How to Deliver Technical Support that Delights the End User

“Technology, like art, is a soaring exercise of the human imagination.”, according to sociologist Daniel Bell in his 1980 book, The Winding Passage. The art of what we do, as information technologists, lies in how we deliver creative solutions to workplace problems. The truth of the matter is that our jobs, in information systems and technology, are not really about technology at all. Our jobs, instead, are about solving workplace problems. Technology is merely the vehicle we use to accomplish our true objective. Increasingly, the help wanted ads in our industry require not only technical skills, but also skills in dealing with people. People are, after all, our customers. The old jokes about the I.T. guys commenting about how great their jobs would be if only it weren’t for the end-users can no longer apply. The few I.T. people who still believe that are at risk of being outsourced out of a job, automated out of their jobs, or otherwise replaced in the modern workplace.

Are people skills becoming more important than technical skills in today’s workplace? Absolutely not! Are people skills as important as technical skills in today’s workplace? Quite possibly, depending on the job. For example, most of us are not overly concerned with an airline pilot’s human skills, but we’re very concerned with her skills as a pilot. The commercial pilot, however, who doesn’t consider the comfort of his passengers in how he flies the plane may soon find himself flying freight instead of people. Even the freighter pilot who fails to practice good customer service skills with her employer and her employer’s clients may soon find herself replaced by another pilot who values human relationships. There may always be a place for the rare individual whose extremely high level of technical competence makes him so valuable that his absence of human skills is overlooked, but don’t count on that for your long term career growth. The reality is that, if people like you, they’re a lot more forgiving of human error and when they don’t like you, they look for ways to get rid of you.

What are the skills that can help you in today’s workplace? You can break them down into five fundamental skill sets:

-Dependable and Reliable Service
-Responsiveness
-Competence
-Empathy
-Professionalism

Dependable and Reliable Service means providing reliable and accurate service – consistently accurate answers and follow-through on your promises. Your users should get the same courteous, pleasant and knowledgeable service every time they contact the Help Desk. In part two of this series, I’ll show you practical tips to make sure your end-users say you provide dependable and reliable service.

Responsiveness is the willingness to respond to customer needs by answering their phone or email requests quickly, and being willing to do what it takes to respond effectively to a service request. In part three of this series, I’ll show you how to prioritize requests to ensure that the most important requests get the fastest response while still servicing the lower priority requests.

Competence means providing correct, knowledgeable service, performed with accuracy and confidence. Technical competence goes without saying, but how can you maintain your technical competence even if your employer doesn’t pay for training? In part four of this series, I’ll share with you realistic techniques to use to demonstrate your competence and some practical tips on maintaining your competence on your own.

Empathy means providing caring and personal service. You can convey empathy when you listen for the hidden meaning in what a user is saying, acknowledge the emotion, and offer caring assistance. In part five of this series, you’ll learn key phrases to use to demonstrate empathy and techniques for conveying your empathy to the upset end user.

Professionalism means that how you speak and act and the emails or other materials you send reflect a high level of training and expertise. This becomes the professional image that you project to your end users. In the sixth and final part of this series, you’ll learn five powerful, yet simple techniques for conveying professionalism in your dealings with end-users.

Delighting your user is really easy most of the time. When you find ways to help your users be more productive and creative in their jobs, you’ll find your job is more satisfying and more rewarding. As a support desk propfessional, you have tremendous opportunities for personal growth and you have daily opportunities to make a positive difference in people’s lives. That’s powerful!

Copyright (c) 2007 Don R. Crawley