Viewing Your Client Through a Different Lens - Part 1

By Chris Powell

Getting hired as a full-time computer tech support right out of college was exciting. I was a fresh-faced 22-year-old with an understanding of how software worked, I had a lifelong curiosity for solving puzzles, and I was eager to fix customer computer problems. However, I was immediately met with anger, disdain, vitriol, impatience, and belligerence from those whom I supported. I was confused about why my customers were so mad at me. I was frustrated with their terse and acerbic emails. And I was hurt by not receiving genuine thanks from my customers for the work I did...something that a lifelong people-pleaser took personally.

Eventually I was able to unlock some perspectives about my clients that helped me view them with a different lens. This was valuable in changing my perspective while providing tech support. The angry client emails have never changed, but my reflexive instinct to take it personally has gradually subsided. Best of all, I have been able to convert clients from adversaries to allies during the actual support call!

Here is what I learned along the way... and Professional techs, pay attention! This will make you valuable to you company. A Linchpin, if you will.

You are meeting your client at their worst. It's not about you.

If their computer was working normally without issue and nothing went wrong there would be no reason to contact you. You aren't the one who installed the software update that changed the UI the day before their important presentation. You aren't the one who clicked on that weblink that now has malware infecting their computer. Unfortunately, your client is in a tight spot and contacting you because...

The client is often angry because they don't know how to fix their computer problem.

The client may be angrily emailing you after being embarrassed in front of others. You may see them as blame-shifting or misdirected anger, but there is often more to the story. One of my clients is a tenured professor at a university, an elder person whom I hold in high regard. They explained to me what the feel when their computer isn't working when lecturing a class full of students:

When my computer doesn't work, and I don't know how to solve it, I can see the students' sideways glances. I know they are thinking I am obsolete and I lose face as a result.

The Personal Technologist responds to an angry client with, "I bet that must have been a real stressball for you." It shows you understand just how embarrassing that was for them, and it also justifies the client's spike in anxiety when they can get things working normally again.

The client already feels dumb about their computer problem, and doesn't need you to reinforce this

You, the professional technologist, knows what it's like not to know something (e.g. combatting a DDOS attack from a APT by immersing yourself in your IDS/IPS system while upper management is demanding up-to-the-minute status reports) and have to ask a more knowledgeable source for help. If you're like me, you have received this request for help with RTFM, a three-word response for a product that requires hours of research, or, "You should have known this already."

The Personal Technologist gets to break this cycle of unhelpful treatment with your clients by sharing the solution to the computer issue with them in a way they can easily digest and understand.

The Personal Technologist assumes their client isn't familiar with their problem even though you have solved it over 1,000 times already.

The Personal Technologist doesn't get to admonish the client passively for not reading your silly online KB reference article written three years ago (The software has changed since then. Your information needs to be updated.) or referring them to the three all-company emails you sent warning employees of this issue.

The Personal Technologist is patient. The Personal Technolgist is kind. They respond to clients as if they were responding to their boss's boss. They compose email in ways that will make clients very appreciative of the help, even though you may not get that sort of response from your clients.

More ways to view your client through a different lens coming up... stay tuned.