Little Angry Man

A couple of weeks ago we had a lunch time talk that turned very funny.

The helpdesk (and I’m not using names to protect the innocent 😉 ) told about a support problem on the factory floor. The user complaint about the workstation being unresponsive and she wasn’t able to do her work properly for the past 2 days. The helpdesk was astounded, we send someone immediately but why did you wait so long? Oh, was the reply, I didn’t want the angry little man to come and telling me off!

Well, we started laughing and then there was a person at our table who could have fitted the description partly. No, it wasn’t me I promise! We even laughed harder. Now, we all knew who was the little angry man and the helpdesk followed up. But the story was sticky and today in an unrelated meeting where we talked about a process that wasn’t working well it was used to illustrate the problem: “We could send the angry little man!”

Service Quality

In many organisation there is a service desk for internal system and sometimes a support team for customers of the organisation. Both strive for quality of service. There are metrics in place, reporting is done, graphs are plastered on walls and consultants help to align processes. Sounds familiar?

Still in many cases service quality doesn’t improve above a certain level. And I’m wondering if the “little angry man” syndrome is causing that – be it in full or partly. What I mean is, everybody is well meaning, trying their best – on both sides of the coin, user and service provider, and there are times when things go wrong. There are also times when personal situations or work load causing stress. This can result in the “little angry man” situation where the helpdesk is less helpful and totally underestimate their impact on the person who has the problem.

The person is not the problem

One can safely assume the problem hasn’t been created on purpose. People want to succeed. They are also lazy (I’m) and look for the easiest and most efficient way to do their job. Hence having a problem is the least they want to have. This is important to keep in mind! When – as a service person – you talk with the person who has a problem, remember it is both of you who want to solve the problem. It is not the other person who is the problem.

Communication is key

The choice of words, the tone and general attitude becomes an essential tool for the service desk to engage with the customer. Active listening including reflective listening and additional questions will provide an atmosphere of trust. You will understand the situation and have an opportunity to voice the service desk considerations, too. You still need to deliver on any promise to solve the issue. Although the expectations towards that promise will be much clearer and achievable.


Process alignment and improvements are essential to service quality but they are not sufficient on their own. A communication strategy including training and role play are well placed to fill that gap!


One comment on “Little Angry Man

  1. George says:

    Great blog Frank. I am sure this will remain stick for a long time.

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