Software and hardware troubleshooting are art forms

Ask any customer service representative, troubleshooting a customer issue well is not just a job, but an art form.

I’ve been in the industry for quite some time and have occupied almost every role I can think of, from being on the front lines of ISP support calls, to managing a support department of an enterprise software company, to being the founder of my own customer service company.  Customer service positions are difficult in all roles, and the one thing have taken from all my experiences is that customer support departments focus 90% of their energy on growing an individuals technical ability and in my opinion forgo the most important skill set of customer service. 

“70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.”
McKinsey

Lets start with technical ability; As anyone in the industry can tell you, technical troubleshooting is much more difficult than people give it credit for.  Support staff need to be very analytical, require lots of peripheral skills, with a knowledge of how to deduce logically in order to find solutions to a problem.  I find people with great technical skills in just one field are usually not well suited for technical support/help desk positions, you need to be good and not necessarily great at many things.  This can be mitigated with a great training programs, but we will leave that for another day.  Needless to say, typically we all fail somewhat with on-boarding and training which is why getting the right people at the start is so important and why most people focus all of their time on it.

The skills support departments typically ignore is customer service.  A customer service skill set comes with experience, training, and the right personality.  Dealing with customers that have issues with a service or product requires patience, empathy, creativity, and an innate ability to lead customers.  If you have never seen a support super star at work, its an amazing thing to watch.  They can mold themselves into anyone they need to be for that customer using that large skill set they have to create an out of the box creative solution that amaze the customer.  Customer excellence programs are essential and if you don’t already have one, I highly suggest you find people that can create and implement these programs for you, you would be amazed how much happier your customers will be.

Customer service positions are not for everyone and if you are a hiring manager, you need to properly screen for people that have the skills needed for the roles you are offering.  Those people with the right technical skills but are not suited for a customer facing role will be grumpy, unhappy, and eventually leave for greener pastures.  A proper screening program needs to be implemented along with your typical technical screening ensuring they won’t want to jump off a cliff after speaking with a troublesome customer.

So what makes technical support an art form?  When I look at a technical support / help desk super star, I see that their canvas is an angry, frustrated customer riddled with complex technical issues and their paint is their customer service and technical skill set.  Using their paint, they create innovative solutions making ugly situations into something happy and beautiful. Now that’s an art!