A person’s attitude contributes greatly to the outcome of any project. In the same way, the attitudes of individual staff members can affect the morale, quality of work, client interactions, and overall perception of your entire department. No discussion of customer service can neglect exploring the importance of the demeanor and mindset of the people who interact with those you serve. That said, how do you get all staff members committed to providing the best service possible? Attempting to change individual personalities is futile; however, you can clearly define your department’s expectations and develop a positive, team approach to serving your end users.
If you have not done so recently, now is a good time to gather the department together to discuss procedures and goals. As a group, make an objective list of the positives and negatives: what do you think is going well, what are you doing right, what could be done better, what is not working, what needs to be changed? It is important to see both the good and the bad and not ignore either. Give praise where it is due, but do not be afraid to confront the negatives. In a non-profit, educational environment, staff members often forget that the service they provide should be the same as that offered by for-profit companies. Technology users expect to get the help they need in a professional and timely manner just as if they were working in a Fortune 500 company or were paying for assistance. How does your department measure up?
Most importantly, remember that positive and negative attitudes go both ways. It is up to each person to set the tone for any interaction with others. Given that most people contact IT because they have a problem, no one should be surprised that those individuals may be frustrated or upset by the time you hear from them. An exasperated caller can be calmed—you have the ability to change the nature of the exchange. You can either add fuel to the fire or put the fire out—most people would prefer the latter, and it is certainly a more productive approach. This is the area where individual personalities may sometimes clash; however, by focusing on an agreed upon department approach to users, all staff members can learn to hone their people skills.
To begin, look within and examine yourself. What type of service provider are you? Which of my partially tongue-in-cheek categories best reflects your customer service style?
If we are honest, we probably alternate categories depending on the day. Nevertheless, we should be trying for that happy medium where the job gets done efficiently and everyone (for the most part) is happy with the result. When you are overeager, trying to be all things to all people, you can become overwhelmed causing quality, accuracy, and productivity to slip. Given that you have little control over how many calls or requests for help you will receive, time management and good communication skills are essential as is the ability to prioritize tasks. On the other side of the balance, if you do not have respect for your users and their needs, your ability to help will suffer. If you or members of your team frequently fall in the bottom two categories, there is work to be done changing the tone and expectations of the whole department.
In subsequent blogs, I will explore key customer service skills and practices necessary for successful end user support. These ideas can serve as a starting point for setting up department goals and procedures. Hopefully you will add to the discussion and share your thoughts on the challenge of providing excellent tech support.
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