Historical Problem with IT Support:
Does anyone remembers the Saturday Night Live skits with “Nick Burns Your Computer Guy” played by Jimmy Fallon. Nick is condescending, arrogant and patronizing. He uses overly technical language to “instruct” the business staff on their IT deficiencies. While he does usually fix their computer issues, he openly ridicules each of them for their technological ignorance. Obviously, this is meant to be funny satire, but the reason the humor resonates so well with the audience is because IT people have been historically viewed like this. While traditional “Hard Skills”, such as technical knowledge and computational skills, are used as prime job requirements, the possession of Soft Skills are now considered essential.
What Are Soft Skills:
Technical skills are a must, however, hiring technicians with “Soft Skills” will be what sets a company and its customer service experience apart from others. Soft Skills, also known as People Skills, include conflict resolution, communication, collaboration, listening skills, adaptability, problem solving, creative thinking, and empathy and are just a few that characterize Soft Skills. In an ever-increasing competitive market, Soft Skills are crucial in a customer-based service industry such as Managed Service Provider’s (MSPs).
Soft Skills are an Opportunity for MSPs:
As an MSP provider, we are consistently in need of balancing speed of problem resolution and quality of service delivered. While we always want to have a sense of urgency for each of our customers, “bad quality and inefficient customer service” is the number one reason customers abandon a service provider (Customer service study by RIGHTNOW).
Most of the time we get feedback on either side of the scale from our customers: Excellence or Very Poor. It is rare that will receive a call for mediocrity. For example, it would be rare for a restaurant to get a review for delivering good food at a reasonable price within an acceptable amount of time. That is what they are expected to do. The restaurant will get complaints if the food quality is terrible or the service is rude. On the other hand, they may get high praises if the food quality is exceptional and the service is above and beyond their expectations. Emphasizing on the exceptional, unexpected performance is where Soft Skills can truly be a value-add to your organization.
Customer Service is an Attitude Not a Department:
In an article written for MSPs, Anne Campbell provided 4 ways to improve customer service and they were all around the use of Soft Skills writing “Exceptional customer service is so rare it’s memorable”.
1. Don’t Dismiss or Ignore Complaints:
When complaint calls come in from customers, take the time to know and understand their issue. Empathize with them and offer validation along with creative solutions on how to resolve, make right and learn for future improvements. This takes time. This takes Soft Skills. Anything less takes a bad situation and makes it worse.
2. Foster Feedback:
In addition to changing the response to complaints, perhaps implementing new ideas on ways to gather those complaints. Gaining more constructive feedback allows you to know where to improve. Start asking for feedback more often, which could include adding a website page for feedback, sending out customer surveys or adding a call of action when sending an invoice.
3. Prioritize Current Customers:
While gaining new customers are essential for MSPs, customer retention is the true key to success. By exceeding expectations, referrals and reviews will flow forth from the mouths of these customers and recurring revenue and long term loyal customers are gained.
4. Never Stop Learning:
One of the best things about life is that we never have to stop learning. When you look at the most successful people in the world, you can see they understand this. We should never stop striving to help our organizations and ultimately ourselves in areas that are traditionally outside of our comfort zone. With so many affordable and time effective learning opportunities, there is no reason not to take every chance possible to learn something new, especially in the area of Soft Skills. From YouTube videos to affordable on-line learning, such as LinkedIn Learning, there are so many different choices to jump in and further excel at providing exceptional service through the power of Soft Skills.