Since today is 09/09/09, I’ll play on the number nine and explore some ways support professionals can relate to the users we support.


Listen: Really listen. Look a person in the eyes (if in person) and make it known that you’re really paying attention. Don’t be distracted by things going on around you. Repeat back what you were told, and maybe expand from there if necessary.
Ask: Asking questions will send the message that you care, and it will open up the support issue to other possibilities. How often have we been faced with a user suggestion on what might be causing a particular problem, but our inquiries take us in a totally different direction?
Be Patient: Patience is indeed a virtue. It can both calm and reassure the user and help the support professional avoid falling into a self-induced stressful situation.
Explain: Let the user know what it is you’re doing.
Be Polite: I might be old fashioned, but being polite should never go out of style. Older users or younger users, it doesn’t matter. Address them politely, don’t interrupt them, and so on.
Be Prompt: If you make an appointment to show up at a certain time, don’t be late. And don’t be early either. If you give an estimate of how long you might be working (and the user will be without a computer), try to stay within that time frame. If it does take longer, explain why and let the user decide whether you should continue or come back (although this might not always be possible).
Show Respect: It goes without saying, but people should be treated with respect. What I mean in this case, however, is to not only respect the person but also respect the skill level of that person. When dealing with savvy users, don’t talk down to them or treat them like a novice. On the other hand, when supporting a person whose knowledge is somewhat limited, use simple terms that are understandable and take more time explaining things.
Respect Privacy: I suppose this is a subset of respecting a person — respecting that person’s privacy. Don’t snoop around a user’s computer. Of course, noticing some things is inevitable, but don’t intentionally invade that person’s space, whether it’s on or around the computer.

OK, I know you’re all observant enough to see that I posted only eight. The ninth one is reserved for you. What would you add to this list?