Improving quality of technical support

ABC company provides high bandwidth, large diskspace, automated account creation, 99.99% uptime and 24×7 support . Their competitor, XYZ company also started providing same features. What differentiates both of them is the quality of their technical support. Quality of Technical Support differentiates the men from the boys in the Web Hosting industry. An average technical support team, can bring in customer satisfaction which retains the customers. A high quality support team, brings in customer delight, which not only retains the existing customers, it also helps in winning new ones.

This article is all about the primary qualities to look for, when you hire a new member into your technical support team. If you already have a team in place, verify that each member possess these qualities.

 

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1 Qualities of a Technical Support Engineer.

Providing your clients 24×7 technical support and quick turnaround is not considered a luxury anymore. These are the bare minimum that you have to deliver, when you run a webhosting business . The factor that differentiate one Web Host from another is the quality of Technical support, which translates directly to the quality of your technical team members.

This is the list of hard skills and soft skills that you should look for when you hire a new candidate.

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Debugging Skills and Technical Knowledge
  3. Honesty and Responsbility
  4. Result Orientation
  5. Enthusiasm
  6. Experience in Industry

These qualities and steps remain same for both inhouse and remote tech support.

1.1 Communication Skills

A Tech Support Engineer should know how to express herself. Her job requires frequent interaction with your customers . No matter how technically skilled and certified the candidate is, if communication is not upto mark, she should not be in your team. All other qualities remain secondary.

Its easy to check a candidate’s communication skill, when he/she is sitting right infront of you. However, we are discussing a situation where the communication channel is limited to e-mails and Instant Messenger. The best way to analyse communication skill is to chat with the candidate over Instant Messenger. Keep asking questions, drawing out that persons communication skills.

  1. Do the words convey a proper idea?
  2. Does it have a lot of spelling and grammer mistakes?
  3. Are you getting quick responses?
  4. Are the responses properly formatted?

The way candidate talks with you, will be the exact way he/she communicates with your customers . Your analysis of candidate’s communication skill is more than enough to determine whether you should have him/her in your Technical Support Team.

1.2 Debugging Skills and Technical Knowledge

The necessity for Technical knowledge and debugging skills doesn’t require any explanation. After communication, this is the most essential quality. How are you going to test it?

You can ask the candidate’s opinion about some software or OS. Present some imaginary problem and ask him/her to solve it. By bombarding the candidate with all your questions, you can figure it out in 2 days whether the candidate possesses genuine technical knowledge and debugging skills. During my initial days as tech support engineer, I remember my client asking me to explain in detail, how I would solve an issue. He was not a technical guy, he confessed. When he asked me to explain, all that he checked was whether my approach towards problem solving was right or not. He said a big no to trial and error method and yes to Deductive analysis or Deductive Reasoning .

1.3 Result Orientation

'An army General leading a unit will never say , Enemy is firing on us.

Neither will he say, We better fire back.

He gives specific orders, Platoon 1 move 100 mtrs left, Platoon 2 give fire cover ..etc''.'

A Tech Support Engineer should be like the General. When presented with a problem, he/she should know how to deliver results. How to use available resources in the best possible manner.An equally important trait is result oriented communication. This can be easily explained with an example

a) Wrong communication.
Tech : The mail queue is large.(then wait for the client to say what to do)

b) Result Oriented Communication.
Tech : The mail queue is large . I can
1) Empty the queue fast, by removing all mails.
2) Reduce the queue size, by checking for and deleting spam mails. I expect this will take a couple of hours.
Which way should I proceed ?.

If you find your candidate saying words which lead nowhere, which are only facts or updates about some issue, there is 100% chance that he/she will be spending most of the time replying to tickets than solving issues. Make sure your technical support team provide resolutions instead of responses.

1.4 Honesty and Responsibility

Nobody likes to hire an irresponsible and dishonest person. Its the same when it comes to technical support too. But how do you check these traits when your communication channel is limited to IMs and Mails?

The easiest method is by counter checking what the tech says. If its technical , Google will be of a lot of help here. Also verify if the tech is meeting his work related promises. Make the best use of chat logs and mail archives, as you can use them for verification. There is nothing wrong in spending a few minutes, to see if what he said is true. In 2 to 7 days , you’ll be able to judge him correctly.

1.5 Enthusiasm

You should check the tech’s enthusiasm, if you are planning to have long term associations with them. Look for the candidate who loves

1) the job.
“Why did you become a tech and not a developer? “

2) the technical platform he’s working on
“Do u like FreeBSD or Redhat ?”

3) the tools used
“Why not use IE instead of Firefox?

Select a candidate who loves the work and not the paycheck.

1.6 Experience in Industry

Experience in industry is not only an desirable factor, but essential too. With experience, a technical support engineer will understand the various aspects of the webhosting business. They deliver fast results and solutions, when compared to a fresher in the industry. Experienced people will provide views from different perspectives, which will assist you in making decisions.

2 Where to find a Remote Technical Support?

A good method is to avail the “Dedicated Techs” plan provided by outsourced Hosting support companies like Bobcares.com. Benefits of using the services of an established outsourced player over freelancers are

  • 1. Availability of trained staff. They can provide you properly trained and qualified technical support engineers.
  • 2. You can be sure that a technical support engineer will won’t vanish one fine morning. If a tech leaves, the outsourced service provider has to provide you with a replacement.
  • 3. Your information is secure. Larger companies have a strong Information security mechanism in place. Much safer than outsourcing to individual freelancers.

Another method is to post the vacancies in public forums and sites, where industry related people hang around. A few of such forums are WHT, HHO.

3 Conclusion

Unlike usual recruitment, where the candidate is right infront of you, interviewing a remote person requires more time and effort. The reason is the limitation of communication medium. You only have e-mails, Instant Messengers or phone to communicate with the candidates. You’ll have to spend at least 2-7 days to figure out whether the candidate is to be hired or not.

Its worth every second of time to get the right person in your technical support team. Remember, the Quality of your Technical Support team differentiates you from the boys in industry.


Articles by Sojish KrishnanAbout the author:
Sojish Krishnan works as Sr. Engineer in Bobcares.com. Sojish has worked in Bobcares for 4 years and is a passionate advocate of superior Customer support. He graduated Bachelors in Computer Science in 2001.


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