CXO

How's your computer-side manner?

When computers are sick, end users see you as the emergency room physician. Here's some advice for fostering a reputation as a good tech support analyst.


Are most of your users cooperative and fairly easy to support, or are they belligerent and untrusting? The answer to this question may provide a great deal of insight into your computer-side manner.

Calling Dr. Cyborg
Doctors are often described as having a pleasant or poor bedside manner. Many feel that a doctor’s ability to successfully treat a patient is greatly enhanced by a pleasant bedside manner. It makes sense. Let’s say you go to your doctor with a sore throat and the doctor briskly comes into the room, asks you to say ahhh, looks over the chart for the nurse’s findings, writes you out a prescription, and then leaves. You probably aren’t going to feel very good about this doctor, and if the prescription written isn’t a pleasant one, chances are you may ignore it.

On the other hand, consider what happens if the doctor spends more than a few minutes with you. If he or she asks you several questions, then carefully explains your ailment and why the treatment, although unpleasant, is very necessary, you will probably be a lot more cooperative.

In a way, that seems crazy. Obviously, if you are ailing, doctor’s orders should be followed. Ignoring them because the doctor was rude is just plain stupid. Yet, most of us do just that. I think the technical term is cutting off your nose to spite your face.

The same thing happens to computer support analysts. It seems like our users want to cut off their noses to spite their faces and not allow us to do what must be done to fix their computers. Their lives would be so much simpler if they would just trust us and let us fix their computers and move on.

If you find yourself in that situation often, you may want to check your computer-side manner. Do you have a tendency to take immediate control of the situation by asking several questions in a row, then jumping in with the solution? If so, you have a poor computer-side manner and are probably making your job a lot more difficult than it has to be.

Generally, the best way to gain the necessary cooperation from your users is explain your hypothesis and your process of diagnosis. Something like this works well:

“It seems like a connectivity problem to me, but I’m not sure if it’s the network card in your PC, or the hub in the computer room, or something in between. I’m going to ask you to ping a few network address. Then, depending on how that goes, I may need you to pull your computer out a little so you can see the card in the back. First, are you pretty sure you’re the only one having this problem?”

That approach may take a little longer than just asking the user to “ping 127.0.0.1 for a loop back,” but it’s only a few seconds. Taking the time to explain your process saves you a great deal of time in the long run.

You can’t please all the people all the time
Often the computer-side manner of the support analyst is fine, but the user will be uncooperative anyway. Maybe it’s a bad day or frustration has just taken over. Despite that, you still should think about the quality of the computer-side manner you provide. Next time you don’t think you’re getting the cooperation you need and deserve, ask yourself if you could be a bit more pleasant and informative. It may improve your success rate.

Pat Vickers is an MCSE currently with Sprint.

To comment on this article or to share your own approach to providing good computer-side manner, please post a comment below or follow this link to write to Pat.

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