The digital age is upon us and it’s changing the way we work. This is true for many roles, in particular those with heavily repetitive manual processes that are now being replaced by automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies.
One such role is that of the IT service desk agent who would traditionally spend the majority of their time manually logging tickets, resolving them or triaging them to resolver teams, and chasing for ticket updates. Nowadays tickets can be resolved or logged automatically by chatbots, the workflows to triage them can be automated, and tickets can be updated and closed all without the need for human intervention.
However, this doesn’t mean that the role of the IT service desk agent is being eliminated – it just means that the role is changing, and with that change so too are the skills required to be successful.
Soft skills relate to our personalities and include traits such as being patient, a good listener, or having empathy for others. They’re skills that we can develop but they’re not really skills that can easily be taught – these are usually hard skills. Such as learning to code, fixing machines, or speaking another language. Soft skills are more about who we are as a person and for that reason, they’re also known as “people skills.”
These soft skills are the skills that differentiate us from technology – so while machines are taking away some of our manual tasks, they’re a long way off being empathetic or understanding of human needs.
Soft skills have always been important in any customer service role. However, with the rise of digital, they’re now absolutely vital – the technical skills you learn can be learned by machines too, but your people skills? That’s where you’re going to shine.
With this in mind, here are five top soft skills that I believe will make future IT service desk agents more desirable.
When you work in IT support your patience will be tested on a near-daily basis. So, you best have it by the bucket load.
It might be that you’re dealing with an unhappy customer who has had to call you three times already and their issue is still not resolved. Or perhaps you’ve got a technically illiterate customer on the phone who doesn’t understand your instructions even though you can’t possibly be any clearer. Or maybe you’re resolving the same type of incident time and time again because the technical teams don’t know the cause and can’t stop the error from recurring.
These are just three examples of a day in the life of an IT support agent but they’re incredibly common and if you don’t have much patience then you’re going to be in for a seriously stressful ride.
Showing empathy to others is critical when you’re working on the IT service desk. Life as an IT support agent is all about helping customers who are experiencing technical difficulties and, quite often, these customers are going to be upset or angry.
It might be that your customer has a deadline to meet and the system they’re using has gone kaput, or they’ve lost their mobile device and are worried about reporting it. Maybe they’ve been working on a critical file that they can no longer access.
Whatever the issue and whoever the customer might be, you’ll need to be able to put yourself in their shoes and work with them to resolve the issue. If you challenge their viewpoint, respond with irritation, or dismiss their issue as unimportant, then you’ll likely cause friction and see your customer satisfaction scores slipping.
Being able to communicate in a variety of ways is an important soft skill for IT service desk agents. You’ll be dealing with people via email, over the telephone, and face-to-face so your verbal and written communication will need to be on-point.
You’ll also need to be a great listener and practice active listening – instead of just nodding along and thinking of how you’ll respond, you need to really hear what your customer is telling you.
Active listening is an enabler for displaying empathy too. After all, you can’t really empathize with someone if you haven’t properly heard what they’ve said. Repeating back what your customer has told you is a great way to show them that you’ve listened and that you care.
Being a first-line IT support agent is all about providing the best customer service that you can offer. So, let your customers know that they’re your number one priority and you’ll be well on your way to being a success on the service desk.
This soft skill can actually be applied to any role in any organization but it’s worth mentioning because it’s one that a lot of people fail at. If you can display a great work ethic, then you’ll already be ahead of the crowd. But what does it actually mean?
A good work ethic can be displayed in multiple ways: get to work on time, be organized, take on work tasks that challenge you, take on work tasks that you might feel are “beneath” you, get stuck in, get involved, go above and beyond at any opportunity, and more.
In my experience, all you really need to do is turn up and show that your work is important to you. Be positive, be a nice person to be around, and try your best.
Like patience, this soft skill is one that will be tested regularly and if you’re not one to keep calm in a high-pressure environment then you’ll not enjoy your time spent on the IT service desk.
You’re extremely likely to be under some kind of pressure every day and oftentimes that pressure can be unrelenting. You may have a colleague off sick and now you can’t answer the phone lines quickly enough; there’s a major incident, a critical business system has gone down and you’re trying to handle the onslaught of complaints; the knowledge articles you need to write are backing up; the aged ticket numbers are increasing; or the self-service queue is filling up faster than you can empty it.
Any one of these issues is tough to handle but what if they’re all happening at the same time? IT service desk agents juggle a lot on any given day, so to get through it all you need to be calm and collected.
What do you think of these five soft skills? Which other soft skills do you think are important for someone looking at a future career in IT support? Please let me know in the comments.