The first principle of IT customer service is deep technical competence. Often, I get asked how much technical competence is enough? The answer is in two parts.

Deep Technical Skills are Required

The first part is that you must have deep enough technical skills to fulfill your job description. Obviously, that’s going to vary from one job to another. It’s a good idea to occasionally review your job description to ensure you’re maintaining sufficient technical competency to at least meet the requirements of the description.

The Necessary Level of Technical Competence Depends on the Individual

The second part depends on you, your career goals, and your personal commitment to excellence. Suppose that your job description requires that you have a technical skill level of, say, 60. Now, for the purpose of this disucssion, that’s just an arbitrary number, but it’s minimum level of technical expertise required to do your job. Some people will be satisfied to perform at a level of 60, but they won’t be able to solve more complex and interesting problems, they won’t receive merit-based pay increases or promotions, and, frankly, they probably won’t win much respect from their peers. They may even feel like they know more than they do and might occasionally (and unintentionally) provide innaccurate information to customers, clients, and end users.

Some other people might see 60 as the minimum skill level required for their job, but strive for higher levels of performance. Their natural curiosity leads them to use the minimum skill level as a launching platform for learning as much about their work and the products they support as possible. Perhaps they would strive for, say, a skill level of 70. (Again, an arbitrary number for the pupose of illustration.) These individuals are more likely to get promotions and merit pay increases and to gain the respect of their peers.

Still others may strive for a skill level of, say, 80. These individuals not only work to improve their technical skills, but also have a curiosity about how the business works overall. They’re not only interested in IT systems, but also in accounting, marketing, production, and all the various systems or departments which contribute to the overall performance of the organization.

And still others may strive for a skill level of, say, 90 or even higher. These are the individuals who not only strive for excellence in technical skills, branching out beyond their particular areas of specialization into all aspects of IT, they work to understand how their business works overall, and they are insatiably curious about how the world works. They are voracious readers, they have hobbies and interests to stimulate their minds, they’re curious about other people, and they spend more time in conversation asking questions than making statements.

Our Actions Reveal the Truth of Our Desires

A New York Times reader commented, “We seem to get the life we want, whether or not we realize we want it.” Our actions reveal the truth about our desires. Those of us who focus our efforts, our time, and our lives on becoming the best we can be in every pursuit, whether technical, moral, academic, or anything else, demonstrate what we really want in life. Oddly, even if we don’t feel compelled to achieve excellence, the act of pursuing excellence can reframe our innermost wants and desires and transform our lives. As we think, we act and, paradoxically, as we act, we think. American football coach Vince Lombardi said, “…we are going to relentlessly chase perfection, knowing full well we will not catch it, because nothing is perfect. But we are going to relentlessly chase it, because in the process we will catch excellence.”

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

Bring my 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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