We’re all been there. We’ve called some company for technical support after we’ve performed a long list of troubleshooting steps, only to have the tech support rep ask us to repeat all of the steps. Of course, the support rep is probably just following a script or a required checklist. We all understand it. It’s done with the best of intentions, yet it is still maddening. It’s especially maddening when we are highly qualified and experienced technologists with high levels of competence. We feel disrespected and frustrated that we’re wasting our time going through the same steps one more time.

Customer Competence

What is a better alternative? How should we, as IT pros, handle the situation when the tables are turned, when we have someone on the phone who claims to have already performed troubleshooting steps? How can we assess their level of competence to ensure that appropriate troubleshooting is done without disrespecting a customer or colleague who has already done the basics? Here are four tips to help you troubleshoot with customers without disrespecting them or causing frustration.

  1. Be respectful of their knowledge.
  2. Ask them how technical of a conversation they’re comfortable with.
  3. Explain that you have a troubleshooting checklist which you’d like to go over with them, just to ensure that all the bases are covered. Explain that it’s not necessary for them to do the steps, but instead just to confirm that they were done.
  4. If it turns out that they’re not as technically knowledgeable as they think, continue treating them with dignity and respect. Just realize that you might have to explain things in less technical terms.

When They’re Not as Competent as They Think

There may be times when your customer or colleague thinks they’re more technically proficient than they really are. When that happens, try using terminology such as “I know you already know this, but would you mind if we go over these steps just to make sure all the bases are covered?” In doing so, you recognize that the person you’re dealing with is technically competent, even if they’re not as competent as they think, and you get buy-in from them on the troubleshooting process.

It’s a fine line between ensuring all the appropriate troubleshooting steps are completed and appearing as though you’re reading a script. Remember to show respect to your customer or colleague, to ask how technical they want you to get in your explanations, and to go to great lengths to allow them to maintain their dignity. It’s the same way we’d like to be treated when we ask for help.

What do you think?

For More Ideas on How to Improve Communication and Customer Service Skills

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