Is your IT support team like Miley Cyrus or David Bowie?

My wife recently found out that she’s not tone deaf after all. She learned that she’s just a really really bad singer! Before my son could even speak, he used to reach out and cover her mouth when she tried to sing to him.

The majority of people are quite capable of singing well. Although many of us claim to be tone deaf and incapable of singing in tune, apparently true tone-deafness affects only a few percent of the population. We’re not tone deaf, we’re just untrained.

Being aware of your strengths and weaknesses is an important (if not blatantly obvious) step to self-improvement. My wife, for example, now knows that singing lessons wouldn’t be a complete waste of money.

IT support teams are no different. Seeking to improve in areas where you’re already strong is a waste of time and money. And failing to improve in areas that are important to the business is a recipe for disaster. The starting point has to be self-awareness.

When it comes to self-awareness, I liken IT support teams to four artists: Miley Cyrus, PSY, Susan Boyle (runner up in ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in 2009) and David Bowie. Which of these artists best describes your IT support team?


Miley Cyrus – Denying

The Miley Cyrus IT support team think they’re great. Perhaps they used to be in their Hannah Montana years, when their customers were a little less discerning. But times have changed. The Miley Cyrus IT support team’s internal customers don’t think they’re great at all.

These teams are more common than you think – according to Forrester there are almost twice as many IT teams who think they provide great IT support than there are businesses who feel they are getting it.

These teams usually don’t actively seek customer feedback, or measure internal IT customer satisfaction, because they think it’s unnecessary. They often dismiss customer perceptions as wishy-washy and invalid.

From a customer service perspective, this is like the ‘unconsciously incompetent’ quadrant of Noel Burch’s Four Stages of Competence.

Challenges & Risks

The challenge for this team is in accepting that there’s a need to improve.

If this team doesn’t improve, or doesn’t do it fast enough, the relationship with the business will (continue to) decline, a wrecking ball will be taken to IT budgets, and outsourcing will be a constant threat if not a soon-to-be reality.


PSY – Accepting

As far as pure musical talent goes, PSY, of Gangnam Style fame, knows he’s not going to be winning an Honorary Doctorate at the Royal School of Music any time soon.

Similarly, the PSY IT support team know that they’re not a high performing team and that that some hard work is required to get there.

But they have an important advantage over the Miley Cyrus’s – their self-perception is aligned with their customer’s perceptions. They have usually become ‘consciously incompetent’ because they value customer feedback and have systems in place to capture it. Although they are failing to meet customer expectations, they are in the right starting position because they recognise the need to improve, know where they need to get to and have the metrics in place to know when they’ve arrived.

Challenges & Risks

The challenge for this team is in knowing what to improve first.

The risk is that, if customer expectations are not properly managed (acknowledging there’s a shortfall in service quality, and clearly communicating improvement plans/timeframes, and delivering to them), they’ll end up with the Miley Cyrus’s and it’ll be “Hey Sexy Outsourcing”…


Susan Boyle – Doubting

Susan Boyle knew that she could sing, but didn’t appreciate just how talented she was until she sang in front of an audience larger than that of her local church. Her first TV appearance now has over 180 million hits on YouTube

The Susan Boyle IT support team is a rarity. They are out of touch with customer perceptions, failing to realise that they’ve Got Talent and are well-regarded by the business.

The Susan Boyle IT support team are doing everything right except getting feedback from customers to confirm it. They are arguably ‘unconsciously competent’, except this state is not an optimum one. Being unaware of their strengths, this team may make changes to areas that should be left alone, or may invest in areas that don’t need improving.

Challenges & Risks

This team’s challenge is in realising that they are already meeting the needs of the business.

They risk over-investing in improvements and in making changes for the worse.


David Bowie – Performing

My no-longer-tone-deaf wife once took me to a David Bowie concert. I wasn’t a big fan and so, in a bah-humbug moment, I took a book with me to read during the gig. I never opened the book. Bowie totally captivated me from the start.

David Bowie was recognised for being gifted in many domains and he knew it (“To not be modest about it, you’ll find that with only a couple of exceptions, most of the musicians that I’ve worked with have done their best work by far with me”, David Bowie).

Bowie IT support teams are high performers too. And they know it. Some of our highest performing CIOPulse clients have internal Net Promoter Scores in the 90s. They know they’re high performing because they have the customer feedback to justify and support their belief.

Challenges & Risks

The only challenge for the Bowie IT support team is ensuring they stay at the top of their game, especially as customer performance expectations continue to increase.

The risk is that they become complacent, remove their customer feedback systems and fail to notice that performance is slipping and there’s something wrong (Ground Control to Major Tom, your circuit’s dead…).


The best foundation for service improvement is knowing where you are now. Not where you think you are, but where your customers think you are.  And when you know where you are and where you want to be, customer feedback is an essential part of plotting the course.

Which of these artists best describes your IT support team?


(This article was first published on LinkedIn)

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