by Bill MacLennan, CEO of Your Computer Hero
I am going to give the answer right here in the first sentence: As calm as possible, explain the facts of the problem in the simplest, most non-technical terms. Sound simple?
The reality is, amid a frustrating and costly technology failure, good communication is usually the first thing to exit the building. This is normal and expected! Any IT professional worth their weight will be able to skillfully navigate through communication under pressure-this is the “art” of our business, the rest is mostly science. In the remainder of this article I am going to share the five communication principles that I expect our Tech Heroes to employ under pressure to help them stay laser focused on finding and fixing technology problems fast. I have developed them through 15 years and over 16,000 conversations about technology problems.
Principle #1: Get over it! Blustery talk on the part of a frustrated technology user comes with the territory, stay calm. IT problems stop workflow and cost money. This can be extremely frustrating and can raise the ire of even the calmest CEO. The IT professional must weather the storm of this frustration and stay focused on gathering facts and solving the problems. Becoming offended or emotionally involved in the problem does not make for good IT problem solving. Stay Calm! From the moment the conversation begins, listen intently for facts, and get to work!
Principle #2: Respect! Respect the client’s IT knowledge. Company CEO’s have all levels of IT knowledge. Some have vast IT knowledge but hire a consultant so they can remain focused on other things, while others do not want to tackle even the simplest IT problem. Either way, the client’s attitudes about the problem and depth of interest in the solutions must become part of the communication and solution.
Principle #3: No Nerdy Talk! Keep all talk in layman’s terms. Everyone understands plain English. No technical terms, it confuses people and reeks of pride-violating principle #2.
Principle #4: Stay Out of the Rabbit Holes! Understand the difference between theories and facts. Often, a frustrated potential client will call after investing their own time and energy in an attempt to fix their technology problem. The client will usually share a couple of theories about what is causing the problem or how to fix it. These theories are often plausible, they’re always informative, but they also contain some of the biggest time wasting “rabbit holes” to efficient problem solving. Questioning should be directed at facts: “What error message are you seeing?”, “What exactly do you see when you turn on your computer?,” etc.
Principle #5: Stay relevant! When a CEO says, “I don’t want to know anything,” there is still relevant insight to be gained from the technology failure that will help them run their business. “I don’t want to know anything,” means they don’t want to know how to fix the technology problem. They certainly want to know if there is something they can do to avoid this problem in the future such as having different software, different hardware, or different training for employees.
The communication gap between IT professionals and non-IT professionals is so cliché, it has become the fodder for many good jokes in our culture. Our goal at Your Computer Hero is to take the art of communication seriously and hone our ability to gather relevant facts that lead to efficient fixes for our clients.