The Compassionate Person

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, CompTIA ChannelCon is one of my favorite channel events of the year. This year in particular was extra special because of the beautiful venue right on Hollywood Beach (and yes, I did sunrise beach yoga), but that’s not why it’s my favorite. Peyton Manning was the keynote speaker and I thought he did a nice job tying both his personal and professional experiences into the tech industry (and yes, I got to meet him), but that’s not why ChannelCon is my favorite.

There was a surplus of content this year delivered by all of the CompTIA communities, within the Channel Track and Track4Techs, not to mention main stage sessions, but even this is not why ChannelCon is my favorite. The best part of the event for me was seeing all of the people come from across the globe; to be a part of it. It’s one of the only events in the channel where vendors, solution providers, consultants, associations and industry experts get together with one common goal – to learn from each other. ChannelCon is different because everyone checks their personal agendas and sales pitches at the door and represents themselves as a member of the tech community, rather than the company they work for.

There was one session within the Managed Services Community meeting that I got a lot out of and would recommend to anyone in the tech industry. Don Crawely, the author of The Compassionate Geek, presented the five fundamental qualities of great customer service and communication. He focused on the personality traits of highly technical/less social individuals and highly social/less technical individuals and how both relate to servicing our customers.

For the purpose of my blog, I’m renaming it The Compassionate Person, because in my opinion these best practices don’t just apply to geeks. I don’t think anyone would consider me a geek (probably because I still use MapQuest; don’t judge me), but I still learned a lot from this session, and I’d like to share.

Heroes vs. Villains

Crawley started the session by having everyone in the audience write down customer support experiences they’ve had and why they were good or bad. We split these examples into two groups, heroes and villains. On my heroes list, I wrote, “Timely response, apologetic, and understanding.” On my villains list, I wrote, “Scripted response, not listening, not sorry, ‘It’s policy’.”

After we wrapped up the exercise, Crawley had us look through our lists and check off which examples were technical- or compassionate-focused. Every single one of my examples, good or bad, was because of how the person I was dealing with made me feel. Not because of the technical problem I was having.

The Competency-Charisma Continuum

The next step in the activity was to identify ourselves on our competency-charisma continuum chart, which had four quadrants.

  1. Competent/No charisma: Crawley used Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory as an example.
  2. Charisma/No competence: This person would have no technical competence but great people skills.
  3. Competent and charismatic: People who have a high level of technical competence and great people skills.
  4. No competence and no charisma: Crawley said if it has come to this, “Just give up” (lol).

No matter where your personality equates on the scale, he discussed how these five qualities of great customer service could help you be successful in the IT service space.

Five Qualities of Great Customer Service

  1. Technical Competency: The cornerstone of being successful in IT service is a true understanding of how the technology works. Would you feel comfortable letting a doctor operate on you if they had a great bedside manner but were not technically competent in the procedure? Or would you feel comfortable flying in an airplane whose mechanic is really nice and funny, but not the most technically savvy? No, I don’t think so. This is a must, which is why it’s number one.
  2. Compassion: The general concern and care for the person’s problem. Think about the positive and negative customer experiences you’ve had. Do you decide whether they’re good or bad based on how you were being treated and how you felt, or because of the technical problem?
  3. Empathy: Put yourself in their position. Your responsiveness to their needs is important here, but be honest about it. Don’t say you understand their problem if you really don’t. Don’t say that you know how they feel if you’ve never been in their position before.
  4. Listening: This is my favorite one, because I’m guilty of all of these. Listen for meaning, not while preparing your response. If you’re more focused on how you’re going to respond, rather than what the person is saying, you’re suggesting that what you have to say is more important. Don’t finish thoughts or sentences for another person because you don’t know what they’re going to say. It’s helpful to paraphrase back what you just heard to ensure you understand correctly, and to also give yourself more time to respond honestly. Allow natural pauses and when in doubt, stop talking.
  5. Respect: Treat everybody with dignity and respect, not because you want to get it back, but to establish the bar of behavior expectation. Crawley used the movie The Green Mile as an example here. Tom Hanks treated every prisoner with respect, no matter what their situation was.

Communication has become a rapid-fire exchange in our society, which can be exhausting, even if it’s over the phone. The media, iPhones, social media, all of our apps and a thousand other things contribute to our fast paced, rushed conversations. When we’re providing service and support to our customers, slowing down can make our customers feel valued and heard, which is a huge part of the experience.

Thank you CompTIA for another great event and to the Managed Services Community for hosting this great session!

Samantha Ciaccia is channel engagement manager at Datto and vice chair of the CompTIA Cloud Community.