A solid team of technology support individuals is important to a companies success and reputation for several reasons. The technology support staff is often the consumers first and last impression of a company. That is a huge responsibility to the technology support team memebers. In dealing with technology support a consumer builds an immediate opinion about the products and brands sold by a company. Consumers also develop an idea of how imprtant they are as customers to a company. The most significant reason that a consumer calls the technology support department of a company in the first place is because they spent their hard earned money on a product that is no longer operating as it should. In general, this let down of sorts creates dissatisfaction in the consumer and so the technology support individual begins at a disadvantage.
The first thing one needs to do in beginning to build an effective technology support staff is to get stakeholder buy in. By that I mean high level management and or executives within the company. Based on my ownexperience, most companies, American based companies that is, do not view technology support as significant because there is no direct impact on sales. However, from my vantage point, I am firm in the idea that poor technology support over time will have an immense affect to sales and under mine brand marketing initiatives. With this in mind, we need to facilitate a bottom up understanding that there is in fact a correlation between technology support and sales to get upper level buy in.
Documentation of technology support issues, responses and fixes is key in developing a well funtioning technology support team. It is preferable to have a computerized trouble ticket system in place with a database backend to aid in resolving consumer issues. This way the resolutions for the most frequent consumer problems are easily accessible. In addition, an effective computer response system should provide a trouble tree like work flow. This allows the technology support team member to walk through a series of steps with the customer in deducing the cause and nature of the problem.
The absence of some form of computerized technology support system creates a scenario where technology support team members could potentially wind up solving the same or similar consumer complaints over and over again. This is not condusive to any company regardless of its size because any duplication of effort costs money. Another method of documentation is just as is indicated, physical documents or refence cards that are maintained by the technology support staff.
When searching for candidates to fill a role on a technology support team, one of the most important capabililites is to select a candidate who has excellent communication skills. As I stated earlier in this document, your technology support staff are often the only representation that customers have of a company. It is important that the hiring manager selects a candidate who listens and understands the customers complaint or issue. Also that technology support person needs to be knowledeable of his role and responsibilities in order to resolve the issue quickly.
The technology support employee must also be curteous, patient and professional at all times. Remember, more often than not, the technology support call coming from a customer is because your companys product has failed and let them down so they are frustrated and perhaps angry. The technology support team member must be able to work through this respectfully in order to diffuse the situation.
Another element in building an effective technology support team is the consideration of the individual personalities of the team members. A team leader or management putting the team together needs to able to read people and decide what impact those team members may have on a team. Do the individual work well in a team environment? Do they handle peer critisism well? Are their work efforts and goals in line with the good of the team as a whole or are they self seeking? These are critical questions that a manager needs to consider if he or she is to build a team that will work well together for an extended period. If there is a significantly high rate of turnover on a team then training becomes an issue.
In my own experience in dealing with a technology support team as a consumer, it is important to me that the technology support person be sensitive to my particular problem. As recent as this passed week I had to call tech support for a network access issue with a company that I deal with regularly. I simply wanted to know why it was that I could send and receive emails from my personal email account using Microsoft Outlook without error at home, work and public access points; but I could not do so when connected to this one particular network. This was a network, which I spend a good deal of time on and it is a problem that I have to wait until I get home before I can send emails.
I suspected that it was a network security issue and that port 25, the outgoing mail server SMTP port; was closed to students. Instead of giving me an answer, the technology support staff member first tried to push the responsibility off onto my ISP. When I explained to her that I am the ISP and that I have a business which supplies web and email hosting services she seemed frustrated. After a brief discussion she indicated that I needed to contact Microsoft technology support and have them fix the issue. I explained to her that it is not a Microsoft issue because the software operates as expected on every network except theirs. Further I told her I had been setting up email clients since 1995 and this was not the problem.
Finally the technology support person placed me on hold for more that 20 minutes and I began to feel like I had been hung out to dry and so I eventually just hung up the phone because time was being wasted. This is a potentially volitile situation because had this been a consumer who was frustrated, they may have hung up the phone even more frustrated. These non-resolutions can severely impact brand popularity and sales over that duration of time.
Arellano, Nestor E. (2008). Eight strategies to build a strong tech support team. itbusiness.ca. Retrieved September 6, 2009, from http://www.itbusiness.ca/it/client/en/home/News.asp?id=47948
TechSoup for Libraries. (2009). Building a Technology Team. Retrieved September 7, 2009, from http://www.techsoupforlibraries.org/?q=cookbook-3/planning-and-decision-making/building-a-technology-team