In last week’s View from Ground Zero, I told you about how, on the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend, the “software guys” in a big company conducted conference calls to walk their store managers through the process of a software upgrade. What I didn’t tell you was how those “software guys” blew it with their end users. Remember this lesson the next time you schedule a meeting in which anyone attends via conference call.

Get the handouts in everyone’s hands
Here’s what happened. My friend was on speakerphone in a meeting with his company’s IT support team. The people in the meeting were dictating instructions to install a software upgrade.

About 30 minutes into this grueling process, someone back at the home office offered this brilliant idea: “Hey, we’ve got all of these instructions written out. Maybe it would help if we faxed them to you so you could follow along with us.”

All right, everyone, harmony now, as we say together: “Duh!”

This point is something that should be part of our common sense and common courtesy every time we conduct a conference call: If the people present in the meeting have a handout, the people who are calling in deserve a copy of the handout, too.

I realize it’s not just IT people who make this common mistake. Ever since the first speakerphone appeared on the table in the “big conference room,” the people who schedule and lead the meetings have been neglecting the poor souls who either work in another city or are working from home.

The moral of the story: If you know someone is going to attend a meeting via speakerphone or Web cam, take time to do one of the following:

  • Fax the remote attendees a copy of any and all handouts.
  • E-mail the remote attendees a copy of any and all handouts.

It’s as simple as that.

Written instructions make phone support easier
Treat a telephone support call like you would a scheduled meeting. I know you don’t always have a script when you’re performing tech support over the phone. When you’re troubleshooting, you’re guessing—you ask the user to try a number of different things, and you wait to hear what the outcome is.

But if you’re going to talk a user through a structured process such as installing an update, take the time to send some instructions (by e-mail or fax) before you make the call. Your remote users will love you for it. Trust me.

Share your pain
Have you ever phoned in to a meeting and discovered that no one bothered to send you a copy of the handouts? How did that make you feel? Share your experiences by posting a comment below or by dropping us a note.
Each Tuesday, Jeff Davis tells it like he sees it from the trenches of the IT battle. And you can get his free report from the frontlines delivered straight to your e-mail front door. Subscribe to Jeff’s View from Ground Zero TechMail, and you’ll get a bonus of Jeff’s picks for the best Web stuff—exclusively for our TechMail subscribers.