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Getting It Right, Up Front John Castaldi

frontlinetech Getting It Right, Up FrontThe impor­tance of early and cor­rect prob­lem descrip­tions by front­line tech­ni­cal support

I recently had a ten-hour lay­over in Ams­ter­dam on a busi­ness trip. So I decided to take the train into town. I soon returned to the train sta­tion to take the train back to the Ams­ter­dam air­port. Now on the train plat­form, there are two tracks. My chances were 50–50 to get on the right train. More impor­tantly… I also needed to get on the right train, going the right direc­tion. If not, my flight would be missed, my com­mit­ment to my client would be dis­rupted and an impor­tant work­shop would need to be resched­uled. With par­tic­i­pants expected from nine dif­fer­ent coun­tries, get­ting on the wrong train would have huge con­se­quences. Luck­ily, I boarded the right train in the right direction.

What does this have to do with front­line tech­ni­cal sup­port?

Front­line staff can­not make deci­sions rely­ing on luck. They can­not afford the risk to send every­one down the ‘wrong track’.

Front­line cus­tomer sup­port staff are the “first respon­ders” on tech­ni­cal issues. They are backed up by an army of resources—backline engi­neers, esca­la­tion man­agers, and more. And every­one, includ­ing the cus­tomer, relies on them to get the issue cor­rectly and com­pletely. Rely­ing on a 50/50 chance of get­ting it right is not acceptable.

Con­sider the con­se­quences of not accu­rately and com­pletely cap­tur­ing the customer’s issue:

  • Inter­nal resources would be squan­dered as time and effort are wasted chas­ing after a misdiagnosis.
  • Rela­tions between front­line and back­line teams can be damaged.
  • The cus­tomer could become aggra­vated if the wrong issue is addressed.
  • Pro­duc­tiv­ity goes down; expenses spike up.
  • Call com­ple­tion rates degrade; cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion scores sink. 

Unfor­tu­nately, the var­i­ous sit­u­a­tions I men­tioned play out every day in tech­ni­cal sup­port…  The customer’s issue is mis­un­der­stood because the prob­lem descrip­tion is weak, incom­plete or inac­cu­rate. Infor­ma­tion is always impor­tant in tech­ni­cal sup­port; and infor­ma­tion is even more crit­i­cal at the begin­ning of the case. The entire sup­port orga­ni­za­tion relies on these entries by the front­line staff.

For­tu­nately, they are also pre­ventable. Through train­ing, doc­u­men­ta­tion guide­lines and coach­ing, front­line tech­ni­cal sup­port can develop the skills to doc­u­ment the case accu­rately and com­pletely from the start. This requires ask­ing the right infor­ma­tion and then con­firm­ing the prob­lem descrip­tion with the customer.

Get­ting an early and accu­rate descrip­tion of the customer’s issue is crit­i­cal. A good way to start diag­nos­tic trou­bleshoot­ing is to build out a prob­lem state­ment from the cus­tomers’ some­times not-perfectly-articulate descrip­tion. A chal­lenge? Yes. But with the right train­ing and con­sis­tent prac­tice, it will get easier.

John is an Impact Per­for­mance Spe­cial­ist rec­og­nized for a dynamic and engag­ing style that inspires skill devel­op­ment in diverse audi­ences. His exper­tise is in man­age­ment and com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills. John builds on his 12+ years in high tech com­pa­nies to drive per­for­mance improve­ment. His exper­tise spans cus­tomer ser­vice, cru­cial com­mu­ni­ca­tions, hir­ing, influ­enc­ing, nego­ti­at­ing, pre­sent­ing, lead­er­ship, and sell­ing skills. His audi­ences include exec­u­tives, new hires, man­agers, and sup­port engineers.
20 Getting It Right, Up Front
John Castaldi
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