Amid all the frameworks, metrics, tips, and training advice, we sometimes lose sight of a central question: Why do we do this difficult work?
Yes, it is difficult, and anyone who doesn’t think so should sit in a meeting of service managers, or work for a few hours on the service desk, or go onsite with a desktop support technician. The jobs in our chosen field require knowledge, skill, adaptability, emotional intelligence, empathy, and patience. We’re called upon to make difficult decisions, continually improve performance, deal with crises, trim our budgets, coach teams and individuals, report everything, monitor everything, and keep our heads while we do it.
Even so, 5 percent of level 1 support staff have been in that position for more than 10 years, and more than 40 percent have been in the job for 2 to 3 years. About one-fifth of team leads have been in the job for more than 10 years. (HDI 2017 Technical Support Practices & Salary Report)
Over half the tickets (cases) that arrive in the support center are for incidents—unplanned interruptions of work. Imagine an airport where over half the arrivals were unscheduled and unannounced, and the air traffic and tower controllers just had to respond to each one and get them safely on the ground.
Skeptics: Bad comparison, you say? Support isn’t that critical, you say? What about a clinician, nurse or physician who has equipment down when it is needed—right now—for patient diagnosis or treatment? What about a chain of stores that is unable to process any transactions because of an unplanned interruption of service? The more our organizations depend on technology, the more critical service and support become.
The more our organizations depend on technology, the more critical service and support become.
So why do we do this work? Why do we come to work every day to be yelled at by unhappy users and customers, second-guessed by management, and turned down for upgrades, improvements, and staff?
It’s really fairly simple: We love it. We love helping that scientist recover a document that wins them a $3 million grant. We love showing a new employee some shortcuts in the application that will dominate their workdays. We love solving problems, finding causes, fixing things, sharing knowledge, and helping others succeed at whatever it is they are trying to accomplish. We love completing projects on time and on budget. We love discovering how a new approach can reduce the time and effort it takes to get someone back to work, whether it’s a warehouse staff member or the CEO. We love to help.
Now we’re not suggesting that service management or support is a labor of love. Service and support people get paid. But, they aren’t still there after 2, 3, or 10 years for the money. They are there because they want to help.
We see it at HDI local chapter events. We see it at our conferences. We see it everywhere we look: This is a community of people who are really interested in helping.
Sometimes, after a very tough day, it’s easy to lose focus. Sometimes you feel like giving up and walking away. But remember why you do this: You are there to make things better—for that person having an issue, as well as for the organization as a whole. Remember what it feels like to succeed at that, and you’ll be back at your work tomorrow.
Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.