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a blog by Don R. Crawley

Keynote Speaker on
IT Customer Service and Compassion

Bringing humanity into the world of technology

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Customer care skills often hinge on being aware of the psychological and social needs of our customer or end user.

In a recent training session, several of the students (client service agents) talked about a user who might sound familiar to you. This user has been in her current position for many years and, frankly, wasn’t interested in learning new ways of doing things. When she forgets how to do a particular task with her computer, she opens a support ticket in which she blames the computer. When the help desk staffer contacts her to resolve the issue, she refuses to provide any background information and isn’t interested in learning what she might do to solve the problem herself. She uses phrases like, “I don’t care what you have to do, just fix it.” or “I don’t have time to deal with this right now, so just fix it.” We discussed various strategies for dealing with her, but the best solution came from one of the students.

Bobby successfully dealt with this user by diverting the focus from the computer to things that she liked. He knew that she loved to talk about her grandchildren, so he would talk with her about them while he was looking at her computer. By shifting the focus of the conversation for her, she became less anxious about the problem and more open to discussing solutions. In a more relaxed environment, Bobby would then talk about how something similar had happened to him (whether it actually had or hadn’t isn’t relevant) and how he solved the problem. By momentarily shifting the focus of the conversation away from the computer, Bobby helped the user relax, thus helping her become more receptive to instruction. By talking about his own experience with a similar problem, he showed empathy toward the user and helped lower her defenses. Some users just require a little more effort on our part, but by taking the time to know them as people and empathizing with their problem, you can turn a difficult situation into a productive outcome for you and the user.

In my own work supporting end users, I’ve found that referring to computer problems I’ve had in the past that were similar to those being experienced by the end user and then explaining how I solved them can sometimes alleviate end user anxiety about their own problems.

As always, when dealing with our end users or other customers, we must be respectful of their time and space. When users are obviously in a hurry, it’s usually best to minimize or avoid small talk. Similarly, if a user obviously prefers to keep his or her private life private, we need to avoid prying questions. The key is to develop an awareness of our environment and the different types of people with whom we work. The act of being aware helps ensure that we make the right decisions when dealing with other people.

For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills

Bring my one-day IT customer service training seminar onsite to your location for your group, small or large. Click here for the course description and outline.

Customer service book for IT staffPick up a copy of my IT customer service book The Compassionate Geek: How Engineers, IT Pros, and Other Tech Specialists Can Master Human Relations Skills to Deliver Outstanding Customer Service, available through Amazon and other resellers.

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