Sometimes the cutting remark can blunt the cutting edge. Every year firms spend millions of dollars on hardware and software, but when we asked third-, fourth- and fifth-year associates about their firm’s technology as part of our annual midlevel job satisfaction survey (August 2008), we heard a lot more about long waits and condescending IT staffers than we did about innovative products. Specifically, we found, the quality of tech support — the size and organization of the help desk, and the responsiveness and attitude of its employees — often was the make-or-break factor in respondents’ opinion of their firm’s IT efforts.

Take the case of Philadelphia’s Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young, which finished in last place on the survey’s question regarding satisfaction with technology support. Kathleen Scott, Stradley Ronon’s director of technology planning, acknowledges that her firm has sometimes put technological know-how before people skills. “We were not hiring customer service people but technical people to man our help desk, and that’s where we had a problem,” she says. “Over the last two months, we started bringing in some different people.”

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