It is so common in companies that the customer service people have nice personalities, but are idiots when it comes to anything technical. They will get the answer wrong 90% of the time, making them nothing more than a pretty voice on the other end of a pretty phone. Sure, it is nice to talk to someone nice, but how long will you be patient if they give you wrong answers most of the time.
On the other hand, there are people who are technically gifted. These folks tend to be very anti-social. Getting them to say hi audibly can be a challange.
So, my philosophical business question of the day is: Is it easier to train a sociable person to be technically competent — or is it easier to train a technically savvy person to have a good personality — or ANY personality for that matter?
I think that people are not so neatly defined as I make them out to be, and everyone has a different configuration of traits and unique qualities. I think the answer here could be on an individual basis, but I am learning more towards educating the sociable types.
My experience tells me that antisocial people can not learn to act like humans. I tried for years to get programmers to have conversations and invited them to many dinners (that I would pay for), and they refused every time. It didn’t matter if they were Americans, Indians, Chinese, or Martians, their personality traits were the same — anti-social. So, we have to take those who are considered to be “a people person”, and train them how to be a little less idiotic when someone asks them a technical quesiton. My experience tells me that there are “people people” who are also very gifted technically, and many who can engage in deep thought and sophisticated problems.
I remember a guy named Josh who was the most pleasant person I think I have ever met. He gave very intelligent marketing advice, and gave great answers to questions that were completely outside of his training as well.
If you take ten people people, and train them how to really understand technical issues, you might find that three or four can really excel at answering technical questions. They might need double the training that their technically experienced counterpart might need, but if they can retain the knowledge and use it for a few years, then the training pays off.