In my previous article on managing skill levels, I described why customer satisfaction can be impacted by having people with the right skills. Clearly having staff with the wrong skills can hurt a customer’s perception of the organization, and impact sales of its products, its ability to deliver valuable services or provide needed support. But what skills should be measured?
Here’s a software organization example. The staff in this part of the organization are responsible for selling and ensuring the software is successfully installed and being used productively but do not program the software or develop the fixes for defects in the software.
Types of Skills to Measure – By Product:
1. The Applicability Skill:
This skill includes what the product (products) are used for. How does this product fit into a customer’s business? What value does it provide? What are the benefits (makes something faster, provides new functionality, supports a wider range of products)? This skill includes being able to size how big a computer is needed to use this product and still meet the needs of the customer (handles 1000 users or 10,000 users) and what co-requisite or prerequisite software or hardware is needed. This skill also includes how to price the product and products and justify the expense (Return on Investment).
2. How to Use the Product:
This skill is somewhat self explanatory but most software products used by end users have features that users need to learn. Sometimes, if the product is very feature rich, there is a learning curve for customers to be able to take advantage of all the features. Products that fall into these categories are email programs, databases, internet browsing, etc.. Users of the software product can be office workers, factory workers or computer specialists. Since IBM has many products for different category of users, for each product it is important to know who knows how to ‘use’ the product and has hands on experience on how to get the software to do what it was intended to do.
3. How to Install the Product:
This skill is quite different from using a product. Most of us are used to inserting a DVD or downloading software and a wizard does the installation. But in complex computer environments, there are often more complicated procedures to follow at the time of installation. It is, therefore, important to train and ensure the personnel have experience installing the Software product in various environments. Many software developers will create programs with default settings so it will install easily. And that leads to the next skill that may be needed.
4. How to Control the Product:
After the product has been installed with default settings, the product may require configuration to match the customer’s unique environment. The settings need to be configured. Over time, there many be changes to a customer’s computer system (hardware and/ or Software) and control features will need to be changed. So a separate skill category is needed to track who had that level of skill.
5. How to Optimize the Product:
This skill looks at an installation of a product or group of products and looks for the ways to make it run faster, or use less resources. This skill involves understand the detailed customer ‘environment’ in which the software product is running and the different options to make it all work together better.
6. How to Support the Product:
If you ever call a software company for support, after you describe the problem, the support person walks you through a sequence of questions to help find where the problem is and provide a fix. At IBM we call this skill, problem determination and problem source identification. Once the problem is found the customer is told how to fix it.
7. How to Install Fixes:
Sometimes the solution to a customer’s problem requires a new version or a ‘patch’ to an existing version needs to be installed. Understanding the procedures and helping customers with the upgrade or patch installation is yet another skill to be tracked.
Every organization needs to look at the staff they have and the kinds of work they do and pick the right balance of skills to track. This will help ensure that when a customer needs help, the person with the right skill set is available. Depending on the nature of the organization, not all staff will be knowledgeable in all skill types, nor should they be.
Having the right mixture of skills is a management challenge. But it is clear that customer satisfaction will be optimized with the right mixture of skills available. There is nothing more important to satisfying a customer than being able to work with someone who ‘knows what they are talking about’.
Be sure to leave your thoughts on this subject in the comments section below.