I work with users who have a lot of different skill sets, many of whom do not have much computer knowledge. Remaining patient and polite seems like an obvious objective as an IT admin, but it can be hard to carry out -- especially when you are busy or tired or you're dealing with a problem that takes way more time than it should. But a simple reminder I tell myself is to think about how I'd want to be treated by an expert in a field that I don't know much about.
Here are a few experiences that were simple to fix techwise and very simple misunderstandings on the part of the end-users. Because of this simplicity, it can be frustrating for all involved: to the end-user because they're not figuring out why something isn't working, and to the admin because the problem is basic but takes great patience to remain calm and respectful while getting it fixed.
[ Get a $50 American Express gift cheque if we publish your tech experiences. Send your story of a lesson learned, of dealing with frustrating coworkers or end-users, or a story that illustrates a relevant takeaway to today's IT profession to email@example.com. | Get a new tech tale delivered to your inbox every week in InfoWorld's Off the Record newsletter. ]
One time, we got a call from an employee complaining that the Internet would "go up and down, sometimes would work and other times it wouldn't." Further questions were confusing the user even further and getting us nowhere, so another tech and I went to his desk to see if we could help him, expecting something along the lines of a bad cable.
We asked him to show us what was going on. After some round-and-round conversation about what it meant that sometimes the Internet would work and sometimes it wouldn't, he finally mentioned that one site didn't work. The others were fine.
He typed in the name of the site and, sure enough, up came an error message. We took a look at the URL and asked him to type it again -- same result. As it turned out, he was adding an apostrophe to the URL. When we asked him to try again after removing the apostrophe, it worked fine.
I had finished setting up new computers for several employees and was delivering them to their desks.
One user had login problems when I asked him to make sure I had transferred all the documents that he needed. He had forgotten his password. So I logged on to the domain and set it up so that the password would be required to be changed on the next login. Then I logged out and got him to the password change screen.
I explained that he was to set up a new password. To do that, he was to enter the password he wanted in the top field, and then enter it again, exactly the same way, in the bottom field.
He entered a password in the first box, then entered something in the second, and got a message that the passwords didn't match. I explained to him what happened and how to do it correctly, so he tried again. This time I noticed that he put his username in the new password box and typed his new password in the bottom box. Of course, the attempt failed.
He tried again -- same result. At this point, I asked if he would be comfortable sharing his new password with me so that I could type it in. He agreed, and I showed him what I was doing. We finally got his password changed and him logged in.
Later this same day, I set up another new computer and went through a similar process with another user. She too had a hard time understanding that she had to type her new password in twice, confirming it. At one point, out of frustration, she even pressed Cancel after finally entering the information correctly. We eventually got it right.
Keeping calm and polite (at least outwardly) and explaining things as basically and clearly as possible can be hard to do. But I remind myself that it's how I'd want it to be if it were me.
Looking for more tech stories? Also on InfoWorld:
- Stupid user tricks 5: IT's weakest link
- Tech conference bloopers: 7 stories of snafus and slipups
- Off the Record's best stories of 2010
- Get tech career tips and advice in Bob Lewis's Advice Line
This story, "Small tech problems require lots of patience" was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.