By Jeff Bertocci, SVP Service Delivery
The natural personality traits of many introverts can make them a different breed of communicators, especially for the extroverted salesperson or the high-powered executive. But, recently, I ran across an article from Business Insider that listed five benefits of being an introvert:
#1 Rapport building
#2 Ability to listen
#3 Thoughtfulness and caring
#4 Self-reflectiveness and error-correction
#5 Depth vs. breadth (of relationships)
If you think about it, all five of those attributes are useful in an IT organization, specifically one where customer service is a guiding principle. A successful IT Service Provider must deliver compelling, out-of-the-box solutions and a world-class customer experience. Expertise is critical but customers must also be confident that their chosen IT partner can build a strong one-on-one rapport with their teams. We’ve found that most companies need an IT partner who listens to their needs and challenges, while being thoughtful and empathetic toward the given situation.
Putting the Introvert to Good Use
We’ve written a lot about how IT departments need to become more of a strategic asset to the business. One of the key ways to do this is to listen to your engaged customers, understand their goals and priorities, and align your IT services to help reach them. We routinely find that the natural personality traits of many introverts can be put to good use here. One of the first steps is getting them out of their cubicles and into conversations with customers.
[Related Post: 5 Ways to Make IT More Strategic ]
I am not talking about holding more company picnics that everyone is required to attend. You’ll probably just end up with small clusters of introverts sitting around talking to themselves. (See above-mentioned trait #5) What we need to create are natural opportunities for introverts to interact with the rest of the organization and their external customers so they can listen to their needs and develop closer relationships naturally. Here are five approaches to consider.
1. Direct phone calls and on-site customer meetings. As support and ticketing systems improve, it can be tempting to handle all interactions electronically. Yes, it can be more productive, but it does nothing to foster relationships. Encourage your IT support team to occasionally leave the ticketing system behind and pick up the phone to resolve more complex customer support requests. Their more extroverted customers will be impressed, and the personal contact with a highly competent support engineer goes a long way toward elevating the customer experience. When appropriate, meeting directly with a customer can be extremely productive for resolving more complex support issues, as well as fostering a personal connection between the customer’s team and the IT Service Provider’s support engineers.
2. The buddy system. Sales departments often assign their most important customers to an account manager to deepen the relationship. Consider pairing your best customers with some of your most experienced IT people. Encourage these team members to really listen and try to understand the customer’s high-level goals, not just what IT problem they’re having.
3. Specialization. Introverts like recognition as much as anyone, but not always in the same way. While your top salesperson might love being lauded in front of the entire organization, your top engineers might prefer something a little more one-on-one. Encouraging IT personnel to develop areas of deep expertise and then to use those skills can lead to opportunities for personal recognition. It will also deepen their value to your organization.
4. Solicit immediate feedback. When marketing wants to get to know their audience on a deeper level, they may run a focus group. Managed IT Providers and their Service Delivery departments can do the same thing for customers. IT team members and engineers can send their customers a short series of 2- 3 questions, pre-screened by the team supervisor, at the end of each support call. Customers feel heard and the support team can review immediate feedback to better learn which tactics work and which can be retired.
5. Interaction by design. Do your support engineers and service delivery team members have their own floor? Or are they behind a locked door to which only they have the access code? While you probably need to keep certain assets such as servers in a controlled area, you don’t need to sequester your technical team. Consider putting pods of support teams, or perhaps just certain individuals, out where the action is. There are great benefits to co-mingling your support engineers with sales engineers, customer on-boarding teams and sales executives. Even if it’s just a chance to engage in water cooler talk, it can help everyone better understand what’s going on in the rest of the company and help create a broader pool of knowledge that can be leveraged to improve sales, support and customer retention.
I’d love to hear what’s worked for you. If you’ve developed a strategy for deepening the relationships between your introverted IT specialists and your customers, please let us know.
Jeff Bertocci is Senior Vice President of Service Delivery at TierPoint. His responsibilities include scaling cloud, managed services, client services and service delivery components across the quickly expanding national TierPoint footprint. Jeff's background is extensive and includes a focus on mission-critical capabilities, web operations, SaaS initiatives and other various sensitive production and business continuity solutions. He is passionate about customer satisfaction and gauges the success of his team when a positive outcome or experience is born out of a challenging circumstance.