Empathy and Humility: The Most Important Skills for a Tech


By Hylan Jospeh

Recently, I was asked by a client what I thought the two most important skills are for a tech, without thinking, I blurted out “empathy and humility.” My brain clearly thought I had made a mistake and seized the opportunity to add, “and give warm fuzzy hugs when the customer reviews the bill.”

But, with my client, I had clearly aroused suspicion with my answer. I had to address it without cracking jokes, my brain would not be happy.

There are a few reasons why these skills are important:

With empathy, a technician needs to understand what the customer is going through, relate to that on a professional level, have the communication skills to set the customer at ease, and communicate to them what is going on with their equipment and what the next step is.

The customer may be freaking out, pacing behind the counter like an expectant parent waiting for the tech to arrive. Depending on how busy the café is, they could be losing up to $250 per hour on potential espresso or coffee sales, staff cost, and the potential lost customers that are going across the street to a competitor where the nice barista makes their latte just so perfect and now, it will be that customer’s new café.

By the time the tech arrives, their stress level is 150% of normal all because of the machine and all the lost sales because the tech could not get there in 15 minutes. I’ve seen this first conversation between the tech and the customer go so wrong so many times. I tell all my techs to be nice. If they get to a where they can’t be nice, that’s when they need to get on the phone with their boss and have a serious conversation.

The second point, humility, is easy to explain.

I know techs who, if they could, would wear a cape to a job and the first thing they would say is, “I’m here to save the day.” Old codgers like myself call these guys hero-techs. We all have a story of at least one of these techs who showed up the fix a machine, got paid, and a day later the café called your company to clean up the mess. It’s important to get our techs to understand the importance of serving the customer.

We, as technicians, drive the world day-to-day because our goal is to make sure that anyone who orders coffee receives that coffee. A crappy cup of coffee can ruin someone’s day, kill a business deal, or even topple a government. Our role as techs is to make sure the wheels of industry are oiled, and each individual cog is meshing with the other through functioning coffee equipment.

Our customers know this: that one good cup – one rich espresso or a perfect cappuccino – can change someone’s day. All of this can make us feel pretty darn important, but the great techs are the ones who don’t let it go to their head and remain a humble part of the system.