Sunday, January 04, 2009

Federal "KSA": communication and customer service skills

In applying for some federal IT jobs, I'm starting the practice of documenting more detailed answers to the KSA's ("Knowledge, Skills and Abilties") items on this blog.

Here is a typical KSA with a Treasury Department job:

Analytical, customer service, written and oral communication

Note, this item calls for skills, which are more than abilities: they are the deployment of abilities in a real work environment to solve real problems.

So here goes a tentative answer:

From 2000-2001 I worked as a telephone systems support analyst for an application called the Customer Service Workbench. This was a GUI interface for end users at an external customer service center. I would take pages or telephone calls from the users, do the initial investigation, and, when appropriate, make and test coding changes to software (mostly in the presentation layer) and implement or promote the changes into production. The language skills that I sometimes used were C, java and Powerbuilder.

While working in support, I had to tackle problems in systems with which I was not as familiar as systems that I had written myself. That required a steep learning curve and the development of investigation and problem resolution skills, and maintenance of a file of methods for fixing problems known to have occurred in the past. Perhaps up to about 40 kinds of problems tended to occur with a noticeable pattern. Some problems were caused by Unix process hangups, and others by java “thread death” and I documented specific procedures for restarting user systems in these cases. Some problems were related to the complexity of the way legacy data from the mainframe was presented to the user: some of it came through mainframe COBOLMVS replications and loads; some came through DB2 and Direct Connect, some problems were related to some quirks in the way TPX worked with test and production systems.

It was important to listen carefully to customers and to follow through efficiently.

We did use a monitoring package with the problem tickets called AHD.

I have also gained experience with customer service “in reverse” as a customer, of cable television and Internet services. I often find that customer service agents are not familiar with the details of all environmental problems that their customers may experience. I developed some investigatory skills as a customer at home, and these could be useful in the workplace.

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