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How to Hire Real Tech Support Heroes

By R. J. Stangle / Sep 26, 2014

How you hire technical support agents speaks volumes about your customer service and your brand.

We talk a lot about the importance and value of a strong customer support experience, and that is because we firmly believe that a business’ future depends on it.

Savvy customers can easily find alternative products or cheaper prices. How we choose to serve our customers however, can be our most important differentiator.

WHY SERVICE IS YOUR PRODUCT

In consumer tech support, we critically need tech talent that can maintain the level of service required to keep up with the increasing complexity of support incidents. The more interconnected consumer technology becomes, the more dynamic and agile agents have to be at diagnosing and resolving issues across multiple products and technologies.

Hiring tech talent with the right balance of interpersonal skills and technical know-how is the key to providing your customers effective support that helps them get the most out of their technology products and earns your business a lifetime of loyalty.

4 TIPS FOR HIRING TECH SUPPORT HEROES:

1) The right balance between tech-savviness and high EQ (emotional intelligence)

Last year, 62 percent of global consumers switched service providers due to poor customer service experiences. There is nothing keeping customers tied to bad service. That’s why we look for people with the dual DNA of high technical proficiency and a friendly, yet professional personality.

Not easy to find, since tech-minded people are notoriously introverted. However, we can discover a lot about an agent’s ability to offer excellent service by their communication and listening skills. Agents with strong verbal and written skills, are able to get their messages across effectively with less chance of misunderstanding. They are also great at active listening, seeking to understand a customer’s issue from every angle. They ask the right questions and allow the customer the time they need to tell their story.

2) Passionate about technology and constantly expanding their knowledge 

Hobbyists, gamers and bloggers are excellent, engaged candidates. They’re constantly reading, blogging and expanding their knowledge of a product, its versions and lifecycles, and they are keenly aware of the issues a company is striving to improve. Most importantly, they like to share their knowledge.

With products growing more complex each year, it simply isn’t possible for a support agent to memorize every possible problem that can occur with a product and how to solve it. An inherent sense of curiosity about technology, an appetite for problem-solving and an eagerness to share what they learn is paramount to overcoming the avalanche of complexity that will continue to weigh on the tech support industry.

3) A “share” mindset that fosters cooperation and collaboration

One of the biggest challenges in the tech support industry is developing effective ways to encourage employees to share what they learn on the job. Often, the attitude is, “If I’m the only one who knows how to do this, ‘they’ can never fire me”. If knowledge is power than many agents may feel that sharing knowledge is akin to losing their power—their competitive advantage.

New research published in the Academy of Management Journal, indicates that if knowledge sharing is low in an organization, so is creativity and innovation.

"When people hide knowledge, they trigger a reciprocal distrust loop in which their colleagues are unwilling to share knowledge with them in return."

Since a single support program can involve multiple agents in multiple locations, passionate hobbyists are invaluable for building community because they’re motivated to go beyond the call of duty to find solutions, and make sure that everyone on the team benefits from their discoveries.

Support centres that actively reward knowledge sharing and seek out candidates that genuinely value team success as a reflection of personal success (versus those only out to achieve their own numbers) will help to build stronger internal cooperation and collaboration in the organization – key drivers in elevating the team’s collective knowledge.

4) Customer Empathy

In Jeff Toister’s article, Why your customer service agents need to have empathy, he emphasizes the fact that customer empathy comes naturally when the person helping has shared similar experiences. 

"I frequently see young mothers traveling on airplanes with fussy infants, and the most helpful flight attendants are consistently those who are mothers themselves. They understand the difficulties of traveling with an infant and are able tell the young mother, “Here’s what I did when my kids were that age.”

In technology support, customers can often feel overwhelmed and frustrated by their issues and they want someone who is going to acknowledge their distress. Yet a tech support agent who already has an inherent understanding of technology may have trouble relating to the customer’s pain. “If empathy comes from having had similar experiences” Toister says, “the easiest way to help customer service employees become more empathetic is to put them in their customers’ shoes.” In other words, empathy must be taught.

Two ways organizations can teach empathy:

1) Make employees “live” the customer’s experience: Toister gives the example of upscale hotel chains that have their new hires spend a night as a guest in order to experience the stay from their guests’ point of view. At AppHelp, we set aside time to allow our agents to mystery shop other providers of tech support. This helps them understand what it’s like for a customer to have their PC cleaned of a virus, for example.

2) Share personal stories from customers: Storytelling is a powerful way to transmit experiences and emotions in a way that sticks. Toister shares the example of medical device makers who have posters around their offices picturing real patients who have been helped by their products. Similarly, our AppHelp office walls are filled with feedback from customer surveys, where customers have told us when a support interaction has had an impact on their lives.

This is one quote that always sticks with me :

I am a carer for my disabled wife and had to be somewhere else this morning. Your technician was very helpful and understanding and got the job done. Thank you very much.

When employees have context around the impact of their jobs,  it serves as a reminder to the importance of what they’re doing.

At the end of the day, those who have the ability to understand and support others with compassion and sensitivity, will develop deeper levels of rapport and trust with customers – vital to customer retention and loyalty.

Learn more about how AppHelp's PTS program transforms support interactions into happier customers.