Lessons in Leadership: Reflections from Jeff Toister

HDI’s Top 25 Thought Leaders for 2016 share leadership advice and predictions for the future.

In January 2017, HDI presented the Top 25 Thought Leaders in Technical Support and Service Management. To help you get to know them better and learn what it means to be a community leader, we’ve interviewed each of our thought leaders. Today, we hear from Jeff Toister.

Jeff Toister, customer service

Briefly describe your day job and also how you are involved in the community.

I’m an author, consultant, and trainer that focuses on helping customer service teams unlock their hidden potential. My true passion is the intersection of customer service and helping employees perform their best. This has led me to consult with technical support teams and provide customer service training.

I’ve also written and delivered software training, so I know a few of the unique challenges involved with helping someone resolve a technical issue.

I write about new insights in customer service on my Inside Customer Service blog and in my Customer Service Tip of the Week email.

What motivates you to be active in the community?

The HDI community is filled with a lot of smart, genuine, and caring people. I must admit that I was nervous at first because my focus is employee performance and half of the technical stuff goes way over my head. But I’ve always felt welcome. A lot of my technical support clients are fun, quirky, and enthusiastic people, which fits well with my own personality.

I also think I have something to offer. For example, I worked with a client whose help desk was buried with so many phone calls that wait times stretched up to an hour. While I couldn’t help them resolve specific technical issues, I could give them proven strategies for reducing call volume and maintaining customer satisfaction. Working with this client helped me realize that sometimes we all need an alternative and fresh perspective to find a solution that might otherwise be hidden from sight.

What suggestions do you have for tech support professionals interested in getting more involved in the community?

Step one is get involved! Many technical support professionals I personally know spend a lot of time staying updated on what the latest technology vendors are doing, but don’t spend much time networking with other practitioners.

The secret here is that whatever obstacle you encounter in your work or even your career, there’s probably someone in the HDI community who has already figured out the solution and is willing to share.

I like that there’s a wide variety of options, too. You can attend an HDI conference, connect with your local chapter, or meet other members of the community via a weekly Twitter chat. Some of my good friends are members of the HDI community!

What trends do you anticipate for customer service strategies over the next few years?

Technical support analysts are facing increasingly complicated challenges. Simple transactions like password resets are increasingly handled via self-service options. Customers are becoming savvier at solving even more complicated issues by searching knowledge bases or even Googling. So a customer who looks for live help is probably frustrated because they already tried to find a solution and couldn’t.

That means support analysts need two critical skills. First, the best support center analysts can empathize with their customers. That empathy is critical to reducing customer frustration. Research also shows that making a customer less frustrated also makes the customer more open to solutions! So that leads to the next skill. The support analyst of the future is a creative problem solver rather than someone who follows a rote script.

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