There is no question that running a successful IT managed services business requires a technically competent team with the ability to quickly troubleshoot issues in crisis situations. But having worked in the high tech industry for over 20 years, I have learned that effective communication and other “soft skills” have a bigger impact on building lasting relationships and delighting your customers.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way.
Always looking to improve, so interested to hear what others think. (Please leave your feedback in the comments section below.)
Know when to use the right communication channel
Having strong verbal and written communications skills is obviously important, but in many cases issues arise because an individual reads a situation incorrectly and chooses the wrong communication channel. If disputes arise or mistakes are made, communicating via email can be an easy way out, but in most cases not the best approach.
When reading emails, people infer a tone and can easily misinterpret a specific word or phrase. When there is a dispute or tensions rise, a person’s emotional state changes and the likelihood of misinterpretation significantly increases.
If you are dealing with a difficult situation your best bet is to simply pick up the phone or discuss the issue in person – allowing both sides to more accurately read context and sentiment.
If you feel it is important to have a record of the conversation, follow-up with an email summarizing your discussion.
Set realistic expectations
If you are in the services industry – whether it be IT support or retail – most individuals desire to make the customer happy and want to exceed expectations. In trying to go the extra mile we can get caught in the trap of over promising and under delivering.
This can be especially tempting when you know the customer is going to be unhappy with the estimated timeline for delivery.
It is far better to take a little heat up front then to set unrealistic expectations and not deliver.
I have found in most cases, that if you can clearly articulate the process and the rationale behind the level of effort, customers tend to be understanding.
Never make excuses
Technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, but we still haven’t advanced to a point where everything is automated and robots are running the world. In the meantime, humans continue to play a vital part in the implementation and support of IT systems and even the best make mistakes from time to time.
When mistakes happen it is tempting to over explain the underlying circumstances or divert blame. For the most part, customers don’t care to know all the underlying details and don’t want to hear excuses.
The easiest way to a diffuse tense situation and move forward is to take ownership of the mistake and clearly and concisely explain how you will rectify the situation and prevent it from happening in the future. Say no more, and no less.
What communication or other soft skills have you found most important? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!