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Soft Skills—Written Communications Skills

When technicians are in school, they seldom think that the skills they should be learning involve writing. However, in the workplace, technicians use written communication skills when they document problems and use email. Advisory committees across the country say that in addition to having technical knowledge, it is important that technicians be able to communicate effectively both written and orally, be comfortable working in a team environment, and possess critical thinking skills (that is, solve problems even though they have not been taught the specific problem).

Regardless of the size of a company, documentation is normally required. The documentation may only be the number of hours spent on a job and a basic description of what was done, but most companies require a bit more. Documentation should be written so others can read and understand it. Keep in mind that if another technician must handle another problem from the same customer, it saves time and money to have good documentation. The following list includes complaints from managers who hire technicians. You can use this list to improve and avoid making the same mistakes:

  • Avoids doing documentation in a timely manner
  • Does not provide adequate or accurate information on what was performed or tried
  • Has poor spelling, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation skills
  • Writes in short, choppy sentences, using technical jargon
  • Does not provide updates on the status of a problem

Email is a common means of communication for technicians. However, most technicians do not take the time to communicate effectively using email. The following is a list of guidelines for effective email communication:

  • Do not use email when a meeting or a phone call is more appropriate.
  • Include a short description of the email topic in the subject line.
  • Do not write or respond to an email when you are angry.
  • Send email only to the appropriate people.
  • Stick to the point; do not digress.
  • Use a spelling and grammar checker; if one is not included in the email client, write the email in a word processing application, check it, and then paste the document into the email.
  • Use proper grammar, punctuation, and capitalization; do not write in all uppercase or all lowercase letters.
  • Do not copy others unnecessarily.
  • Write each email as if you were putting the message on a billboard; you never know how the content might be used or who might see it.

The number-one complaint about technical support staff is not their lack of technical skills but their lack of communication skills. Spend as much of your education practicing your communication skills as you do your technical skills.

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