Monday, June 23, 2008

Techie Tales

Have you ever noticed the way that most people respond when you ask for help with a "technical" problem, whether its a car, appliance, or computer? First, immediately they start asking you this whole series of questions... Did you try this? Did you try that? Well, what about...?

Hello. I'm reasonably intelligent. Yes, I tried all that stuff and even stuff you haven't mentioned yet! Believe me, I wouldn't have bothered calling you if any of that stuff worked!

I used to do a little bit of technical consulting. When people called me, I had a standard greeting. "What do you believe is the problem?"
"Tell me exactly what you've tried to rectify the problem."
"Tell me about any events that might have caused the problem."

In the first instance, you find out immediately whether you're speaking to another techie or not. That can make a big difference in how much assistance you can render via the telephone.

In the second instance, you find out whether the caller might have inadvertently done something to make the problem worse. This has happened to me. But by asking the caller to list their actions you tend to get better information.

In the last instance, you simply get information that the caller might not realize is important. "The electricity went out." "There was a lightning storm." "The cat chewed through the wire." "I ran out of gas." Believe me, it happens. I once had a woman caller who complained that she couldn't get her computer to start. We tried various things. Then after I made an appointment to go to her office, she asked, "Could this cut wire have anything to do with this?"

"What happened to the wire?"

"I think it got caught in the vacuum cleaner."

"How big is the cut?"

"Well, it's in two pieces."

"Yeah, that'll do it."



  1. Ah man, I suck at techie stuff. I really DO. I'm getting a little better though. Basically, I want to turn on the computer and have it GO. But all those wires and stuff give me a headache.

  2. I like your "counseling" approach - because yes, some people will try to turn the thing off and then back on again and other will just sit there and pound the keyboard.

    I'm sure this is just an urban legend, but I remember hearing a story about how a woman called up her computer tech because her computer wasn't working and they went through all these things to find out what the problem was. In the end, the woman said "but why won't the pedal work?" Turned out she had the mouse on the floor...

  3. "I think it got caught in the vacuum cleaner."
    ....amazing, Grace

  4. I once had to help a company's computer IT person fix a fellow worker's computer. He fiddled with it for the longest time.

    I pulled out the monitor and found that the computer had been unplugged. When she said it was plugged in, the IT guy never bothered to check what was plugged in and wasted the hour until I decided to "check" it. And buddies, I ain't no technical chick.