Top 5 traits for next-gen support engineers

Customer demands are evolving along with our requirements for support engineers. We asked our support center leaders which traits they expect from next-gen superstars.

My wife ordered shoes that didn’t fit. She placed the order on, and now she would have to call support to return them. The anxiety set in for her. How long would this take? How many hoops would she have to jump through? Would the support agent be pleasant, or peeved?

I knew the answer before she picked up the phone as I have visited Zappos, met the founder Tony Hsieh along with his awesome customer loyalty team. You probably already know the answer as well. Zappos is legendary for amazing service. In minutes, she had an overnight tracking number for the new pair. The support agent was a genius, too, thinking fast on her feet to leave my wife truly delighted with the outcome of the call.

Zappos-level support

The result? I want Zappos-level support from every support rep I interact with, at home and at work. And I’m not alone. Over the past few years, customer expectations have morphed dramatically. To keep up, companies can’t just rewrite a few internal policies and procedures. They have to completely rethink the role and requirements of their entire support staff.

New customer demands make for new engineer requirements

Nowhere is this more evident than here at CA. Historically, software support engineers spent way more of their time diagnosing and fixing problems than managing the experience and expectations of the customer. Many had the right technical skills, but were missing the critical soft skills that can turn a potentially bad experience into a great one.

So what makes a great support engineer? I asked four leaders of our worldwide support centers how support engineers have evolved, and what we should expect from the very best next-gen superstars. Here are our collective insights.

1. They’re not just technical. They’re energetic and personable.

Anthony Guida, Vice President of North America Support Centers, hit the nail on the head with this one. “At CA, we used to hire the very best technical person we could find. But often, those people wouldn’t be great at speaking on the phone, or be very enthusiastic about connecting with customers. Today, we look for people who like helping — people who have volunteer work or teaching or retail sales on their resumes — and we give them the technical training and career path to succeed.”

2. They’re thirsty for knowledge.

According to Julie Baxter, Vice President of EMEA Support Centers, “The best support engineers want to learn. They like to play with the technology, to know every version. And they won’t admit defeat. They WANT to solve every issue, and the customers can sense that.”

3. They are social.

It’s not just phone skills that matter, either. According to Abdul Riyaz, VP of APJ Support Centers. “Support engineers need to be social media savvy, and able to monitor and engage across multiple channels to resolve issues quickly. Today’s support engineers aren’t just talking on the phone one-to-one. They write knowledge base articles, post threads to our community site, and reach thousands of customers with every interaction. They’re helping customers solve issues on their own, and that takes very savvy, clear communication skills.”

4. They can act independently.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t team players, according to Sandro de Camargo, Vice President of Latin America Support Centers. “They have to be able to make great decisions without constant management oversight. Plus, they need to be proactive, great at organizing their day, and able to make the time amidst a hurricane of calls to engage with our community and write helpful, engaging posts.”

I agree with the answers from my executive team, and they inspired me to add a few more personality traits that I see here at CA in some of our very best support engineers.

5. They are creative, non-linear thinkers.

The “right” answer in every situation isn’t always spelled out in a training manual, call script, or corporate policy. In fact, as customers expect more personalized service, it seldom is. This means that support engineers must consider every input quickly, and arrive at solutions that don’t just solve problems, but also earn loyalty. That’s no small skill.

I’m thrilled that we have so many top-notch, truly “next-gen” support engineers here in our ranks at CA, and I’d love for you to meet a few of them.

 What are we missing?

I would like to have your feedback: what’s your best support experience, and how did the support staff make it possible? What companies and organizations are really nailing next-gen support, and how are their people making it possible?

Dayton is general manager Global Customer Success at CA Technologies. His team is dedicated to…


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