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How to Speak to a Tech

Hi all! I’m on vacation this week, but I’ve cleverly scheduled this blog post so you won’t miss me too terribly much. Enjoy!

I think it’s pretty clear by now that business folk and tech folk aren’t always speaking the same language. We practically have a Mars/Venus communication split going on, most days. So, how is a business worker supposed to talk to a tech?

Techs like specifics. Techs like to know exactly when and where, time and day, what you were doing when it first started happening, how long it took, and exactly what it said right before it stopped working / acted funny / caught on fire. Techs do not like emails that say “Holly’s app is running slower.”  Holly who? What app? Slower than what?  How urgent is that?  Like a car mechanic, the more we know about the problem, the better the chance that we can get everything running well, quickly.

Techs, like you, are busy folk.  We like to help, but we’re generally running about three to ten minutes ahead of the mayhem. Follow procedures for submitting help tickets, and try to ask questions in email when possible, or schedule time to get together. We love to help!  But – again, like you – we can’t always help right now.

When you’re talking to, emailing, or submitting a ticket for a tech, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Tell them WHO and WHERE.
    Bad: “Holly on the second floor.”
    Good: “Holly Sanders in Accounting, extension 4432″. (Bonus points if you give her cube number.)
  2. Tell them WHEN.  We need to know when the problem started, if it’s intermittent or constant, that kind of thing.
    Bad: “It’s been messing up for a while.”
    Good:  “It’s been giving me these errors every morning around 10 or so, starting about four days ago.”
  3. Tell them WHAT. Specifically what – what broke, what it’s doing, what the error message says (screen shots are great!! Just hit “printscreen” where you can see the error, and then CTRL-V into an email).
    Bad: “That widgets app is acting weird.”  / “My computer isn’t working.”
    Good: “The widgets app on the upper right hand of our home page http://milkcratewidgets.net/home.aspx won’t display, it just says ‘not found’.” / “My computer takes VERY long to come up after I log in. It’s normal once everything gets  going…”
  4. Tell them everything you think they need to know about the problem, but also try to keep it to the point. And please…be accurate about how urgent your issue is.
    Bad: “My computer isn’t working! I tried logging in three times, but it turned out I had capslock on so that was okay. But then when I got in there were all these messages and I couldn’t open any programs and I can’t get anything done. This is CRITICAL because I’m out on vacation next week on a cruise and I have to get the ELR reporting done this week and…”
    Good: “When I logged into my computer this morning, I got several errors (screenshots attached) and then I was unable to open or save any documents in MS Word.  For now I can work on other things, but I’ll really need to get into Word by tomorrow morning at the latest.”

Have any other tips for talking to techs? Share in the comments!

Happy days,
Jen McCown


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