Your IT service desk staff are hopefully warriors, battling incidents and tirelessly delivering against service requests on a daily basis to ensure the smooth running of the technology that supports and drives your organization forward.
But sadly, due to the high intensity of the service desk role, people move on and need to be replaced. So what should you be looking for in an IT service desk candidate? Do you replace “like for like” or do you look to take your team to the next level? A level where the service desk is about more than just providing technical support, with customer service and the customer experience a growing requirement of end users whose expectations are rising in line with their personal-life experiences of technology, service, and support.
The world is now so technology driven that it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that your next hire should be a computer whiz, with a knack for newer technologies. But the reality is that the person you should be searching for is a different beast, especially with the ongoing technology evolution. While this new technology is more critical to business operations, it is often much easier to support – without the technical knowhow needed for legacy IT.
Of course you could just employ a low-paid script follower now that the technical knowledge is becoming less important. But will that really work? I’d imagine not, especially given the aforementioned rising expectations of end users based on the effects of consumerization that extend much further than merely the consumerization of IT and BYOD.
So the “rules” for hiring IT support people need to change, and below I outline three common traits of super successful service desk staff that you should be looking for in your next hire.
Straight off the bat – great customer service skills will paramount to the ongoing success of your service desk.
More and more organizations are now favoring exceptional customer service skills over technical ability, with the premise that technical skills can be learnt, whereas customer-centricity, more often than not,cannot.
Service desk agents also need a good understanding of the business’ goals so that they can be more focused in helping end users/customers in using technology to achieve those needs. As outlined by Andrew Hiles and Yvonne Gunn in their book Creating a Customer-Focused Help Desk: How to Win and Keep Your Customers, your help desk or service desk staff must be customer orientated and able to see the business needs:
“Staff should think ‘business’ and ‘customer’ not ‘technology.’ Agents must be able to establish good working relationships with both customers and the technical support areas outside the desk where problems will be solved.”
So when interviewing, take the time to ask the candidate to share an experience when they’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty for a customer or simply provided great service. And of course be on the lookout for signs of natural customer-centricity and empathy.
Much of the technical know-how a service desk agent needs can be learnt.
As mentioned earlier, when recruiting service desk agents, it’s easy to get caught up in the technical skills. But be aware this potentially limits your choice from the pool of potential candidates.
So instead draw up a skills matrix identifying your “rock bottom” technical requirements and rate the candidate’s proficiency in these areas, but also their interest to learn. Then use another column of the skills that can be taught, again rating the candidate’s willingness to learn. This way you can recognize skills gaps and put an effective training program in place to find and shape staff with the perfect attitude into more technically able agents.
Additionally, rather than looking solely for technical ability, you may also wish to seek out candidates with unexpected transferable skills.
Finally, don’t fall into the trap of believing that your next hire must be a computer science graduate, and instead cast your net wider and look towards other analytical disciplines such as history or even literature. Search out subjects that require strong research experience and an adeptness to aggregate and view data in a unique way. Remember that as long as the agent possesses a willingness to learn, there’s nothing that your knowledge base or training program, or one-on-one coaching, can’t teach them.
To connect with customers, and to truly understand their issues, your service desk agents need to possess great interpersonal skills.
So compassion and communication are key traits to look for in a service desk agent. They need to be able to “walk a mile in your customers’ shoes” to understand the customers’ needs, and be able to empathize with the situation. Agents also need to be active listeners to accurately pinpoint the issue before searching for the solution; while also being clear and concise communicators to relay information to customers (plus to hand over issues or to share knowledge within the team).
So the next time you are hiring for a service desk agent consider the importance of these three attributes to the role. Of course there are others, what do you look for?
As you can appreciate, hiring the right type of service desk agent is just part of the puzzle – you also need to hire the right amount. If you want to know more about the optimal staffing of a service desk, then I recommend this blog – ITSM Basics: Is Your IT Help Desk Staffing Right? from my friend and colleague, Joe The IT Guy.