How technically competent are you? How about your team? How do you know? When you’re working with your team, one of the first ideas for IT customer service training is to help them develop technical competence. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say to hire based on cultural fit, attitude, or personality; that you can’t teach people skills, but you can teach technical skills. They’re only partially right. They’re right because cultural fit, attitude, and personality are important considerations. They’re wrong because, in a technical job, a certain level of technical competence is a core requirement. It’s most certainly not a choice of one or the other. They’re also wrong because you most certainly can teach people skills. I’ve been teaching people skills to IT people successfully for more than 20 years. Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey, and others have been doing it for even longer.
You wouldn’t hire aircraft mechanics without checking their mechanical skills. You wouldn’t hire surgeons without checking their medical skills. You wouldn’t hire engineers without checking their engineering skills. Why would you hire, say, a network administrator without checking their networking knowledge and skills? Even for entry-level, front-line technical support staff, you want someone who has sufficient technical skills to follow a troubleshooting checklist. They must be technically competent enough to know when they’re in over their head and need to escalate.
The key issue with technical competence is to ensure that the individual has sufficient technical skills to meet the requirements of the job description. That requires a well-thought-out job description. At risk of overstating the obvious, the technical requirements for a Python developer differ from the requirements for a server administrator. The requirements for a chief information security officer differ from those for front-line tech support agents. Each job has its own unique requirements. No matter what the job is, it’s always a good idea to review the job description and revise it as needed, perhaps with input from people who are currently in that particular role.
What’s Different in Ideas for Customer Service Training in IT?
IT customer service requires both competence and charisma. That’s technical competence to perform the tasks of the job and charisma to manage relationships with customers, end-users, and coworkers.As you think about ideas for customer service training, in addition to training on how to handle an angry customer, emotional intelligence, manners, and all the usual soft skills, in IT customer service you must also provide training on technical competence.
If you’re an HR manager or a small business owner, you’re probably not qualified to teach technical skills, but you can certainly remind team members about the importance of maintaining current certifications, provide access to technical training, support the creation of a test lab, encourage technical staff to attend both virtual and live vendor events and industry conferences to be aware of emerging technologies, and support other forms of continuing education for your team.
IT customer service is different from other forms of customer service. In the IT world, your customers depend on the systems you support to do their jobs, run their businesses, educate themselves and their families, and even receive medical care. Your end-users livelihood and even their lives can depend on the systems you support. In addition to finessing typical customer service issues like embarrassed or angry customers, IT customer service must resolve technical issues almost instantly. That requires both well-honed soft skills to manage the relationship along with outstanding technical skills to resolve the issue.
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