Guest Column | July 16, 2020

The One Soft Skill MSPs Must Identify For The COVID-19 Workforce And Beyond

By Nicole Berg, Field Nation

Coronavirus COVID-19

Technicians can be your greatest asset as well as your greatest expense; the Work Institute conservatively estimates that the cost to lose a U.S. worker is $15,000. Amid COVID-19 that number may even be greater given the unique customer interfacing challenges that technicians are facing with each state’s social distancing rules. This presents a potential incalculable loss to your MSP’s reputation. In fact, HDI’s Customer Representative Training course estimates that 80 percent of customers leave their service provider because of the lack of service to the customer or customer experience – not because the MSP lacks hard skills such as technical expertise. To improve customer retention rates and decrease technician turnover, MSPs should focus on identifying, screening, and communicating the soft skills technicians will need to succeed now and into the future.

Emotional intelligence is one of the top in-demand soft skills identified by LinkedIn for 2020. It is the ability to perceive, evaluate, and respond to your own emotions and the emotions of others. For MSPs, this means identifying employees who can empathize, anticipate and prepare for the health and safety concerns customers may have with on-site servicing; compliance is one thing, but candidates who possess the emotional intelligence to transform social distancing concerns into a relationship-building opportunity will be better set for the future. What’s more, technicians that can turn on-site interactions into high-quality customer experiences will further strengthen their company’s brand reputation. These positive exchanges will boost customers’ peace-of-mind, reassuring they are well-supported by professionals equipped to address unforeseen events, from pandemics to cybersecurity attacks.

To find out how a candidate would interact with customers, role-play scenarios during the interview process: “a customer is concerned about bringing a technician into the office due to social distancing. How do you respond?” Current social distancing guidelines may complicate the interview process further by preventing an in-person meeting. To counter this, make it a part of your process to schedule a video call to see their response in real-time.

Although identifying soft skills such as emotional intelligence early in the screening process is key, reinforcing those expectations in the scope of work will help to take some of the onus off of the technician by providing them with clear expectations and the tools to anticipate customer emotions. For example, is it the responsibility of the MSP, the technician, or the customer to provide masks, gloves, and/or sanitizer? At first glance, this may seem to have little to do with emotional intelligence, but MSPs have the power to anticipate the emotions of their customers and translate that into actionable expectations in the scope of work for technicians. Emotional intelligence is a two-way street and MSPs can hold up their end of the bargain by listening to their employees’ and contractors' concerns and practicing candor when communicating changes.

Although emotional intelligence may seem like a common soft skill to identify, its definition and application are constantly evolving along with customer expectations and major cultural events such as COVID-19. All of this is exasperated even further by the outsourced nature of MSPs, who must rely on the expertise of their workforce to properly administer emotional intelligence in the way that makes the most sense for each of the specific industries they serve, from IT to residential to commercial.

About The Author

Nicole Berg brings more than a decade of marketing, technology, and recruitment experience to the IT services industry, and currently serves as the Director of Provider Experience & Marketplace Recruitment at Field Nation, the #1 marketplace and software solution for contract IT field service work. Heavily involved in the industry, Berg previously served as the Vice President of the Minnesota Recruiting and Staffing Association. Notably, she received the Genius award from the American Staffing Association in 2017. Berg is passionate about recruitment trends, using technology to find talent, and staffing best practices. To learn more about Field Nation, visit Fieldnation.com.