If you think working in technical support is only for folks with a background in computers, think again. Just ask Jean Latortue, who studied photography and film before deciding to pursue a career in tech customer service. Today, he’s a manager of service and repair at Asurion, a Nashville-based company that develops mobile apps and provides support for more than 4,000 devices, regardless of the brand and operating system.
Along the way, he learned an important lesson about what it takes to succeed in a role that requires assisting people with all manner of tech snafus. “I always tell my new hires that you have to have an interest in technology, but the two most important things you need are people skills and patience,” says Latortue, whose team is on call to help with everything from troubleshooting cell phone woes to setting up wireless printing.
Kevin Elmore, an operations manager at Asurion, can attest to this as well. In fact, he credits a previous stint as a waiter for preparing him to work in tech support. “Resolving problems face-to-face with frustrated customers at the restaurant was good practice for dealing with people coming to me with their tech issues,” he says.
Below, we break down exactly which soft skills are necessary to find success helping others solve their problems. You may be more qualified to work in tech support than you think!
1. You Have Patience, Then More Patience
Think about how you feel when your phone is on the fritz, your “smart” washing machine won’t run, or you’re suffering through insert-tech-problem-here, and you place a call (or a visit) to customer support. Now think about the person on the other end of the line (or the opposite side of the counter).
Tech support experts encounter cranky and upset customers many times per day, each and every day. And they need to remain calm, cool, and collected as they offer solutions and support. Which is why patience—with a side of empathy—is critical in order to accomplish the number one goal: “to make sure the customer is happy,” Latortue says.
“It helps to understand they’re not mad at you—they’re just having a bad day. You’re there to make it better,” he adds.
2. You’re an Amazing Listener
Tech support requires paying close attention to what the customer is saying without cutting them short. This is actually much easier said than done—and takes skill and practice. “A lot of times people are pretty mad that their phone doesn’t work,” Latortue says. “If you listen to them vent their frustrations without interrupting, they usually calm down after a few minutes.”
After a customer is finished with their explanation, that’s your cue to respond with a plan. “You might say that you understand, explain how you can help, and tell them how long it will take to fix the problem,” Latortue says.
Most companies provide training to become a better listener. At Asurion, new tech support hires are assigned mentors to lead and guide them. As employees move up—say, to a manager position within tech support—they’re assigned new mentors to provide continuous support. In fact, Latortue says the lessons from his mentor have had long-term benefits, carrying over even to his personal relationships. “I use that training all the time when I communicate with my older brother, my mother, and my girlfriend,” he says.
3. You Get Excited About Learning
Tech products are constantly evolving—and one surefire way to succeed in a support role is to have an openness to acquiring new information at all times. “What makes someone a great candidate for this job is being eager to learn,” Elmore says.
Part of the learning process is embracing any and all support provided by your company. “At Asurion, we’re constantly trying to fill the knowledge base of our tech support experts with access to tools that help them find the answers to whatever issue they’re trying to resolve,” Elmore says. For example, new hires take classes to become certified in various product brands, including Apple and Samsung. There’s also a searchable database filled with articles relevant to various challenges that customers may bring—and technicians have it at their fingertips when they’re not sure how to solve a problem.
“The trainings and growth never stop,” Latortue says. “I learn new stuff every day.”
4. You Welcome Constructive Criticism
In other jobs, you often get a performance review annually. In tech support, however, expect to have your work evaluated regularly—which means you’ll never be in the dark about how you’re doing and what you need to improve. “At Asurion, we call supervisors ‘coaches,’ and they deliver in-the-game feedback on customer service, including what went well and what could go better on the next call,” Elmore says. “This ensures that we’re consistently meeting standards for quality service.”
Being receptive to and acting on this feedback—which also incorporates customer survey responses—is key if you want to get better at the job and climb the company ranks.
If you’ve got a natural aptitude for soft skills like being patient and listening to others with an open mind, you might just want to consider a career in tech support. And if you’re already pursuing that path, developing these kinds of skills will give you an edge—maybe even more than being a tech whiz.