A+ Certification/Exam Objectives/Life as a Tech/Customer Service and the Tech World
Your customer service skills are almost as important as your tech skills. Although this information is briefly addressed and contained on one page, expect it to color every interaction you have in your IT career. While you may do an amazing job as a tech, you will not be very successful if you are difficult to deal with, obnoxious, or offensive. A person with mediocre skills is better remembered if they were pleasant to be around and made work a priority. These skills also apply to dealing with co-workers and management team, even when you don't deal with customers directly.
How to Present Yourself
Your first impression is the most lasting, and the hardest to fix if you get it wrong. Someone who arrives on time, dresses appropriately, and seems positive sets the tone for someone who is responsible and cares whether they do a great job.
Be on time
Arriving when you are expected shows the customer that they can depend on you, and is the first commitment to the customer you will need to meet. If you will be late, or significantly earlier than expected, contact the customer to see if the new timeframe is acceptable. If necessary, schedule a new time to meet with the customer. The customer expects to be contacted if anything changes, and will appreciate communicating these changes.
It is important to keep up with your appearance as a tech. You will want to avoid clothing that is dirty, stained, torn, or wrinkled. Some environments have a dress code that will require a shirt with a collar and dress pants. If your environment is particularly dirty, jeans may be appropriate. Some environments allow dress shoes, especially if you will be walking or standing often. If you have no formalized dress code, see what everyone else is wearing and make sure you are not under- or over-dressed for work.
Also, make sure that you keep up with your personal hygene. Brush your teeth, bathe regularly, and wear deodorant. This may seem like basic principles to you, but it is overlooked by some. This is part of the impression you leave with a customer, and someone who is difficult to be around because of smell is hard to invite back. I personally keep a travel hygene kit with me for those just-in-case moments.
Maintain a positive attitude
Maintaining a positive attitude is more than just thinking positive. Frame what you will say in a positive manner. Instead of "I don't think I can get this done today," try "I should have this done by tomorrow." Focus on what you can do to make the situation better instead of what is wrong.
Cultural Sensitivity, in this sense, means being accepting of cultural differences. When you deal with someone, be sure to remain open-minded for cultural differences. You do not want to offend someone by providing your opinion of their culture. This is what people mean by not discussing religion or politics, but you should also try to avoid discussing gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Some people will become offended by sports conversation. You can easily make small talk about your work and stay positive to create a lasting positive impression.
This next section involves dealing with the customer. Now that you have made your first impression, it is time to get down to business. Are you going to wow the customer with your knowledge of the problem? What do you do if you get a personal call? When is it appropriate to repair the PC or just replace it? How does the customer know what you actually did? You will be coached on how to speak with a customer, avoiding distractions, setting expectations with the customer, and documenting your work.
Speaking with the customer
When you are talking to the customer, you want to avoid jargon or slang. It is best to evaluate how technical the customer is before getting too technical. Most customers will not know the difference between memory and storage, and that is why you are here! Do your best to speak clearly, in a way the customer will understand, and explain the issue. Please compare these pairs of sentences:
- Your RAM was ESD'd.
- Part of your computer was damaged by static electricity when the case was open.
- I bounced your connection. You're up.
- I reset the connection between us and your modem, and your modem is now working properly.
- You have a cached version of the page. I'll clear your cache and cookies.
- Your computer seems to be using old some temporary files Internet Explorer uses to make things go faster. We'll delete these, so that your computer can get the new versions.
- That's a BSOD. We'll scandisk that and run a defrag.
- Windows is crashing, and we're going to have to do some diagnostics to figure out what is going on.
The first sentence is something someone might say to describe a situation to someone else of the same technical level. Using this type of language drives a wedge between you and the customer, and makes it difficult for the customer to follow what you are saying.
The best way to understand how to talk to customers is by listening to them. Listening is more than passively hearing what someone says. It definately helps to acknowledge what someone says, but active listening skills are even better. Active listening requires discussion, and often repeating back what someone is saying. For example:
- (Tech) Hello, this is Willy at Acme computers. How can I help you?
- (Customer) Hello, this is Robert. My computer isn't working.
- (Tech) I'm sorry to hear that your computer isn't working. What is on the screen right now?
- (Customer) There is nothing on my screen now. It's been black for the past 20 minutes.
- (Tech) 20 minutes is a long time to see nothing on your screen. What was happening before your screen went black?
- (Customer) I was rearranging the things on my desk, and my screen went black. I don't know what to do.
By repeating back what Willy hears, Robert knows that Willy is paying attention. The customer is much less likely to repeat information, and feels engaged.
Part of listening is not interrupting the customer. Although you may feel like you know what the problem is, it is always best to let the customer finish what they are saying. When you interrupt, you are no longer listening to the customer and may miss vital information. It is quite possible that Robert had accidentally unplugged or turned off his monitor. If Willy interjects at this point, the fact that the power went out briefly for the whole building would have been missed. Sadly, the brief interruption of power was enough to cause the power supply to fail on the computer. Willy would have gone through several steps of unnecessary troubleshooting before realizing that the PC was not powered on, and would not have powered on without a repair. This is embarassing as a tech, as the customer knows you weren't listening and begins to question your competency.
- Personal Calls and Interruptions
- Talking to co-workers
- Repairing vs. replacing
- Following up
- Confidential materials
- How to be late
- Difficult Customers
- Difficult Situations
- Minimizing problems
- Asking Questions
- Researching the issue