Friday, February 21, 2020

Some Pet Peeves (Softskills)

The other day I had the opportunity to watch an interaction between the IT department of a school and a student.  Let's just say, I wasn't too impressed.

First, let me be clear, the issue was resolved and quickly, too.  That isn't what I want to discuss here.  What I want to discuss is attitude.

So, attitude.  We do NOT need to provide our customers with bad attitudes.  Pleasant ones, yes.  But not bad ones.

We don't need to be:

1.  Rude
2.  Condescending
3.  Sexist
4.  Racist
5.  Exclusionary

Before anyone gets it wrong, I am not saying that we need to be "politically correct".  God knows I can't  maintain a proper level of PC to not make people uncomfortable.  As someone who "grew up" in the military, our dark sense of humor has a tendency to create its own set of awkward interactions.

That aside, being a decent human being is what we should strive to be when we are dealing directly with our customers.  Would you want your <fill in the blanks>(Mom, wife, daughter, grandkid, best friend, next door neighbor)</fill in the blanks> to have the same interaction with another IT professional that you just put someone else through?  If your answer is no, then you have some work to do.

What you might not know:

1.  Your customer probably doesn't know what is going on with their computer.  That doesn't mean they are stupid.  It means that they have not developed the vocabulary necessary to talk to you on your level.  I am willing to bet, in most cases, that you have been raised in an environment where you have the same type of vocabulary that your customers have.  Hmmm...common ground.  Interesting.

2.  Your customer is probably pretty apprehensive about talking to you.  No, you don't really intimidate them, per se, but they don't want to look stupid when talking to you.  Don't forget how powerful anxiety can be in shaping the interaction.  That may make them look rude.  So be kind and patient with them.

3.  The kinder you are to your customers, on a consistent basis, the kinder they will be with you.  You get what you give.  Put them at ease, fix the problem, and see how appreciative your customers will be. That will make you a part of the team and not a necessary evil to be endured.

4.  Learn how to communicate in a way that is neither condescending (overly simplified) nor too complicated.  Ask questions in order to gauge the knowledge/experience level that your customers have.  Then talk to that level.  See yourself as a guide or a teacher and not just a technical guru that must be put up with.

Just some thoughts to, hopefully, make us all better.  Some things, too, that I still have to work on, myself.


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