I was wondering if anyone had any guidance on how to handle/manage the uneven skill sets and lack of customer service attitudes on the part of administrative units. I'm talking about concrete issues, such as a person in the grants office who can't figure out research budgets and grants.gov and IT staff who can't keep email up and running. Keep in mind, these are folks who are not directly under the supervision of my department, but who we are compelled to use.
There are many excellent, competent, and dedicated staff and administrative people at universities, but there are also a visible percentage who are not. Universities face several hiring challenges:
1) Salaries are low and opportunities for advancement are rare. Talented people could make more in industry. Those that remain are sometimes there because they don't have mobility (because of a faculty-spouse ties them to that location, etc.).
2) many people are hired for reasons not related to their skill sets: second-body problems, hiring recently graduated students to reduce the appearance of post-graduate unemployment, etc.
There is no easy solution to this problem. However, even second-body hires are not resistant to getting fired (or worse, transferred to the dining unit). Like all bureaucrats they are afraid of complaints and the additional paperwork this would cause. Anonymous complaints can usually be made via the university ombudsman (if you have one).