Software

Finding balance between supporting the technically savvy vs. the technically challenged

Some people embrace new methods and updated technology, while others cling to the old familiar ways. How do you find balance between supporting those two extremes?

Some people embrace new methods and updated technology, while others cling to the old familiar ways. How do you find balance between supporting those two extremes?

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A friend of mine, who also provides user support, was commenting to me recently about his frustration when people don't take the time to learn new methods, keep things updated, or embrace new technology when it's provided. He had a couple of specific issues he was frustrated with.

If seems that not all people he supports update their various e-mail distribution lists when they're provided, and when others get left off future e-mail notifications, he's the one who has to field the complaints. He's in a position where he doesn't have direct access to the computer users he supports (or their computers), and he has to rely on them to import updated e-mail address distribution lists on a regular basis. Only about half of them, he says, will regularly and immediately update their contacts list.

Another issue he's been having is when some people don't fill in pre-created forms on their computer. These specific forms are ones he's created that would automatically tab to the fields that needed to be filled out, and then could simply be e-mailed back in their completed state. But many people, for some reason, would rather print out the form, fill it out by hand, scan it into a different file, and send back the scanned file. Why they didn't take advantage of the easier and time-saving form that was provided is anybody's guess.

I didn't have an answer to his frustrations, but I suppose he just wanted a sympathetic ear to listen to him vent. I suppose I would call or e-mail the people who seem to be falling short and offer to lend whatever help they might need to get things right. If they continue to fall short, I'd continue to send them e-mails to keep reminding them. When you don't have direct access to the people or their computers, like in his case, it could present a bit of a challenge.

Do you have any similar experiences finding balance between supporting the technical savvy versus the technically challenged (or, in some cases, the technically lazy)?

28 comments
Arcturus909
Arcturus909

I have four categories for my users: 1) "How Do You Turn This Thing On?" 2) "I Use This Thing Everyday. How Come You Changed Something? My Icons Look Different so Now I Can't Do My Job." 3) "I am Here to Co-operate and Understand You Guys Are Here to Make my Life Better. Got Any Updates You Need Me to Apply?" 4) "I Have a Computer at Home and Read all the Hacker Articles. I Can Install Better Free Warez Apps Than the Crap Software You Are Forcing Me To Use. I'm Not Going to Call You For Support Until I Have Turned This Thing Into a Brick, Which I Will Do About Once Every Three Months. OH, and When I Do, It Will Be Your Fault."

litninrod
litninrod

I find that treating an "educational" challenge is very much like writing a computing program. If I can break it down into itty-bitty steps (with those lovely screen-shots) similar to the individual instructions in a procedure, then most people can follow them. Some appreciate the education, some call back the next week for another copy, and some want me to walk them through it. Getting rid of the jargon is definitely a key. Reboot, restart, hard reboot -- why would a janitor who needs only to record his work time on a shared computer even CARE? He can answer when I ask "Do you see the button which says "Start" in the lower left?" If I start at that step-by-step level, the ones who really do understand more will ask me to speed up, or give me some other clue. However, being able to break down a task into those small steps is what keeps me from becoming really grouchy...which, of course, every customer can hear in my voice.

jmarkovic32
jmarkovic32

I've wrestled with this issue myself and came to the same conclusion. Sadly, there's a large segment of the Earth's population that don't want to handle certain responsibilties that should be theirs. It has jack squat to do with what they know or what they are capable of. Everyone who works in a professional setting is capable of learning new things. Some just are too lazy or don't want the responsibility. Think about the big Healthcare debate in America. A large number of people can afford health insurance but they either don't want to deal with it themselves (too complicated) or they would rather spend the money on something else and have the government handle it. Let me illustrate. I just deployed a remote application to a couple of sites last week. All of the heavy lifting has been done. The user's end of the bargain consisted of browsing to a folder on the local computer, double clicking a small installable, clicking on the resulting icon and loggin into the server. To make it even easier, I e-mailed all users a four page document on how to do this process. It was four pages because I included screenshots. I empowered the users to set it up themselves. However, the next day my voice mail was slammed by the usual suspects. These are the individuals who believe that doing anything extra on the computer is outside of their job description and that IT should take care of it. There's nothing you can do to help those people because it's outside of your domain. You would have to change their point-of-view philosophically. The only responsibility these people want in life is choosing the clothes they want to wear, what big screen TV to buy and whether to get the #1 or #5 at Burger King.

Ike_C
Ike_C

The technically savvy will eventually take over your job, the technically challenged will keep you employed.

sangraal
sangraal

It is ok to keep up. But, I do not blame users who overlook things as the technology contunues to change anyway. Users that stick around find it not worth it and it is true because their specialties are in other areas (in my case Doctors and Nurses). Secondly, it is and should be irrelevant, the expertise level of the users. The worst users to support are the ones who think they know it all. I do not categorize these uers as tech savvy, but socially challenged. They get minimal support until they screw something up.

Pcobiwan
Pcobiwan

Lol. We have more than one type of technically challenged. There are the ones who can't even launch a program, the ones we show how to use a function over and over again(including written instructions), and the ones who *think* they know tech and generally get themselves into a pickle. Our truly tech savvy folks are few but well-loved by those of us in support because they become the 'go-to' persons in whatever remote office they're in. We are in the process of migrating to Outlook. Most of our users are very happy. We still have a few hold-outs, though, for our old system. Unfortunately the old system is being phased out quickly so the luddites have to come along - kicking and screaming all the way, of course.

reisen55
reisen55

My job as an independent consultant is to recommend best practice and evaluate how the customer responds. Not all are the same high grade people BUT they also have their own, often very complex, jobs to do as well. Therefore I cannot judge them on tech saavy or not on a blanket basis. My real job is to work with them as their level of expertise allows for and find solutions and methods to accomodate their needs and that also meet my own standards for tech support. This is far from easy but I have never found a customer who did not appreciate this effort.

ezrabm
ezrabm

Your definition of "technically challenged" is way off the mark. The case you have described is a somewhere in-between- they can use a scanner, etc. The "technically challenged" whom I teach often have difficulty in using the mouse! I resort to single-click operation, or RHS click + LHS mouse clicks. One finger typing... Please use both hands, not just the Right hand.... One solution is to send out a note periodically asking for verification of the up-to-date email addresses. Nothing is fool-proof in this world of ours. Patience, and when that fails, more patience.

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

My major clent has switched to server based applications and the user just inserts a thumb drive in the front mounted USB port of any of the corporate desktops anywhere on the network and they get the latest, updated versions of their approriate applications. Even their least savy users have nothing to do with updating or converting files to the newest versions or formats. I do have to do some explaining to some who still try to get into areas they aren't authorized for but mostly it's simple and straight forward. No training or explanations needed on my part.

wfs1946
wfs1946

In my 20+ years doing support, I've come to one conclusion, all problems with users fall back to being "IO" error. . . Ignorant Operators, Idiot Operators and Intellegent Operators and because of this I pretty much automatically create three different sets of instructions to pass out to the users, giving the appropriate instructions that fit the type of "IO" error I might have to deal with.

romieship
romieship

If all of the folks we supported were technically savvy they probably wouldn't need us! I'm in a position where there are users who I have given up on....I may have shown them how to do something quite simple, over 20 times.....they don't get it....they never will......When I have to deal with these folks.....I tell myself that I am grateful for having a job. Then I have those folks that know enough to be dangerous...you know the kind...they call up and say they couldn't get their e-mail to open so they put a boot disk in and rebooted......and tried to fix things themselves... now their entire system is hosed...again, I tell myself that I am grateful I have a job! Finally, there are those who never seem to have a problem. I try to take extra good care of them. They save my sanity! :)

Shatter Points
Shatter Points

I share some of the same cruxes. I even offer training videos all of which I use screen captures and narrate to and the most basic way I can. The employees I support STILL do not take the time, nor are they willing. I am ready to pull my hair out over this. **edit** To give you an example of what I have to go through... I get calls because employees cannot remember where they saved a file, or what they named it, or when they saved it. They also regularly share passwords and constantly complain at the complexity requirements because their "memories aren't so good"

Judy~in~Alaska
Judy~in~Alaska

Some of the comments tickle me, some gave me good advice. Here's mine. Go to Start (wait for them) then shutdown (wait for them), then shutdown again. No, not restart or log off, shut down. Once the Power is off and no lights are flashing, take a good 10 count before powering the pc back up. We do a lot of LANDesk, a trick I just learned is you can lock the mouse & keyboard so they can't mess with them. It is dead at their end. Love it!!

Forum Surfer
Forum Surfer

They are all indexed in a faq manner. I'm constantly adding items. It helps many users when they see what you are telling them to do. Of course there still are those who totally ignore it because their problem is "different" and "urgent." Doesn't bother me too much, I'm here all 8 hours a day anyway. :)

for_merlin
for_merlin

And I suppose everyone here can A. Completely stuff a circuit board so that it looks machine made, B. Field strip and re-assemble a MACH-10 or C. Rebuild an automatic transmission D. Completely assemble a desktop computer from parts to a completely operational system. Right? I doubt it. Everyone of these and many other jobs require the use of what is or has been considered high technology. Every one of them requires hands on and hands off training. As I see it, the problem is that many of the things that make our society work require specialized knowledge that is not available to everyone. These "trade secrets" have taught us that we should NOT ask questions about areas that are not in our particular domain. That is the hands off training. Then here come the IT people that insist that we "do it ourselves" and "anyone can do it". How many of you remember the very first time you had a problem with a computer? And how relieved you were when someone who knew how to fix it did?

joseph_mcmanus
joseph_mcmanus

Believe me when I say I feel your pain. My wife is a card carrying, to the bone member of the "Technically Challenged" group! I have been doing tech support/IMAC for a few years now (and thank God) "MOST" of the people I have supported over the years can at least follow simple directions when you give them to them, EXCEPT for my wife. Don't get me wrong, I love her to death, but when your at work, and trying to do a remote install of a IM program on some persons machine out in Hawaii, and you get a panicked emergency call from your wife saying that she can't open Outlook, only to find out that she was typing her password in with the caps lock key on, well I think you feel the pain! ;-) Take care, don't pull out too much of your hair, and remember Rogaine WONT help for that kind of hair loss!

pbgibson
pbgibson

It never ceases to amaze me how many people don't know how to reboot a computer. Someone will call me with an obvious application error/conflict, so I'll tell them to reboot their machine. Many people still log off and back on, and will report to me in a matter-of-fact tone, "No, that didn't fix the problem." Sometimes the OS is frozen to the point where you can't reboot from the GUI, so you tell them just to power down the computer. The power button on todays desktops don't reboot the computer when you push it, it puts the computer in standby. The end users don't know to hold the button in, until the lights go out on the front panel. Sometimes a computer reboot will involve three phone calls to me - no joke.

CTOS
CTOS

Have you tried using things like training videos or printed out instructions? Creating links for them to just click from their desktop to get the latest updated files? There are lots of ideas out there, it is more a matter of thinking like them and using what would work, I think. Old time thinkers LOVE to feel comfortable. Thus they print out, scan and send back. They love to print out. So send them instructions to print out. Tell them to put sticky notes on their monitors to do regular updating. Send emails of videos (like a YouTube post) that you create with the steps or screencaptures of the steps. They can save them and play them over and over until they get it right or make hand written notes. Just a few ideas. Or how about an online group training, with them sharing your desktop?

handyman1972
handyman1972

Sadly, one of my biggest frustrations in life is dealing with ignorant people. I would willingly bet that most of the people I do support for have a microwave or DVD player at home with a clock blinking "12:00" for all eternity.

cranky_paranoid
cranky_paranoid

I like the users who don't know anything. They won't try to "fix" their problem; they'll call me and ask for help. 99% of my calls from them are very simple and I don't need to figure out what the #$%! they did, fix that, and then try to fix the original problem. The folks who think they know something will invariably fumble around, make the problem worse, and then I need to fix 2 things and hope their efforts didn't break something else. Give me the non-savvy every time. They make my life fun and appreciate what I do.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Is the one that gives me problems to this day. The Ingram is a piece of cake.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I've never touched a Mach-10, but give me a few minutes and I'm sure I could figure it out. It can't be more complicated than an M-2.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

"...the problem is that many of the things that make our society work require specialized knowledge that is not available to everyone." So close. As I see the problem, as it relates to providing tech support, is that companies hire employees assuming they have the needed computer skills but don't test or train. Where I work we require factory floor employees to record their work time online, retrieve and print drawings and procedures, and similar operations that require basic keyboard and mouse skills. I have never seen a training class in basic PC / Windows operation. I can't blame people for not having skills they've never been taught; I can easily blame management. And yes, I too have people who daily print things out just to sign them and scan them back in; or to print them to fax to another person in the company who has e-mail (using the full 10-digit fax number instead of the inside trunk).

lcave
lcave

When I have user reboot. I explain EXACTLY how to do it. I stay on the phone until they go down and come up. Isn't that the true meaning of support.

carrieh
carrieh

I work with a lot of people who give me a strange look when i use the word reboot but if i say "I mean restart" they catch on to what i want them to do right away.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

And how does this differ from a reboot? No, it's not a cold start, but the operating system is shut down completely and the processor is restarted

wfs1946
wfs1946

The only problem with telling the to "restart" their computer is that's exactly what they do, go to the "Start" button, click on "shut down" and change the setting to "restart", click on "OK" and restart their machine instead of rebooting it.

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