There are many tech support agents who are extremely successful at creating a great customer experience over the phone. They are patient, ask good questions, listen well and help find the best solutions for their callers. Soft skills seem to come natural to some of these support phone pros. Others who need to learn the skills show improvement when they have a great coach to help them.
Sometimes even our best technical support agents struggle with providing the empathy and engagement our customers may need. While phone, email and chat channels are frequently coached, some managers are missing the opportunity to coach their tech support agents on how to engage using ticket communications.
A tech support manager may not see the need for ticket coaching. After all the agents are communicating specific facts, figures and technical details as they have been trained to do. The manager may not understand the need for using soft skills as part of the ticket communications, especially when the support agents are working in a business-to-business tech environment.
Most tech support center managers are looking for ways to streamline their repair ticket processes to be more cost effective and workforce efficient. I’ve also had some tell me that their agents didn’t have time to write all that nice stuff.
In their quest for speed and efficiency, they sometimes forget that the customer is still seeking empathy from the agent to ease their frustration and down right irritation at the product issues or their failure to understand the “fix” being recommended. Some tech support managers may think that their business-to-business IT and other technical customers don’t want to have the “warm fuzzy” feeling created by soft skills since they are technically-oriented .
We can’t make this assumption so we need to learn to read what our customers want and need from their communication styles and feedback they give us.
Of course the repair ticket itself comes with it’s own potential problems related to customer experience. Soft skills aren’t the only customer opportunities for success or failure. Lack of timely follow-up creates a negative feeling for our customers regardless of the reasons why it happened. They don’t want excuses. They want solutions and speedy ones.
Many large tech support centers have become very clinical and robotic in their replies to customers via emails, chat and tickets without thinking how these written communications affect their customers.
Consider reviewing your tech support processes and soft skills using these tips:
- What tone do your agents have on the phone and in written communications? Be worried about your best tech people having flat tones and sounding disinterested even if they are the best agents at technical solutions. They need both the soft and the tech skills combined so don’t give a quality pass to agents struggling with soft skills.
- Stop making excuses why you can’t get coaching done consistently. Common excuses are: “We are so busy….Our expenses are high…We are short staffed.” Your customers really don’t care, do they? Find the tools you need to make sure coaching is timely and effective across all channels of tech support.
- Don’t assume that great tech support phone skills mean they have great written communications skills. Look at writing styles from the customer’s viewpoint, especially long chains of ticket and email communications in order to have the full skills picture. Are they showing concern and empathy in writing or just the cold facts?
- If your tickets are just copy and paste responses, your company will be losing the opportunity to have a personal touch with customers. There is great support software available to automate some things but look for ways to personalize and connect with the customer.
- Many managers talk about great customer experience but do everything they can to prevent agents from providing it. Are you “walking” or just talking?
- If tickets are backed up and response is slow, how do your tech support reps communicate this to customers? Are you relying on the old “we will be in contact soon” canned messages that your customers hate?
- Are you “engaged” with your agents on a daily basis so they in turn can be engaging with customers? If your tech reps see themselves as a repair factory instead of feeling they are key to building relationships, they will focus on the process alone.
- Give your tech people a chance to be “human.” Are you measuring time and efficiency so tightly that your people write curt, disinterested communications or cut customers off when they try to explain their situation to keep to unrealistic call length expectations? Many tech reps say they don’t feel they are given the time to connect with customers.
Train, coach and engage with your tech team but most importantly, lead by demonstrating the importance of quality, soft skills and successful resolution combined for customer experience success.