Thursday, July 30, 2009

Some things that drive your users crazy

Although I'm not from the IT department, I work in a unit that can be called 'embedded' IT. As such, we provide IT support within the department. Our unit deals with users and their systems more than the actual IT department itself, whose dealings with users are limited to hardware issues. 

Here is one of the lists found at a top IT resource center, summarized for easy reading and infused with some personal experiences.

Users also have certain buttons that should not be pushed. It's a good idea to learn to recognize and avoid as many potential annoyances as possible. Here are 10 of the more common user buttons we should be aware of.

1. Being talked down to - Many users cannot cope with the rapid change in computer technology. Do not make them think that you think they're idiots too lazy to learn.

2. Being talked up to - On the other hand, don't overwhelm them with technical information. Maybe all they really want to know is how long it will be before they can get going again. Anything else, even if important in solving the problem or preventing its recurrence, is secondary. Saying less may be better.

3. Hearing that what they want can't be done - Don't make them think you don't know how to do it or you're just too lazy to do it, qualify your response and give them one or two plausible reasons why what they want might be prohibitively expensive or difficult. This way, they will not think you're ignoring them and gives you time to work out the reasons. The key nos. 1-3 is communications. Try to sort out the kind of user you are dealing with. That will determine the communicating style you need for them.

4. Dealing with people they can't understand - Users are not as experienced in IT as we are. We don't speak the same jargon. If you don't understand the user, or the user does not understand you, do what you can to lessen the problem. If there's someone available who might be a better linguistic match for the user, get them. In my personal experience, I try to nurture or mentor someone from the users' group who is more technically savvy than the rest. That person can be a great help in implementing changes. And more often than not, he is willing to take up the challenge.

5. Having their input ignored - A little patient and nonjudgmental listening can help you tease out (a) what actually happened and (b) what they actually want from the tangle of frustration, misunderstanding, and exaggeration that often greets you.

6. Being treated arbitrarily - Some users can be particularly sensitive to it when they have a computer problem because they already feel like they're being treated arbitrarily—by the computer. Day after day, their computers do incredibly complicated tasks routinely and flawlessly until—for no apparent reason and with little if any warning—they don't. Although, we know there's almost always a reason, and often some warning, users don't see that and may vent their frustration to you. Give reasons for your actions or instructions and explain why the thing you're suggesting will help fix their problem.

7. Being told the problem is "incompatibility"- Blaming incompatibility for the user's problem might be the right answer, but explain more, for example, that it's like the two programs speak different languages. Without translation, it's never going to work. You still mean it's the incompatibility but the user might understand it better.

8. Being asked to change without adequate input, warning, or explanation - IT people are frequently agents of change. And change can be bothersome. Users may be too much in a comfort zone already that changing procedures might be painful for them. The only good reason for them to change is anticipation of future benefits. If you can, try to solicit their input and give them plenty of warning.  Connect the dots for them - show them how the change will benefit them. If you can't, reconsider the change.

9. Being scolded for how they use their computer - Let their boss do the scolding for this.

10. IT people messing with their stuff - Ask permission to open users e-mail or look at their folders or files. Show respect for other people's privacy. Users have that proprietary feeling about "their" computer and "their" stuff (see #9).

As I've said above, communication is the key. Couple that with the honest desire to serve the users, then you will notice that they will come to you more for technical support than the others in your group. That will make you the star and better noticed.


  1. This is the antithesis of PEBCAK (Problem Exists Between Computer and Keyboard)

  2. Anonymous8:35 AM

    (Tech support) Life is not a PICNIC (problem in chair, not in computer)



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