Yesterday a tech support manager explained his recurring dread: recruiting and finding excellent tech support personnel. Listening to him voice his frustration identifying solid candidates, I thought “It’s not what they know, it’s how they think.”
We agreed it’s not just about the certifications they bring to the job, it’s the way they approach the job. It’s not what they know, it’s how they think.
Really what we’re looking for in a tech support person, in addition to technical aptitude and a fascination with problem solving, are skills we call critical thinking skills.
The 4 key thinking skills we need from our support agents are critical thinking skills. A successful support agent is able to:
- Accurately identify issues which need to be resolved. The clincher in this sentence is the “need to be resolved.” I once had a really smart rep in my department who was a good problem solver, but didn’t always solve the problems the customers needed solved.
- Prioritize which issues need to be addressed first, and also prioritize or sequence steps accurately to reach a resolution. I’ve never met a helpdesk that doesn’t cite prioritization as a significant challenge. Whether it’s prioritizing tickets or user issues, or prioritizing the steps in problem solving, the ability to recognize what takes precedence is vital.
Yesterday I called a vendor to discuss a service issue, and felt constantly frustrated when the agent went off on tangents with regard to issues that I had not mentioned, nor were important to me. What a waste of the agent’s time, my time, and the company’s customer service efforts!
- Recognize appropriate resources and formulate good solutions. Even if your agent doesn’t know the solution, do they know how to access answers in the knowledge base? Will they consult a higher level of support or bring in another agent to formulate a solution?
The best problems solvers don’t necessarily know the most, but they tend to be the most resourceful. On a team I once lead, my best trouble shooter wasn’t the most tech savvy, but she was the most resourceful and proactive about consulting experts to make sure the customer’s issue was resolved successfully in one contact.
- Recognize both tangible and intangible aspects in a scenario, especially in a customer support situation. In customer support, some agents focus strictly on tangible aspects of the problem solving, the intangible aspects play a huge role in customer satisfaction. Sometimes what is not said or not obvious is more important than what is said and obvious.
It’s not what they know, it’s how they think!
Help Desk Coach