Breaking bad habits of IT support in 2018

Written by on December 20, 2017

In my previous article, I spoke about the 7 deadly sins of the IT user (and how to handle them). Let’s flip the microscope and look at habits that stop us IT agents from performing our best.

 

It’s that time of the year again – exactly a month before the average new year’s resolution… runs its course!

Every year we set vague goals for ourselves like ‘I need to lose weight’, or ‘I’d like to start saving some money’, or ‘I want to become better at my job’. We do our best to stick to them only to fall off-track a few weeks later.

The first step toward fixing this is to set concrete goals that you can measure. Instead of saying you need to lose weight, say you’ll lose 10 pounds in 2 weeks, for instance. If your goal is to become a great support agent and if your team’s CSAT target is 90%, aim for a personal score of 95%.

Step two is to make an actionable plan involving specific tasks and make the tasks a habit. Our brains are wired for efficiency. We follow a routine a few times and it becomes a habit. These habits then define how we spend our time, our days, our months, and determine whether or not we achieve our goals.

While it’s important to make new good habits, bad ones hold you back and can stop you from reaching your goals. Let’s talk about 5 bad habits in IT support and see how you can break them:

Remember: Walter White couldn’t go back once he spiraled into becoming Heisenberg, but with the right approach you can still work your way out of these. The easiest way to break a bad habit is to simply replace it with a good one.

The easiest way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one #BreakingBadHabitsinIT Click To Tweet

 

  • Using a lot of technical jargon
  • Compromising on customer experience for speed
  • Transferring customers without context
  • Ignoring valuable feedback or not addressing it
  • Apologizing as a knee-jerk reaction to everything

 

 

Using a lot of technical jargon

This one stems from a common cognitive bias – the curse of knowledge. When we’re familiar with a concept, we tend to forget what it was like to not know it and, as a result, under-communicate it. This probably happens more in IT support than anywhere else. We focus so much on the technical issue that we forget we’re actually trying to help a colleague get back to work.

You might not need to break everything down to ridiculous levels but it’s important to make sure users are following what you’re telling them to do. Some might stop you and ask for clarification. Others might just be too uncomfortable and call again hoping to connect with another technician.

So, next time you’re on a support call, remember that the user might not share your technical expertise and avoid using jargon and acronyms. When you’re not sure whether they understood something you just said, do a pulse check by simply asking. While doing so, show compassion and make sure it doesn’t come across as condescending.

 

Compromising on customer experience for speed

Every time I see FCR being a key metric (especially at the cost of CSAT), I feel bad for the support team. And worse for their customers. Not prioritizing your team’s metrics, or worse, prioritizing the wrong ones will just lead to mindless slashing of tickets. Teams that target response time or resolution time stay in ‘reactive’ mode all the time. When metrics like customer satisfaction get priority, the mindset changes and agents look for ways to proactively help customers have a great experience.

If you deal with external customers, they’re much more likely to stop using your product or service due to a bad support experience than slow ticket resolution. They might even want to tell others about it. All it takes is a bunch of people who agree, and next thing you know, it opens the floodgates for your social media team.

I understand that taking longer than necessary is also bad for customer experience. And some situations, like a sudden rise in call volume due to an unexpected outage, might be unavoidable. So, whenever it takes longer than usual to answer or resolve an issue, communicate. Put a message on the IVR about the delay, and use automation and intelligent systems to suggest relevant KB articles. While troubleshooting, walk the customer through the steps you’re following rather than putting them on hold – they’ll appreciate it. Just make sure not to overdo it

 

Transferring customers without context

In the previous article, I spoke about customers who lose their patience after being transferred multiple times. It’s bad enough they’re facing an issue, they don’t want to explain it multiple times.

You might be thinking it’s not your fault most of the time. Someone throws the customer over the wall to you and you have to bear the brunt. If you follow proper transfer procedure every time, great. But as long as anonymous transfers happen in your team or between departments, overall customer satisfaction will take a hit. Make sure there are standard protocols for transfers and escalations that everyone abides by.

If a majority of tickets coming into your service desk get escalated, you might want to consider swarming as opposed to the traditional 3-tiered support model. In swarming, technicians with varying levels of expertise work together in groups (or “swarms”). When a new ticket comes in, the person most suited to it opts in and resolves it. Of course, if most of the issues you get are relatively simple, the tiered model will work just fine, or even better.

 

Ignoring valuable feedback or not addressing it

If you support external customers, chances are you’ve used the phrase “Thanks for the feedback. I’ll be sure to pass it on.” That’s great as long as you do pass it on. But if they follow up and notice that nothing happened, they’ll begin to lost trust in your company.

Even if your product team decides not to act on the suggestion, let the customer know. Make sure you also explain why the suggestion was not implemented. It’ll show them your company cares enough to take feedback seriously. Besides, product teams rely on customer feedback for crucial decisions. And since you communicate with customers more frequently than any other department, it’s critical that you diligently communicate feedback to your product team.

 

Apologizing as a knee-jerk reaction to everything

This is perhaps the most well-intentioned habit in the list but it’s just as bad as the others, if not worse. You goof up, you apologize. Your hands are tied by the company’s policy, you apologize. And when the customer is angry, you don’t know what else to do but.. apologize.

I talked about how to handle angry customers in my previous article, but if apologizing is your go-to response for most situations, customers will begin to notice and your empathy will soon start looking like incompetence. As I mentioned earlier, the easiest way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. Try thanking the customer instead – thank them for their patience, for their business, for pointing out bugs.

 

I hope you found this helpful and hope 2018 is the year when you finally break these support habits. Let me know what habit you’re trying to break (or pick up) in the comments below. And go to this page if you’d like a cool calendar for 2018 with my comics.

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