Why can’t we have knowledge AND communication skills?

I continue to encounter situations where persons in a technical field, computer service, software development,  or website customer service, have demonstrated complete lack of communication skills, and even arrogant and rude behaviour.  Often the person is technically inclined and very knowledgeable on the topic at hand but things are lost in translation when they open their mouth.

My problem? I take it for granted that people who work in the IT and software industry also treat their job same as someone working front line in a customer service industry. We all need to communicate with people and provide quality customer service, especially in IT and software services. Is that unrealistic of me to believe? I’ll try not to date myself here but several decades ago programming and IT tech was the domain of the computer guru and the knowledge was exclusive and limited to the special few. There was an assumed truth that techie people were … well … difficult… and that is just the way it was. They simply knew it all and we knew nothing.

I recall the Friday before Easter long weekend in 1996 when a service technician blew up the server that was running my store POS system. A minute before the mishap I calmly asked the technician, who had the case open on the server and was about to poke in there with a long metal screwdriver … “Just a comment. Does that need to be unplugged from the wall before you do that?”  A simple and honest question that got the reply … “Look. You don’t worry about my job and continue doing what you are doing there OK?”   Not what I would have said and when I heard the pop and saw the flash that signalled the permanent death of my POS server he calmly said. “Well the mainboard is toast and I’ll have to order another one in which should be 2 weeks.” and he proceeded to pack up his stuff to leave. I argued that it was he who killed the mainboard and that server was needed to run my store over the busy long weekend and what was HE going to do about it?  He said to call his head office and they take care of the details and ran out. He assumed I was stupid but hey, he was getting paid $200/hr to do this so maybe I was the stupid one. At least I know when to admit I made a mistake and know how to listen to people and make a point of empathizing with and understand what people express to me. I know the customer is the one you serve.

Here we are today, decades after Windows and Apple were introduced,  and where DOS is a black screen that only techie people remember. We are well embedded and engrossed in the mobile marketplace and we are an active, social, linked in, tweeting, app hungry, facebooking, YouTube, touch media saavy, Googling bunch.  There is a little techie in all of us but that the old stereotype of a computer technician or programmer still persists in the industry.

I cannot complain as I get quite a bit of new business clients who previosly were at a loss trying to work with their previous IT technician or website or software consultant. On  the flip side it pisses me off because I am an IT technician and a programmer for almost 25 years and I am faced with dispelling the stereotype and confusion and mis-trust that still surrounds my industry. I meet many gifted IT techs and programmers, even offering to mentor and help some with their business and skills. It confounds me that some do not want to me mentored nor want to concede to the concept that someone else may have a different idea.  Probably the most frustrating thing is lack of self awareness and lack of acceptance of responsibility for their actions. They have knowledge but no communication or interpersonal skills.

There are excellent, knowledgeable technicians and programmers out there who also possess excellent interpersonal skills and are customer service focused but it seems they are still the exception than the rule. I am pleased to see organizations like ToastMasters and BNI and even the local colleges focusing on helping technical trades (everyone) to become better at listening and to communicate more effectively. The issue is not limited to technical trades and is not a generational thing.

Take note! If you want to do business with me please take the time to understand my needs and my business needs and I assure you I will do the same for you. If you want to work with me be up front and honest and clear. B.S. smells from a great distance and there is no such thing as a white lie or false truth. Be mentorable (that should be a real word) and open to ideas but at the same time have a strong opinion. I hate ‘yes’ people as much as people who refuse to try new things and learn from others.  

I am blessed to be working currently with a great team of staff at HOSS Solutions. Everyone works very hard for our customers and they believe in the importance in serving our clients first and learning from any misgivings. We are all here to help our clients succeed and grow because only when our clients succeed do we succeed.

Cheers  – Brad