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Ten rules to keep tech support sane

Help desk work requires far more than just knowing how to sort out a user's computer problems.
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1 of 10 Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Help desk work requires far more than just knowing how to sort out a user's computer problems. If you think you have what it takes to succeed as a remote support specialist, see how you stack up against the 10 tenets that I list here. They are designed to help you understand exactly what it takes to enjoy a long career in this field.

Patience
If you've done any remote support, you'll know that users can really tax your patience. I have actually had users seize control of the mouse from me while I am trying to solve their problem - just so they could compose an email.

Many users seem to think their problem is the only one you have to deal with and prevent you from working efficiently. Some of them struggle with the terminology needed to communicate their problem to you. It is essential to have patience in reserve when dealing with these types of people. Not only will your patience help them, it will keep your blood pressure down.

Photo credit: programwitch/Flickr

For more read 10 tenets that will help remote support techs succeed (and stay sane) by TechRepublic's Jack Wallen. This gallery was republished from ZDNet UK.

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2 of 10 Jack Wallen/ZDNET

I have experienced users crying on the phone because of an IT problem. In these instances, your compassion is essential. You must remember that in some cases their problems are preventing them from completing an important task or doing business. When users have a lot at stake, their stress levels can be high and they're bound to be tetchy. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how you would deal with it. Try to be understanding so your users feel you are on their side and doing everything to make the problem go away.

Photo credit: Julie McLeod/Flickr

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Every day I encounter issues that require thinking beyond the norm. Sometimes methods that would normally work simply fail. When this happens, I am thankful for having enough flexibility to avoid banging my head on the desk. Instead, I look at the task from a different angle and attack it again. Usually, this works.

Photo credit: ScottieT812/Flickr

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Remote support is an incredibly frustrating job at times. This frustration is particularly apparent when you can't actually log into a client's machine remotely to do the job as if you were sitting at the machine. In these situations, you must be able to tell the end user what to do. Without the ability to communicate the steps in a way the user can understand, your job becomes exponentially more difficult.

Photo credit: Stefan/Flickr

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Users will take advantage of you — that much is certain. They call you to fix problem A and "while you're at it" they talk you into fixing problems B to Z. But surely that phenomenon is unfortunately just part of the job? Not if it allows one user to monopolise your time and take you away from more pressing issues. Learn to say "no" occasionally — but make sure you say it politely and professionally.

Photo credit: donnamarijne/Flickr

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There are always users you really don't want to help, talk to, or be involved with. In some circumstances, you will have no choice but to help them. I have one or two whose names make me cringe. But I know must bite the bullet. Even fools need help. The key is to go into the task knowing full well they have the power to be a completely and utterly insufferable. When you approach the job in that way, and they're fine, the surprise is all the more rewarding.

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Occasionally, it's a good thing to let people know they did the right thing. Even if this pat on the back seems inconsequential to you, it could be huge to the end user. And, on the flip side, never scold a user for doing something wrong.

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We all have egos. Some support specialists have much larger egos than others. Ego can be your worst enemy. An inflated ego can stop you hearing what the user is really trying to tell you and may prevent you from being able to communicate properly. In the end, an overly inflated opinion of yourself will probably stop you getting the job done. It's simple — with this job you have to leave your ego at the door.

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One thing I always say to end users is that their problem can be fixed. That position takes a weight off their shoulders. Of course, the fix might occasionally call for a reinstallation of the operating system. But one way or another, the problem will go away. If you tell end users the problem is irreparable, you have just created a monster you probably don't have the time or inclination to deal with. Throw the client a bone.

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At all times, the support specialist must be professional — even when the user isn't. That may seem unfair, but dealing with them is what you're paid for — not the other way around — and that payment demands the respect expected of your position. Although it may feel good to speak your mind, it will only end in the loss of your job.

Survival skills
Those are the tenets of remote support that I always stress to anyone considering getting into this business. What about you? Is there a mantra you use to survive those tough clients and situations? If so, share them with us.

Photo credit: billymeltdown/Flickr

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