When you take a user support call, there’s a specific order for how things should happen. I've created a video about the six steps for handling a tech support call, including a demonstration support call.
Here are the six steps, along with some comments.
The Greeting It starts with your greeting. Avoid curt greetings such as just saying “Tech Support” and, conversely, avoid lengthy, canned greetings such as “Thank you for calling Giganticom technical support services. This is John Supportman, CCNA, MCDST. My goal is to provide you with a perfect 10 support experience. How may I provide you with excellent customer service today? Make it friendly, professional, and respectful. Something like this, “Tech Support, this is Don. May I help you?”
Active Listening After the greeting, you go into the active listening phase. This starts when the caller begins to explain the problem. After the initial explanation of the problem, be sure to get a callback phone number just in case you get disconnect. During the active listening phase, give the caller verbal cues so he or she knows you’re still there and paying attention.
Gain Agreement After the active listening phase, move into the gain agreement phase. This is where you repeat the problem and get confirmation from the caller that you understand what the problem is. You might say something like, “I’m going to repeat back the problem, just to make sure I understand what it is and to ensure I’m not missing anything.” Then repeat it back to the caller and ask if you’ve got it right.
Apologize/Empathize/Reassure After the gain agreement phase, you move into the apologize/empathize/reassure phase. In this phase, if an apology is warranted, offer one. Only apologize if the problem was caused by you, your company, or a product or service for which you’re responsible. (Of course, an expression of sympathy and understanding for the user’s difficulty is always appropriate, as long as it’s authentic.) You can empathize by using empathic statements such as, “I understand.”, “I don’t blame you. I’d be upset, too, if that happened to me.”, or “Anyone in your situation would be upset.” One word of caution here, don’t say you understand it you don’t. That will only make things worse. Instead, be authentic and say something like, “I’ve never been in your situation, so I’m not going to pretend I understand. I’m sure if I were in your shoes, I’d feel the same way you do.” The reassure part of this equation means you take ownership of the problem and let the user know you’re going to see it through to its conclusion. Use phrases such as, “I’m going to take care of this personally.” Or, if you have to escalate it, say something like this, “I’m going to escalate your ticket to level two and I’m going to personally monitor it to make sure it’s taken care of.”
Problem Solving After you finish the apologize/empathize/reassure phase, you’re ready to do the actual problem solving. Problem solving, however, is not the final phase.
Confirm Resolution The last phase is confirmation that the problem is indeed resolved. That’s where you ask if the problem is resolved to the user’s satisfaction. Do not close the ticket until the user confirms that the issue is resolved to her or his satisfaction. If there’s time and the user doesn’t seem to be in a rush, you can ask the other two questions that go at the end of a support session, which are, “Are you satisfied with the way I handled your problem?” and “Is there anything I could have done better?” If the user seems to be in a hurry, don’t ask the last two questions, but you must always, always, always ask the first question to get confirmation of resolution before hanging up and closing the ticket.
What about in-person support calls instead of on the telephone? The same six steps still apply. You still have to offer a friendly, professional greeting. You must still do active listening and gain agreement to ensure you correctly understand the issue. You’ll still apologize/empathize/reassure. You’ve still got to problem solve and you certainly don’t want to leave without confirming that the problem is resolved.
Whether it’s on the phone, in person, in a chat session, or even in email, following these six steps will ensure you manage the support ticket or situation in a professional manner that will reflect well on you and your department.
This blog post is based on my one-day IT customer service training workshop Mastering Customer Service for IT Professionals.
For more ideas on how to provide outstanding customer service in your IT department, check out my book, The Compassionate Geek: Mastering Customer Service for IT Professionals, available online in both paperback and Kindle editions at www.soundtraining.net/bookstore.