Can we talk again later?”

Now this is obviously an extreme example and hopefully no one would do something quite like this, but it does illustrate an important point: If ValueFlow has heard your call and is responding with the right level of urgency, but then you do not respond with the same (or higher) level of urgency in your availability and time, what do you suppose ValueFlow is going to do? They’re going to shake their heads, probably give poor Larry the stink-eye for bothering them in the first place, and walk back to their desks. And guess what else? Larry is likely never going to treat you with the same urgency again, and may go so far as to make a note on your account about it so that others are aware that you’re an inconsiderate person. And - possibly worst of all - you’ve shown what might have been a really good support person that going out of their way to help is just a waste of time, and that may affect their behavior with others in the future.

You need to maintain an appropriate level of availability for any support situation, and in almost all cases, you need to take it a level higher. These people are hard to get on the phone, often have a million people they need to be helping, and if their window of opportunity passes, you’re going to have to wait significantly longer than that for them to come around again. Be sure they can contact you in any way possible, do whatever you can to respond the second they reach out, and fall over yourself to be available to help them help you resolve the problem. It may seem a bit extreme, but your best bet is to just drop whatever you’re doing, sit by the phone, and wait.

Some specific steps to take:

  • If you have to step out find an alternate person to take the call or be certain to let the support organization you are working with know either a) that the issue can wait and they can stand down for now, or b) how to get a hold of you.
  • Be sure to provide an alternate phone number, ideally a cell phone number.
  • Politely ask others if they would not mind taking on various responsibilities or small tasks if it will help you ensure you are available when support calls back. (As a manager, I’ll often get lunch or dinner for people dealing with issues, but if no one happens to think about it, you can certainly ask!)

Also be sure to call your spouse or partner well in advance of having to leave for the day if you suspect that your problem is going to go beyond your usual departure time. This will help keep you out of that “oh shoot, I have to go home!” scenario, and also has the added benefit of reducing your chances of getting in trouble for being unexpectedly late for movie night.

If you're interested in talking more about the business of IT management, feel free to contact me here.

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