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How to talk to Technical Support Print E-mail
Written by machiner   
Tuesday, 17 July 2007 03:13
When you have a problem on your computer it can be frustrating. Especially if you don't understand the error or what's going on. Something that worked fine even 2 hours ago can make you crazy, if, for no apparent reason, it just fails out of nowhere the next time. Or, you're in Linux now and something that "worked fine" in Windows is giving you trouble. Nobody knows frustration more than tech support or admin. And, like most things in life this frustration on either side can be avoided very simply.

Understand that as your technical support or your admin -- we really want to help you. Really. We are admins, tech support. We love this stuff and every opportunity to assist is an opportunity to ourselves learn more. Like anyone else we may take things for granted and skip on some things. It's nice to relearn something we may have forgotten, or get the chance to do a thing again that suddenly we need to know cold. It's nice to feel like we're enabling as well.

Just like you we are regular people, no dumber or smarter -- no less or more a tolerance threshold. We just happen to like technical things. Most of us enjoy helping you that simply don't like technical things. What we don't like is helping the same person do the same thing. Or fixing the same problem. Or trying to decipher the gibberish coming from the other end of the phone. Like you we need some clarity. There has to be a level of communication and it doesn't mean that anybody has to learn some other language or goto tech school or anything like that. It just means that the same basic aspects of communication need to be established in order to solve a problem. This is where it gets difficult. People think computers are magic. People think that computers are smarter than them or really fragile. No, no and again no.

When you have a problem on an otherwise stable computer the issue can very often be traced back to user-error. The thing about this is that Humans have an ego. EGO. Troubling to deal with. Humans like to appear smart and sophisticated, error free. When the fact of the matter is as I have described -- people generally are in a state of perpetual Duh when it comes to anything "computer". There is trouble when a person may report that they were "using Google" to check their checking account balance. Or, "I tried to print but the message kept saying 404 error". When we are engaged with this sort of problem and cannot find a common ground for communication then the problem quickly escalates into a thing that never should have been.

Computers are not magic, you're not an idiot and we need to be a whole lot kinder to each other.

Just be clear. Report what's really happening and what you really did. It's useless to beat around the bush or fail to understand basic terminology...like: plug, mouse, window (not the OS, dammit!), address bar, desktop, browser, alt+tab. Google is not your computer, the "thingy" is a descriptive term which means absolutely nothing. I like this one, when an admin has asked you to open a tool or program, it's nice to let them know that it has actually opened. I've been in countless discussions with otherwise well-meaning people that would have been 10 minutes shorter had they only reported, "OK, that's opened".

We grow weary of trying to communicate with "Ashley the mid-wife" because she's confounded by a thing that sits idle until instructed, her computer scares the hell out of her. It's irrational. Tech support folk are flabbergasted as to why Ashley cannot understand that Internet Explorer is a web browser. I did just get off the phone with "Ashley" and I'm in a fog as to how she can remember to turn the stove off when she's done cooking. She raised 4 kids, all kind and bright adults. She graduated 4th in her class.

Ashley, brightest star in the heavens, you're killing me. When you call me I want to help you but I can't because you fill my head with gobbledygook and you get frustrated when I have absolutely no clue what you're doing. You can't tell me because you don't know how to tell me and you refuse to accept that I can't help you if you can't tell me what's going on.

Some of us are good at giving directions and some are not. Some of us are confident people and well, some of us are afraid of our own shadows. Some of us flat-out refuse to learn anything that we didn't already in grade-school. Yet, we (you) will demand that your admins or tech support have ESP and you are appalled that we can not decipher what you are trying to say. Well, you have to understand, the onus is on you to explain what's happening or what you did, or didn't do.

When you initiate a dialog with your admin, or tech support, you must realize that you are wanting a resolution. You have a problem. You demand satisfaction. Therefore it is important that you are able to be clear and precise that you may get your satisfaction. State the problem. You should not report:

"This computer sucks, it won't do anything!"

When you do, you will immediately lose us. Your computer does not suck. It cannot read your mind. Some programs and operating systems have limitations. Hardware has limitations. There are restrictions at play sometimes, sometimes you don't have the necessary software installed to accomplish the task you want. There are many reasons why you cannot do what you want, but the most obvious reason is usually that you are doing it wrong, or you simply don't know how. This is OK -- because you are not born with an inherent ability to do or operate a thing. However, it's not OK when you expect magic from a box that is simply a dumb thing waiting for you to tell it what to do. You must at least learn the basics.

Like you, we are Human. We like to be addressed accordingly. We like to employ the same common politeness that is expected in society and we expect others to as well. Try this when initiating a conversation with your support: "Hi." It's a good start. You don't have to ask us about our children or get warm and fuzzy -- just say "Hi". Next you should try to be honest about what's happening on your machine. Don't say, "All I did was...." No. That won't do. Try to explain what you want to do, and then try to explain how you went about it. Use appropriate descriptors or terminology. Try to get the support to know where you are and what you're looking at. Say things like, "I'm in my browser", or, "I'm on my desktop". Even, "Word won't cooperate" is much better than saying "I can't print!!!" Well, what are you printing? What program are you in? What was the last "thing" that you installed?

Your support really does want to help you. However, it is your job to allow this to happen. You must let us help you, and you must communicate clearly in order to solve the problem.

Also, see this thread for more insight.

--machiner 16 July 2007

Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 February 2009 12:34
 

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