In last week’s blog post, I talked about the most critical customer service skill for IT career success. There are an additional four critical skills you must learn for IT career success. These skills are the Five Principles of IT Customer Service. They will, when mastered, allow you to positively influence your career, the people around you, and even the world.
The Principle of Deep Technical Skills
First, before anything else, as we learned last week, you must have the technical skills necessary to solve technical problems quickly and permanently. In addition, your technical skills must be deep enough to allow you to anticipate and prevent future problems. You gain such a deep level of skill through education, reading, experimenting, and experience. Attend seminars, workshops, and conferences. Go back to school and take courses related to your field. Work on professional level certifications such as those offered through CompTIA, Microsoft, Cisco, LPI, and other organizations. Set up test labs at home or in the office using virtualization tools such as VMWare, HyperV, or VirtualBox. Strive to be the best in the world at the technologies your support.
The Principle of Compassion
The second principle is compassion, the act of caring about the well-being of another. Being compassionate means having a profound awareness of another’s suffering combined with a desire to alleviate it. When our end users and customers place themselves in our care, they are first and foremost human beings. We may not like their political views, we may not like the way they look or act. We may not like anything about them, but they are still human beings deserving of our care, understanding, and respect. When you genuinely care about what happens to other people, when you are truly compassionate, you instinctively look for ways to better their experience.
The Principle of Empathy
The third principle is empathy, the ability to connect with another individual emotionally, to feel what they’re feeling. It’s often known as “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes”. In my customer service workshops, I recommend the use of empathetic phrases such as “I’d feel that way, too, if it happened to me.”, or “I can see how frustrated you are and I don’t blame you.” It’s also important to be authentic in your empathy. If you simply can’t relate to the other person’s situation, it’s okay to say so when you combine it with honest human understanding. For example, you can say things like, “I’ve never been in your situation, so I’m not going to tell you I understand. I can’t even imagine what that’s like, but I am going to do everything possible to help you.” Be careful though; if you’re simply saying the words without trying to understand what the other person is going through, you’ll come across as phony or condescending. The key is sincere, human-to-human empathy.
The Principle of Listening
The fourth principle is the ability to listen, meaning that your sole focus is on what the other person is saying. It takes practice, so don’t expect to master this skill the first time you try it. Effective listening means focusing on the other person instead of yourself. Many of listen attentively, but while we’re listening, we’re preparing our response. To be a great listener, focus entirely on understanding what the other person is saying. To quote Stephen Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, listen with the intent to understand, not just to respond. A technique that can help is to listen as though you’re going to be tested on what is being said. If you know there’s a quiz, you’ll find a way to sharpen your focus on the speaker!
The Principle of Respect
The fifth principle is the ability to treat everyone with respect, regardless of how you might feel about them. In fact, it’s not necessary to respect someone to treat him or her with respect. Respecting someone is a matter of how you feel about that person and whether they have earned your respect. It’s internal to you. Treating someone with respect, however, is external. It’s about your behavior and, frankly, is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. People who have a high level of self-respect, tend to treat everything about them more respectfully.
In our roles as providers of service to people, we may find ourselves dealing with people we don’t like or respect. We maintain our own dignity and self-respect when we treat all living things respectfully. In his landmark book, Man’s Search for Meaning, author Viktor Frankl suggests that the true measure of an individual lies not in his or her usefulness, but in his or her ability to maintain a sense of dignity in all circumstances.
It Becomes a Way of Life
The interesting thing is that, as we begin to apply these principles in our interactions with end-users and customers, they start to become second nature for us. We stop worrying about our differences from others and start enjoying our interactions with others. In the process, we intuitively provide outstanding customer service or end-user support.
By developing deep technical knowledge, living compassionately and with empathy, by listening, truly listening, to the people around us, and by treating all living things with dignity and respect, we automatically become customer service masters which leads to IT career success.
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.
Pick 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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