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Be a Good User: Tell Me What's Wrong With Your Computer!

By Danny Davids(13,494) Danny Davids

Posted Friday, April 18, 2008
View All Blog Posts submitted by Danny Davids

I've been providing computer support for over 25 years now.  Doing anything for a quarter of a century usually gives one a good perspective on how a job should be done.  It also provides some practice in determining whether a computer user is "good" or not.

I'm not talking about somebody who is whiz-bang at Excel, or can make Adobe Photoshop do things that professional print shops can't even duplicate.  I'm looking at this from the tech's viewpoint.  To me, a "good" user is one who knows how to communicate effectively when a problem arises with her computer.  She can tell me what's wrong in plain English, helping me to quickly identify what the potential problem is, and enabling me to come up with a resolution in a timely manner.  It doesn't require a degree in computer science on the user's part, or years of experience in solving computer issues.  It DOES require a willingness to pay attention to detail and being able to convey that detail appropriately and honestly.

Let me give you some classic real-life examples of how "bad" users convey their computer issues to the tech support staff.  And pardon me if I get a little gruff in my responses.
My computer stopped working!  Really?  Did it completely power off?  Is it trying to boot up and failing to let you log into the network?  Did the program you're working in suddenly do something that you're not used to seeing it do?  "Stopped working" can mean anything.  Be specific.  Let your tech know that everything was working normally until you opened Microsoft Word and then the screen went blank.
This problem has been going on for over two weeks!  So maybe you'd like to explain why you waited until you had an important document due this afternoon before you called for assistance?  It still amazes me that people think "if I just ignore the problem it'll go away."  And then when it doesn't it's the tech's fault.  Wrong!  When a problem occurs more than once, it's time to call for support.
I was doing this and this and this and this and this and this and then it just blew up!  Comments like this tell me the user was doing too much too fast.  Maybe he was running multiple programs simultaneously and got confused about what button to click in what window.  Or maybe he was on the phone while trying to generate the big monthly report.  My guess is between the second and third "this" is when he mis-clicked or mis-keyed or mis-read.  If you find yourself saying this frequently when dealing with your support personnel, s-l-o-w d-o-w-n.  You can save yourself a lot of grief when you're not accidentally opening a window and clicking "Yes" to erase all the files on your hard drive!
I didn't touch a thing!  Variants on this one include "Nothing has changed on the computer" and "Everything's the same as it was last Friday."  Come on, people.  I'm not stupid, and neither is your support person.  Unless a hardware failure or software upgrade is involved, computers don't just randomly start doing things differently.  So, did you add a new piece of hardware to your computer?  Or did you install that cool utility you found on the Internet?  "Oh, I didn't think that would cause a problem."  Yeah, I know...this is why they pay us to fix the computers that you break.  So 'fess up and let your tech know that yes, you DID install a new game on the system last Friday afternoon, and right after that you started having problems with your accounting package.  The game will have to come off, but better to let your tech know up front than have him confront your boss about it later.

You can probably fix that by _(insert computer-tech-sounding process here)_!  If that option was available, and you knew about it, wouldn't you already have tried it and saved yourself the phone call?  Face it.  You don't know what caused the problem, so you most likely don't know the solution.  And after years of hearing this one, I can tell when a user is trying to impress me with his computer knowledge, or when he's BSing me (and believe me, the latter one happens a lot).  Report the details of the issue and then step back and let the tech do his job.  Unless you want to do it for him--in which case, here's an application, and there's HR.

And finally, my personal favorite:

I don't have this problem on my computer at home!  I'm sure you don't.  After all, you're only running a modem, cable modem, or DSL line and possibly a router to share the connection among a few computers and a printer.  You're NOT running file servers, e-mail servers, DHCP servers, DNS, WINS, firewalls, or VPN connections.  You're also not running programs that run on minicomputers or mainframes and using emulation packages to let the different computer systems talk to each other and transfer data effectively.  Comparing your home setup to the corporate setup is like comparing amoebas to apes.  So don't even think that a fix for home and a fix for work will automatically be the same.

If after seeing these examples you still don't understand why your computer guy frequently walks around the office mumbling angrily to himself, then maybe you need to stop using a computer and go back to paper and pencil (see my blog entry on the Big Chief brigade).  And if you approach me requesting help and use one of these examples to let me know what's gone wrong (or how to make it right), I'll get back to you, oh, sometime next month...!

This Blog Post has been read 759 times.
Posted to ProBlogs.com on Friday, April 18, 2008
View other posts by Danny Davids

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