What your customer wants from you

When people call customer service, what are they looking for? What forces them to pick up the phone, send an email, post a tweet or complain to Facebook? Before calling for support, people will usually try to fix the problem themselves. Barring the confidence to do so, they’ll find a workaround or at the very least cope with the problem.

When people finally make the choice to call for support, what are they’re looking for is happiness. They want to return to the happier state they were in before they had a problem. They want to continue working, continue playing, they want to continue doing what they want to do.

Calling for support means they’re unhappy and as a support person, your job is to make them happy. A return to happiness is your priority and mission when offering support whether it be technical or not.

No one likes calling support and needing service. In a perfect day, no one would have to call for support because nothing would break and everything would work perfectly. In nearly a decade of support, I have yet to see this day. Let me know if you find it.

Now that your customer has called for support, what are they looking for?

What your customer wants from you

When a person needs customer service or technical support, there are a couple of things the person is looking for. Some of them are obvious but others are implied. Being a well-rounded technician involves understanding and embodying each of these to a certain degree.

Confidence

Confidence is important because a person who needs help is having trouble. If the person who assists them doesn’t have the confidence they can solve the problem, the customer may lose faith in their abilities.

Projecting confidence, even fake confidence gives your customer the sense that you are there to take care of them and their needs. You are there to help them out and make everything OK again.

If you aren’t confident you can solve the problem, act like it. Even if you don’t have an answer, you know how to get the answer.

Expertise

Customers need your skills, knowledge and abilities to accomplish what they cannot. They seek expertise.

Acting in confidence will put the customer at ease, having the expertise to solve the problem seals the deal and solves the customer’s problem.

Every problem is different so the expertise needed to solve them is constantly changing. Sometimes it is a knowledge of a technical problem and it’s fix. Other times the expertise is knowing where to look to find the answer.

They wouldn’t be calling if they could do it themselves. Everyone has a job to do and your job is to help to solve your customer’s problems.

Understanding

Many times, a customer is frustrated or angry. Showing immediate understanding will calm them and turn their frustration into appreciation. They know they’re in good hands and you are there to help them. Put your customer at ease.

Talk to them, sometimes they’ll need to vent and get out all of the ill will and frustration they’ve built up dealing with this problem. Let them. Sometimes you need to be the whipping boy to get to the root of the problem you’re there to solve.

Your customer already has a problem, then have to navigate the gauntlet of the modern day phone tree or help desk routing maze. They have a problem and it’s been compounded by frustration so they’re ready to scream and you’re the first face they see.

Working IT support is like wearing a target on your chest. You’re the object of aggression and the free-floating hostility will be directed at you.

Understanding is more than just consoling the customer. Understand is also the knowledge you’re more than just a technician. You’re also a counselor, whipping boy and messenger.

Communication

Communication is what makes or breaks nearly all customer interactions. Customers need to be kept up to date with the progress of their problem. And technicians need to get feedback from the customer.

Communication is always two-way and when it breaks down, it delays solving the problem. Many times waiting for information in order to continue will hold up the work from being completed.

Customers are rarely aware of the progress and processes which go on behind the scenes. Keeping them up to date will remind them you are working on their problem and if there is a delay, communicating to them the reason behind it will make it easier to handle.

Communicating with your customer is key to keeping a good working relationship with them.

Creativity

Creativity is a valuable asset in problem solving. Sometimes the problem isn’t as easy as you think. Other times the obvious solution isn’t the correct one. Even if you’ve seen an identical problem and solved it, the next time could be a different solution. Problems can be as complex as the systems they occur in.

Creativity is not just thinking outside the established procedures but looking for alternate solutions. Many times a problem arises that has many possible solutions. Looking at all the possible solutions and not discounting any outright will increase your flexibility in being able to solve whatever problems may arise.

Problem solving can mean seeing the big picture and the tiny details all at once. In complex systems, sometimes a solution for one problem may cause another. It’s a balancing act to find the best solution to all of the problems.

Empathy

It is one thing to understand you’re customer’s needs and to be understanding of their pain. It’s another level to be empathetic.

Empathy is being aware of the customer’s feelings and feeling those same feelings. Put yourself in the place of your customer. How are they feeling? Understand why they’re upset or frustrated or stressed. When you understand where they are coming from, it will alter how you work with them and will lead to a more peaceful solution.

Everyone wants to be understood and wants to know their problems are important. Even when they may seem like a small annoyance to you, your customer may view this as the end of the world. Instead of clicking a setting in a preferences menu, the customer views this as having to translate one foreign language to another, in Braille.

You never know what your customer’s stress level, their past experiences with IT, or how their day is going. But when you imagine yourself in their place, you can project that deeper understand and empathy to them.

They’ll know you’re there to help and you truly understand where they are coming from and the help they need.

Honesty

Customers are looking for honesty. Don’t lie to your customers. It will break the bond of trust you’re worked so hard to establish with them. Breaking that trust destroys their confidence in you.

Even if you can’t be completely honest with a customer, be as honest as you can be. The biggest thing to remember is the world is very small and things have a way of making it back to the customer.

Don’t tell them one thing, then turn around and tell their co-worker or manager something completely different. They’ll compare notes and will know you’ve told them different things. Then they’ll ask why you did so.

Don’t put yourself in that position. Don’t undermine the trust you’ve built with your customers. It’s the most valuable trait of all.

Solutions

All of the previous traits are all leading to one final need. Your customer needs solutions. They need a fixes to problems. They need you to help them.

If you’re unable to help, all the empathy and confidence in the world won’t make you a successful technician. Fixing problems is what the profession is all about. If you’re unable to fix problems, then find another line of work because you won’t last long.

Without a solution, you’ve failed your customer. Even if the solution is one the customer doesn’t want to hear. There are times due to policy, licensing or deadlines that a satisfactory solution cannot be reached.

These are the times when you’ll need to use all your skills to make the customer understand why you can’t do what they want you to do. There are a variety of reasons you can’t get what they want done and very often it has to do with time. The customer’s perception of your time is very different than where your time goes.

It often seems as if customers assume their support people are sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting for their call. When in reality, the support staff is always busy. There is always something breaking somewhere. And even on the rare times when there are no fires to be put out, there are projects.

There are also maintenance and administrative tasks which mostly happen out of view of the customers. This is how it should be, but it contributes to the assumption of how the support person’s time is spent.

Wrap up

Striving to embody and practice all of these traits will make you a more well-rounded technician and a great customer service agent. When your customer calls for help, they’re looking for a solution to their problem and many people can provide that.

It takes more than just rote memorization to be successful. It takes projecting the confidence to do the job. It takes expertise to get the work done. Understanding what the customer needs and empathetic towards them will build trust.

Communication will make or break any support call. Creativity and flexibility will keep all options open and make finding new solutions more possible.

And of course, finding solutions is what the profession is all about. Your job is to fix problems. You’re a chief problem fixer. Without the solutions to problems, nothing else matters.