Do you ever listen to how your clients describe the help desk or support department? You should. People’s opinions of you and your department aren’t solely based on your accomplishments and how quickly you attend to their needs. The manner in which you present yourself and communicate with the unenlightened user plays a major role in how they feel about you and your IS organization. Successful IS support professionals must treat their clients with respect, empathy, and common courtesy.

The fine line between confidence and arrogance
When you walk into a situation, no matter how serious or how minor, treat your clients with respect. If you’re discourteous or arrogant, your clients will resent and dislike you. They won’t want to be around you and will look forward to your failure. Everyone has been treated poorly once in their lives, and no one likes it. Remember the golden rule, and treat your clients as you would want to be treated yourself.

However, everyone wants a tech with confidence. Users want IS support professionals who act like they understand the problem, know what it will take to fix it, and have the tools and abilities necessary to make the fix possible. But there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.

The days of a tech waltzing onto the scene and acting like an egotistical know-it-all are pretty much over. There are too many good people out there. Even in a company that staffs its own IS support department, users may be free to ask for a specific technician. They may also be able to request that certain people, maybe you, aren’t sent to resolve their problems. This is a reputation you definitely don’t want.

Talk to the user, not the machine
When you approach a computer problem, you must make eye contact with and address the user attached to the computer. While the users may not understand the latest computer jargon or how their computer works, they do know that something they need and rely on doesn’t work.

Address the person before you address the machine. As hard as it is to believe, you must face the fact that human beings are more important than a metal and plastic box. (No matter how impressive the box.) Treat the users as more than just the owners or users of that box, and they might treat you as more than a flunky who tinkers with toys!

Listen to the user
Make sure you listen to what the user has to say about his or her problem. You might know exactly what the problem is even before entering the room or within seconds of spying the error message on the screen. If you blow off the upset user without even listening, however, you only add to an already stressful situation. Frequently, users don’t just want the problem solved; they need to know that you understand how upset they are. Believe me, they really need to be heard.

Listening has another advantage. You might be wrong about the problem. (Yes, it happens.) From an e-mail or phone call, you may have come up with a probable solution. When you arrive in front of the offending PC and actually listen to the user, however, you might discover a different or deeper problem. They might not know the correct words and phrases to describe their situation, but when you’re in front of them and actually listening to them, you have a better chance of understanding their predicament.

Common courtesy above all else
Finally, everyone appreciates common courtesy. This not only involves listening to and looking users in the eyes, but it also includes speaking a language they understand. If you confuse the user with “computerese” or reduce the explanation into “baby talk,” you can very easily offend the user. Strive to keep your explanation professional and courteous.

In the end
While in grade school, we were taught to “Stop, Look, and Listen.” The teacher meant it in reference to crossing the street. You should use it now when crossing paths with upset users. Stop and listen to what they have to say. Look them in the eye, and give them the dignity of recognizing that the most important item in the room sits behind the desk, not under it.
Do you have any other rules of etiquette you follow when working with users? We want to know. Post a comment below or send us an e-mail.