How to have better interactions with users

Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

How to have better interactions with users

Do you ever get calls from flustered users, who are obviously stressed and can't seem to get to the point when they call for help troubleshooting an issue? Perhaps you get irate board members demanding answers you don't have about areas of your infrastructure you aren't involved in. The following steps have proved to be helpful to me in de-escalating these calls and even having a positive experience with the caller.

The Tips

Let them talk

You may feel like you already know what the user is going to say as they stumble to describe their issue. Resist the urge to interrupt a distressed caller and let them get their built-up frustration at the issue out before you start solving the issue (NOTE: They may rail against the issue, but don't tolerate verbal abuse towards yourself).

Not letting someone finish their sentences is a horrible way to start a call.

Reassure them

I find it helpful to start these calls with something like, "I'm not sure what that is, but I'm going to do my best to get this taken care of for you." By making the issue my own (using "for you") it takes the stress of being solely responsible for mitigating the issue off the user and usually calms them down. You can also say, "with you" if you don't want to appear to be relieving the user of all responsibility, but at this point in the call I'm usually just trying to calm the user down enough to determine what the issue is.

Follow through on your commitment to doing whatever you can to help them

I think one reason IT departments are often characterized as being unhelpful is that the IT field is largely made up of individuals who are able to solve their own problems, whether that requires some research or prior knowledge, and when we are expected to provide support we approach the situation as if we are speaking with a colleague. My experience is that most non-IT staff are not these kinds of people and need hand-holding all the way up until a resolution is reached. We should not say, "This should fix your issue. Please try it and let us know if it doesn't work." If we want our staff to have a positive experience with us we need to remain on the phone with the user until the problem is resolved. This can be a hard behavior change to make on our part, especially if we have other pressing projects we need to get back to, but staying with the user until resolution is the single most important thing you can do in helping the user have better feelings towards your department.

If you can't resolve the issue on that call make sure you let the caller know what the plan is for following up on the issue to make sure things are taken care of.

Keep a calming tone

I hope you already recognize you should not yell at users or belittle them, but for the sake of completeness, I'm adding it to this list. **BE NICE!**

Remind them (and yourself) that you're all on the same team

Some users seem to think their IT department's sole purpose is to make their work-life harder. This is the total opposite of what a decent IT department should be doing, as an inefficient business doesn't increase revenue, and therefore can't pay for upgrades or raises. Helping staff realize that you don't benefit in any way from their processes being difficult is hard, but can go a long way in making calls easier to take.

In Summary

If you can get callers to see you as an ally, rather than a resource of last resort, support calls and your department's public relations will improve.

Additional Resources