Bill Rose, advisor and advocate for the services industry, discusses why  successful tech support managers must balance social finesse and technical skill — and why the best techs don’t always make the best managers. Republished with permission from Ragsdale’s Eye on Service.

One of my ongoing concerns is balancing tactical and strategic when it comes to research content. Though long-term industry vision is important, it doesn’t do much to help support employees who are driving to their annual MBOs, which largely focus on metrics. When it comes to the day-to-day life of a support professional, no one knows as much as Bill Rose, SSPA’s founder. Today, Bill continues to help support organizations through Bill Rose Inc., his latest effort, offering consulting, advisory and training services for technology support.

I’m very pleased to announce that Bill has launched a series of workshops, entitled “The Art of Managing a Tech Support Center,”  a two-day, hands-on workshop presented by Bill, coming soon to a city near you. I recently sat down to talk to Bill about what’s new in support, and to get more info on his traveling workshop.

John Ragsdale: In my experience, most support managers were promoted from the ranks of tech support engineer, and the two jobs couldn’t use more different skills. Before we dive into the content of your upcoming workshop, could you talk about why you created the workshop? This seems a niche that has needed filling for a long time.

Bill Rose: Most tech support managers learn on the job!  You are correct that the best techs do not always make the best managers because the roles require totally different skills.  I felt that there was a real need to provide a foundation for all of the elements and speciality skills required to manage the customer delivery department.  As I started to layout the agenda it was apparent that the skills required to manage a tech support center are vast and varied.  This is a complex job in a very complex environment and the need for training helps to ensure success for service managers.

John: I love the title, “The ART of Managing a Tech Support Center,” because I believe it is as much art as science, and not something easily learned from a textbook.  Could you  talk about the art of managing customers?

Bill: Tech support managers are truly caught in the middle between customers, support reps, upper management, product development, and sales.  Their role is one of ‘customer advocate” to the rest of the company and, at times, this can be a very challenging position.  There are speciality skills required to manage between the customer and the company and this is where the “art” comes in.  Customers can be demanding and service needs to have the skills to handle any situation that arrises with little time to prepare,  In other words, they need to be prepared in advance to handle customer issues and ensure that the customer is fixed, as well as, fixing the technical issues.

John: I’m looking over the content for this two-day course, and it really looks like a “roll up your sleeves” kind of workshop. Could you give an overview of the content you plan to cover?

Bill: The biggest challenge in pulling the agenda together was to determine which topics were the most important to service managers.  There are so many specific areas to cover that picking the best topics became a big job.  After some great feedback from peer service managers, I believe we have the perfect mix of strategic and tactical topics.  Also, we will focus on “what” managers need to do and couple that with “how” they get the job done.  This should appeal to a broad base of tech support management.

John: You have done a ton of work over the last few years on “wrestling to the ground” definitions and best practices for response and resolve time. Could you highlight why this is such a complicated topic, and how companies approach it differently?

Bill: We all know that resolve time and response time are key customer satisfiers but we run into problems when we try to benchmark these metrics.  We can really see this when we look at resolve time.  It seems like each company measures this slightly differently.  Some use total work time and others use calendar time.  These two metrics provide totally different results.  Over the past couple of years I have been working on developing a Resolution Management Index (RMI) that will contain a series of key metrics and role them into a 2 digit index.  The RMI will provide a consistent method to measure resolve time and to benchmark against others.

John: Of course, my area of interest is services technology, and I see you plan to spend some time on the alphabet soup of technology acronyms (CRM, KB, ACD, CTI, IVR, etc.). What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in services technology over the last 10 years?

Bill: Services technologies add a layer of complexity to the service delivery process but we all know that technology is the heart of the service delivery system.  Some challenges that we see today is the integration (or lack of integration) of the various systems and in developing common reporting tools.  Service managers need to see the activities of all of their technology in one common place and they need to see it realtime.  This means that building and using a service dashboard is a major challenge for most organizations.  In addition, we are still struggling to get funding from the company to purchase new technologies that we know will make our entire operations more effective and efficient.

John: TSIA members are always asking, “Why don’t you do a roadshow and come near us?” I’m thrilled to see your workshop will be traveling around the US. What cities are you visiting and what are the dates?

Bill: The roadshow concept is not new but one that really works well for all involved.  Although we have plenty of content being delivered via webcasts there is a lot that can be gained through face-to-face meetings. Establishing solid contacts from other local service managers can easily be done when you spend a couple of days with them in a workshop.  Also, it’s much easier for me to travel to select cities than it would be for all of the attendees to come to me.  I have selected cities where there is a strong group of IT service managers so cities like Boston, Dallas, Santa Clara, Atlanta, Orlando, and Toronto are on the list of places we will hold the workshops over the next few months.

John: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Where can my readers go for more information on “The Art of Managing a Tech Support Center?”

Bill: A detailed agenda and additional information can be found at

ABOUT John Ragsdale

Avatar photoJohn Ragsdale is vice president of technology and social research for the Technology Services Industry Association. He writes a regular blog, Eye on Service, for the TSIA.