Support isn’t Support isn’t Support: Where IQ and EQ Meet

Things break. Bad things happen. We have questions. And then, we need help. We call a number. We send an email. We go to a website. We try to get the help we need. At some point, there is another human on the other side whose job it is to help you. The skill sets of these people vary depending on the product and/or service. When your hotel reservation goes wrong or the item you ordered broke during shipping, the skillset of the people from whom you seek help is very different than when your car breaks down or you need help with an app on your phone. I want to talk about the people who work business to business supporting software as a service, those who find themselves on teams most often called Technical Support.

The Technical Support role (known by a myriad of titles) seems to be a mysterious one, and yet it’s present at just about every software company. And like most roles in software, the day to day responsibilities vary wildly company to company, adding to the mystery … or the lack of appreciation for what these people do.

Over the years, this is what my teams have wanted their coworkers, customers, friends, and family to understand:

  • Technical Support is not a call center. In a call center, most issues can be resolved within a single phone call. In Technical Support, most issues take days and sometimes weeks to troubleshoot and resolve.
  • The issues can be complex and require technical savvy to solve. Technical Support must understand an overall architecture and how the pieces fit together, as well as any other inputs that could be involved. When they start tackling an issue, the decision tree to find a possible root cause is very wide and it’s the technical savvy that allows this to narrow and ultimately lead to a resolution.
  • Customer interactions require tremendous understanding and care. Often, someone is strong in either communication or technical skills. Technical Support must be strong in both.
  • Technical Support requires the ability to switch between a myriad of communication styles that might as well be foreign languages. How to talk to an engineer vs an admin vs a power user vs someone who hasn’t used software in the past is very, very different. In the span of an hour, someone in Technical Support might switch between all four at least twice.
  • The reward is subtle and mostly that’s okay. Technical Support starts from the moment something breaks. There is stress and confusion. Often by the time an issue is solved, there is a quiet “thank you,” which is usually enough, but also can be anticlimactic. There’s no Champagne moment and it’s easy to be overlooked.

What I believe my teams are craving is for people to understand that they exercise problem solving, curiosity, the ability to understand and care, troubleshooting, and technical savvy in a very unique way; that their job requires them to constantly improve their skills, from the deeply technical to the deeply human. Technical Support is where IQ and EQ (emotional intelligence) meet. Those who work in Technical Support will be some of the most well-rounded people you will encounter. Take some time to get to know them and appreciate their unique value as the nerve center of a SaaS company, helping provide a wider view of the overall customer experience beyond a single patch of customers.

Photo is of my current team at our annual company kickoff.