Teaching Someone To Fish…

As I am often inclined to do, I was recently mulling an old quote:

Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.

This ponderance was in the context of my current role managing a support team. We’re currently working to promote our excellent knowledge base (https://support.policystat.com) and encouraging clients to search and locate answers before reaching out to our support team. We’re calling 2019 the year to put the “Self back in Self-Service.”

There are a few intents behind this push. We really want to save our users’ time by encouraging them to use the resources to find the answers for themselves. Our articles are direct and short, so the two minutes required to understand an article will always be shorter than waiting on a response from our Support team, regardless of our dedication to success. Also, with a growing client base, keeping our overall support queue manageable is important.

How we respond to our support requests about procedures (not as much technical), has direct correlations with training. Procedural tickets mean requests for password resets, account changes, policy settings, and so on. Many of these actions are things the users can do for themselves.

Great, but what about the fishing? As support professionals, we can approach these tickets in a few different ways. We can give the requester a fish, and complete the task for them. It’s a quick and easy response which resolves the issue and undoubtedly makes the client happy. Happy clients are good for business, right? The next time the user gets stuck on the same issue, they’ll come back for more. We’re giving them a fish to feed them for a day, then another day, then another day.

As an alternative, we can reply to the client and point them to the article or resource to read the right answer. It’s probably a short article, so no big deal for them to read it, right? If you as a learner ask a question of a teacher, how would you feel if your teacher just handed you a paper to read? We’re handing them a pole and pointing them in the direction of the water. Ron Swanson would appreciate this approach.

Finally, we can recognize what the client is looking to do and apply a teaching moment filled with empathy. In our reply back to the client, we can complete the task (assuming it’s possible; skip if not). With the optional task, we should list the steps we took to complete it. And to wrap it all together, identify for them the additional resources for more help, or if they get stuck again. We’re providing the lesson and the resources to get them started again.

We’re teaching them to fish for themselves. And more than just a fishing lesson, we’re giving pointers to make the next fishing trip even more effective.

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