We’ve all been in tech challenged situations asking for help from the tech expert. You may be overwhelmed by a problem and just want ot to work. You want to just get this thing fixed and move on. You want to explain what’s happening, but you’re no technology expert, right? Well, I want to let you in on a very important little secret. How you describe your issue and the questions you ask are essential to correcting your issues. Here, let me show you how to master this very important skill.
One of the most common email or voice messages I get as an IT Guy are “My computer is slow”. What accompanies that is generally how important fixing your problem is, and that you may think you have a virus or some other form of self-diagnosis. The common scenario doesn’t include any more details than that. I, in turn, ask more questions. This process can carry on through upwards of 40 different email messages as I peel back layers of information through pointed questions and answers. That kind of process is frustrating for you because you’re not getting what you need – and frustrating for your IT Guy/Girl because of the difficulty getting at the issue.
Today, some sort of electronic form of communication is the de-facto way we talk to each other. Rarely is is possible to call by phone and monopolize your IT Guy/Girl’s time by chatting about a particular issue. Even more helpful to you; if your IT Guy/Girl know what you need (via eMail , for example) and has the time to look for more information, the problem can be solved much faster.
I’m going to show you have you can play a key role in solving issues and ensure they are solved faster and with less stress than you might expect.
Here are some ways to communicate your way to a faster solution:
1. Take your time and describe the issue(s) as clearly as you can. Describe what you are doing before and possibly after the issue. Add as many details as possible. You really don’t know what will help, but if you include as much as you can clearly describe, your issue may be narrowed down very quickly.
2. If anything has changed recently on anything related to your problem – no matter how insignificant they may seem – mention those changes
3. Explain how the problem can be replicated in a controlled way (if you know how) – I often see users explain this to me once I arrive in-person when that information might have gotten the problem fixed very quickly.
4. If you did anything to try and fix your problem, describe it – This is bigger than you might think. It’s absolutely imperative you’re IT Guy/Girl knows any steps you might have tried so they don’t cover the same tracks (and waste time).
5. If you did any research before contacting your IT Guy/Girl, explain what you did
6. Try to anticipate any other questions your IT Guy/Girl might ask. This only takes a few moments of thought, but goes a long way to getting your solution faster. For example, if you’re Internet connection is not working – Texting your IT Guy/Girl should include that you HAVE already restarted the router and modem.
7. Describe what you want, not what steps you’re taking. If you want to get a printer setup, don’t explain the things you think should be happening – just say you want the printer to work.
8. Then, ask great questions:
Asking for something
1. Give context – One of the more challenging areas of being any kind of IT Guy is the sheer volume of information that comes at them on a regular basis. You may have spoken to your IT Guy a week ago, but since then, he may have fielded hundreds of emails and issues in that time. Always try to add context when asking a question.
For Example – Instead of saying – “See attached picture” (and sending a picture of something not immediately obvious)
Try saying – “We spoke about this computer last week, here’s a picture of the computer – notice how dusty the fan looks. What do you think?”
2. Keep it simple – The simplicity of your question is extremely important. Make sure you know what it is you want and then ask for it simply.
For Example – Instead of saying – “Can you find me a laptop?”
Try saying – “I’m want to get a laptop for Joe, just just needs to do basic tasks and needs Office. Can you send me a price?”
3.Be nice – You already know the best way to ensure someone will help or answer a question is to be nice. Your IT Guy is going to overjoyed to see that you’re being polite and nice about questions you have.
For Example – Instead of saying – “Are you going to show up this year?”
Try saying – “I haven’t heard from you, is everything ok?”
4. Attitude, attitude – Yes, more than being nice is your attitude. I know how hard it can be when you’re frustrated, but you are always best served by having a “I’m part of the solution” attitude versus “It’s his/their problem”. Try this next time you’re trying to get help, you’ll see the person helping you immediately responds to this.
For Example – Instead of saying – “Why does this thing have to break every time I use it?”
Try saying – “I noticed the crash happens more when I load this program, is there something I can do different to avoid issues?”
Some bonus tips that will help
1. Break out multiple questions – This really will help you be clearer and help your IT Guy/Girl go through all of the things you want. All you need to do is make a list instead of one long sentence.
For Example – Instead of saying – “My computer’s going to need more RAM, and can you fix my address book and setup another email address on domain x.com?”
Try saying –
“Can you help, I’d like to do these things:
1. Upgrade the RAM in my computer to 2GB
2. My address book is missing in Outlook, can you correct it?
3. Please create a new email address firstname.lastname@example.org and add it to Outlook”
2. Use URGENT correctly – The understanding that not ALL IT issues are urgent ones comes from understanding not all of your injuries require a 911 call. You are the best judge of what’s urgent – and understanding that calling an emergency is only for the most serious issues.
3. Quality over quantity – Be succinct in all your communications. What you’re aiming for is making sure the person you ask for help knows exactly what’s going on and knows exactly what you want. This takes less writing and effort than you think. Always try to be brief and clear.
For Example – Instead of saying – “The Terminal Server isn’t working. I’m trying to print something and I get and error, sometimes more than one error. I have to log out and log back in to get the server working again and then I get that error all over. Should I reboot something?”
Try saying – “When I’m connected to our terminal server and try to print from MS Word I get this error (attached screenshot). Please let me know what I can do or when you can take a look”
4. If you fix your problem, tell us! – That’s often forgotten, but almost as important as being nice. If you’re waiting for the IT Guy/Girl to get back to you or arrive and something you’ve done appears to have corrected your issue, send a text or eMail explaining it so other issues can be attended too. There is nothing worse than arriving to an appointment to find out it’s canceled ten minutes after you get there.
5. Don’t always be quick to respond – Sometimes, even in the most dire situations, taking a few moments to collect your thoughts and thinking about the issue at hand will crate some clarity. If you are not clear about something you see, take some time and do a little research before firing off that eMail – you may learn something and the knowledge will last forever.
Also, some things you should never say:
“I need this ASAP” – You do know that means As Soon As Possible, right? That’s not really conveying the urgency you think it is. If it’s urgent, say so, otherwise, don’t say this.
“Does my computer have enough RAM for X program?” – This and questions of their ilk are often just lazy. Every program has system requirements that are either printed on the box or found easily on the web. Finding out how much RAM you have is also very easy. Take a few moments and answer your own question.
“It’s not working” – If that’s all you say, it will probably stay broken.