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IDG News Service - In the new book, "The Compassionate Geek: Mastering Customer Service for I.T. Professionals," veteran IT trainer Don R. Crawley lifts a veil on a corner of the enterprise that has some of the most dysfunctional interactions between users and IT: the support desk. Along with co-author Paul R. Senness, Crawley wants to help IT departments raise their stature and reputation within the organization by giving techies some basic training in emotional intelligence and listening skills.
The book provides plenty of practical advice on delivering better help-desk service. But the reader will also find guidance on developing interpersonal skills that can help move a technology professional up in the ranks of the company. IDG News Service talked to Crawley about his experience working with IT staff on so-called "soft" skills, and what they should take away from the book.
IDGNS: How did you come to identify customer service as an area where IT people could benefit from development?
Crawley: We had a client that I'd done some training for in the Cisco space, and they liked the way I'd been training, and they said, we would like you to come and work with our help desk staff on customer service, because we think that you can relate to them better than a regular customer service trainer because you're a geek -- those were their actual words. So I talked to my friend Paul, whom I've known for years, and asked if he would help me write the training. When we got done delivering the training, for the State of Washington, we went ahead and posted it on the website in case anyone else wanted it, and the phone started ringing. We ended up delivering it for the Discover Card, Facebook, State University of New York, LogMeIn. It became very popular. Customers tell me that the reason they call is because we're a technical training firm and we can relate to the IT people.
IDGNS: What typically prompts a company to engage with you for training?
Crawley: I'll give you a story from a client who called recently who's with a university, she's the CIO, and she said she was tired of getting phone calls from her friends and colleagues who talked about her tech support staff as having the technical skills but not having the human relations skills to help the end-user do their work. That's a theme I hear frequently. What I find is, when I go in and start working with the IT staff, that they have the best of intentions and they don't realize that there's a problem. When we start talking -- and these are all very, very bright people, if you're working in IT you're smart -- they don't realize how to finesse a relationship with another person.
IDGNS: How much value do CIOs place on the service component of IT in an era when they are trying to be seen as strategic partners, not utility providers?
Crawley: I think it's very important, because without the customer service aspect and the human relations aspect, it's difficult for technical people to convince non-technical people of best practices. For example, best practices as related to security -- as we've seen with the Sony hack, and the Google hack, and other recent hacks, most of those are the result of social engineering. And with social engineering I place the blame on myself as an IT person for not adequately educating my end users as to best practices for security and secure Internet use.