Sarah Houghton-Jan put together 5 excellent tips for getting good tech support over at the LibrarinInBlack blog. This made me think about the fact that we often place the heavier part of the burden on those who need help – we make it the responsibility of the person who needs help to figure out how best to get it. While I am all for giving people information that will empower them to get the assistance they need, I think it is also important to remind people who give technical support that they can also do things to make the process easier on the end user. The end user is the customer here. Using technical support should not be frustrating – it should be a rewarding experience that makes their life easier.
Technical knowledge is important to giving good support, but good customer services skills might just be more important. If people don’t feel comfortable coming to you for help, they won’t.
- Don’t patronize – Yes, often times, it seems as if you get asked the same question over and over – and as if the problem may be an easy one to solve. And yes, sometimes, the same person may have the same problem over and over again. It may be frustrating to answer the same questions repeatedly, but it is part of the job. Also, if a particular issue comes up time and time again, this may be an indication of a larger problem. Maybe there is a need for training or a opportunity for a new approach. Patronizing people will make them feel stupid.
- Don’t give an answer before the person looking for help has finished explaining the problem – This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I often have a good idea of what the problem is before someone has finished speaking. Problems tend to come in waves – after a new Windows Update or software upgrade. However, I don’t like to be cut off when speaking – and I doubt most other people do either. Also, there are times when the problem isn’t what you would expect.
- Listen to people – People get frustrated when they can’t use their computers or equipment properly. Sometimes, they just need someone to listen to them and give them some gentle guidance. Honestly, this can help make them feel better. Sadly, not all problems can be solved, but you don’t want people to stop calling because you couldn’t help them.
- Treat others as you would like to be treated – Most people who work in technical support also find themselves in the position of having to call or request help at some point. I take cues from the positive and negative experiences that I have had using technical support – using what works well and learning from that which doesn’t.
- Make yourself available – Answer the phone when it rings, have an open door policy, respond to problems in a timely manner. This helps make people believe that you want to help them, that you want them to call you – and will give them a sense that you actually can help them solve their problems. To be effective in technical support, people need to have faith in your abilities, but they also need to believe that you actually want to help.
- Be honest – Often times, people may not entirely understand why something has happened – and they may not really want to know the technical details. However, lying is never a good idea. If I don’t know the answer to a problem, I say that I need to investigate. I try to be realistic about the time frame for fixing issues – and try to keep people informed about what is going on. The problem might be routine for me, but it probably isn’t for the person having the problem. This is especially true if it is a major problem that renders their computer unusable.
- Learn how to bite your tongue – Everyone will have awful days - experiences that will make them want to scream - personality conflicts will occur. Learn how to deal with it. Don’t complain about it or specific people among the people you support. This can undermine your effectiveness.
These are guidelines that I try to live by in my job. Some of these lessons, I learned the hard way – and some just seemed to make sense from the beginning. I try and remind myself of these things every day!