One of the most common things I have heard from business owners about high school students is the lack of soft skills they possess. The technical skills are there and they can learn, but it is difficult to teach the soft skills. The issue is not specific to high school students, but in the tech world, that generalization has been there for many years. The dark caves stories that make up an IT shop exists for a reason, many are like that. If you only know that your help desk ticket goes into a secret cyberspace and eventually someone assists without any human contact, is a giveaway that your IT department is operating under the dark cave model. This model does not promote soft skill expectation or development.
Make no mistake, hard or technical skills are necessary to keep any environment running smoothly for the end users. Problem-solving, project management, coding, and technical writing are all important hard skills that make this possible. Under good leadership, mentoring, and training, these hard skills can be learned by a motivated person. The question becomes can someone be taught the soft skills necessary to balance and provide the best customer support possible to the end user? In January this year, LinkedIn released (opens in new tab) the "The Skills Companies Need Most in 2018-And The Courses to Get Them". Top four soft skills include leadership, communication, collaboration and time management. According to LinkedIn, 57 percent of leaders say soft skills are more important than hard skills, makes sense in a customer service focused environment.
Organizational Chart We know the dark cave model does not work in today's world, but what organizational structure best works for an IT department to provide the best end-user support with customer support as the ultimate goal? If we are working to shed the stereotype of the dark cave, then our IT team needs to be visible and accessible to the end users. So where do we start with setting the customer service expectations desired?
When researching job descriptions recently for technicians that are in the field with our end users I noticed that technical skills are still the priority. It was not until I searched for "customer care representative" that I found the soft skills listed on job descriptions that are needed for any technology department to be successful. If we are going to set an expectation that relationships are the number one priority for our teams, then soft skills should be on the top of any application.
- Positive attitude
- Build and maintain positive relationships with students, staff, and stakeholders
- Go the extra mile to engage end users
- Greet customers warmly
- Customer orientation and ability to adapt/respond to different types of users
- Resolve end-user issues via an in-person visit, phone, help desk, or email, based on the individual needs of the user
It is not a new concept that creating an environment that places end-user support at sites, allows access and relationships to develop between end users and technical services support. Knowing that shoulder to shoulder support is nearby is comforting for those that still feel they are not good with technology and at the same time gives the early adopters a place to bounce ideas and be innovative knowing someone has their back when needed.Soft skills and relationships are not an option, they are key to a successful customer care environment. Take the time and step out of the dark cave and look around, you may find it is a great place to be!
cross posted at jcastelhanothisandthat.blogspot.com
Jon Castelhano is the Executive Director of Technology for Gilbert Public Schools in Gilbert, Arizona. He serves as an advisor to the School CIO member community, a group of top tier IT professionals in schools across the country who understand and benefit from news and information not available elsewhere. Read more at jcastelhanothisandthat.blogspot.com