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Dealing With The Technophobic

Almost all of us in the industry deal with those that require support for tasks that we feel that they should be able to take care of on their own. Whether it be an end user, a customer or someone working in your department. How many times have you had to help someone create a shortcut on their desktop, change their default home page or print a document? Do you have a co-worker in your IS department that isn't at the technical level that they should be? How often do you have a customer request support for the same problem every few months/weeks/days? These users may also be the same ones that throw fits when they can't figure out how to do something and assume that their computer is broken. These people can be very difficult to deal with and can be a great drain on your time and energy and ultimately affect your company's bottom line - if you let them.

Before discussing what you can do to make your life easier, I would like to make the following assertion: If a job involves the use of a computer, then the employee should be required to know how to use it to a satisfactory level, whether the use of the computer is the focus of their job or not. Many restaurants use computers for the wait staff to enter orders into. Is it acceptable for a waiter to not know how to use the computer because it is not the focus of their job? Of course not! The same goes for everyone else.

So how do you deal with the incompetent and the difficult? There are several things that you can do as follows:
  • Draw the line - Make sure that you do not offer customers services that are outside the scope of what your company wants you to provide for them. Over pampering a customer makes them needy and they will request your services everytime they have an itch. Force them to follow your companies guidelines and if you must make an exception, make sure that they understand that it is a 1 time thing. Along the same lines, do not let customers push you around. Stand your ground and use appropriate channels of escalation. The customer will understand what you will and will not provide support for. Incorrect customer expectations are one of the leading causes of customer grief. Using tough love and setting realistic expectations will not only dismiss many common grounds for complaints, but will cause them to respect and trust you as well.
  • Paradigm shift - Stop thinking of yourself as a support person and start thinking of yourself as a trainer. When appropriate, stop fixing things for them and teach them how to fix it. Another option is to have them watch you fix it and explain to them what you are doing and how they can avoid/fix the problem in the future. Give them websites, tutorials and any other tools that you keep in your toolbelt that they can refer to in the future. The true benefits of this take time to realize. The initial gratification will be that you may not get a call from that person for that problem in the near future. Over time, you may find that this person has developed confidence enough to fix many of their own problems. They may even be helping others around them.
  • Sell the value of learning - After acting as the trainer as discussed above, show them the value in what they have learned. I sometimes make half-joking remarks like, "You've just increased your value in the marketplace" or "Now your boss will find you even more indespensible". Often you will see the wheels turning in their head as it is something that they have not likely thought of before - they have been accustomed to thinking that they don't need to understand how to use their computer because they feel that it is not part of their job. The result will be an increased desire to learn and become self-reliant. Who knows, they may even decide to take a computer class.
  • Be creative - If there is a particular customer or user that is a constant problem, talk to their boss and see if they might be willing to get them into a class or further training. This is just one example. There are many creative ways to solve problems in your organization that you may have never though of.