IT services vendors have always competed with traditional IT organizations for the best IT talent. As an MSP, you build your entire business around the talents of your in-house IT staff, so it’s a critical business requirement to make sure that you have the best and brightest people.
The challenge is this: you can have the most brilliant techs in the country, but without customer service skills, they could be harming your business more than they’re helping it.
Should you hire for tech skills or service skills?
One question you might have as you build your team is which skill set should you hire for? It’s a legitimate question.
My experience as a training professional supports what the research has found: that almost all skill sets are learnable. However, individual personalities and aptitudes can either give learners a leg up on the learning curve or act as a barrier.
When I first started to think about this, I was leaning slightly toward tech skills as the more important asset for team members.
But then I came across this great post by Ben Lucier, who makes a pretty compelling argument for making customer service the priority during hiring. He advises:
- Focusing your search on happy, articulate, caring people with a love for technology and superior communication skills
- Paring technical requirements to the absolute bare minimum and be prepared to teach the rest
- Helping them achieve any lacking qualifications as quickly as possible; provide the ongoing training necessary to ensure success
And he has a good point.
Technology changes faster than human nature
You are going to have to provide ongoing technical training anyway. So as long as your team members have a half-decent technical aptitude and you are committed to keeping their tech skills current, they can learn that piece easily.
But if you have any grouchy, reclusive, or arrogant techs, good luck turning that ship around! It can be done, but it takes an awful lot of what psychologists call "inner work." Much more complex than learning how to stand up a virtual server.
Keep those customer service skills sharp
Even the best performers appreciate your willingness to invest in their continued development. So you want to be sure to have a plan to keep everybody’s customer service skills improving, too. "Unless you have 100% customer satisfaction, you must improve," is the famous advice from Horst Schulze of the Ritz Carlton.
Since you have access to the latest technology, you could always build an angry robot like these guys, but…you could also assign reading like The Compassionate Geek by Don Crawley, which is very highly reviewed.
The most important thing is that you provide continuous learning opportunities for both skills sets: customer service skills as well as technical skills.