There is always a human component to technology. In this video, you’ll learn some tips for successful communication between yourself and others in the field.
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Many people believe that someone who works in IT is someone who works very well with computers or other types of electronic equipment. But in reality, someone who works in IT has to be a very good communicator with other people that are either in IT or who are outside of information technology.
Being able to communicate with others is a difficult skill to master. It takes a lot of time and a lot of practice. But as you become more skilled in communication, you’ll find there are many more jobs available and many more options for your career. Our industry is very good at creating TLAs, three letter acronyms, or four letter acronyms, or more. We talk in abbreviation constantly, and we use this as a shortcut when we assume that everyone else knows what this acronym stands for.
But of course, not everybody understands these acronyms and slang words that we use in the industry. When you’re communicating with others, you sometimes have to be the translator that takes these shortcuts and acronyms and turns it into a language that other people can understand. This is sometimes the hardest part of communication, making sure that everyone knows exactly what everyone else is talking about. You’ll very often be communicating with decision makers at higher levels who do not have the same technical knowledge you do. And their job is to make decisions based on the information you are providing. That’s why it’s important that this conversation be very clear to everyone so that people can make informed decisions.
Fortunately, these types of issues with slang and abbreviations can be easily avoided, especially when you’re communicating with people in person or even in an email message. It’s very simple to write out exactly what you mean rather than abbreviating or using a shortcut in that communication.
One of the challenges we have when listening to someone explain what their problem is is that you can often determine what the issue is very early on in the conversation. And from a human nature perspective, we want to jump in and interrupt the person, and tell them what the answer is so that we can continue with our conversation. But this type of interrupting can be very abrupt, especially when someone is trying to explain all of the problems they happen to have with this particular situation. We want to tell someone that we know what their problem is and that we can fix it very quickly, and there’s no need to continue with the explanation. But interrupting someone can have the opposite effect where they may consider you rude, or that you really don’t want to help them.
Instead, let someone explain the entire situation that they’re having. Take plenty of notes of what they’re asking for and use it as an opportunity to build a relationship with a customer. Ask questions about what they’re seeing. Drill down into the details of what their problem is. You may find that what your first thought was with the issue may actually be something very different, so interrupting would have actually worked in your detriment.
This can be especially useful on the phone when there’s no way to look at somebody to understand what they might be thinking. And if you’re someone who likes to get the problem done quickly this can be a difficult thing to unlearn. You want to be very patient and have some thoughts about when you want to jump into a conversation and avoid any type of interruption.
When someone’s explaining the problem they have, it’s always useful if you get more details about what they’re seeing. If somebody tells you that their browser isn’t working, it’s an opportunity to drill down on exactly what they’re seeing. Was there an error message? Did things slow down? What happened with the browser after you tried to use it?
Those types of clarifying questions can help you understand more about the problem and help the customer understand that you’re interested in solving the problem. Your objective is to gather more information about what the problem is, not to try to create conflict based on what the customer is seeing. This should be an opportunity for the customer to tell you everything that they know about the problem, not a chance for you to grill the person over what they happened to be doing on their computer.
Now that the customer has explained the problem, this is your opportunity to see if you heard exactly what they were saying. It’s useful to say, let me see if I understand this correctly. Here’s the issue as you saw it, here’s the information that you know about it, and here’s what happened afterwards. Did I get that information right? The customer can then tell you that the information you have is absolutely correct, or your process of explaining it back to them may have jogged their memory about other details. It’s also useful to keep an open mind. Problems that seem very simple from the onset are actually issues that could be very, very complex after you drill down into the details.
The worst thing you can do is to assume what the problem is, not clarify any of this information from the customer, and then find out later that your assumptions were absolutely wrong.
Most of the time customers aren’t concerned about the details about how you’re fixing a problem. They’re more interested in understanding what the process is and what they can expect for the resolution. That means it’s useful to set expectations with the customer about what their options might be. Be able to provide them with a plan A, plan B, and a plan C, and have them make the decision on what they’d like to do.
This may be a situation where a printer isn’t working and your options are to repair the printer at a certain cost or to replace the printer at a different cost, and now the customer can make the decision on what path is going to be the appropriate one for them. It’s also useful to document as much as you can so that everyone understands exactly what the next steps might be. This can be especially useful when you’re in a large meeting, there are a lot of people, you went through a lot of different scenarios, and now you need to make sure that everyone in the room understands exactly what the next steps are.
Contrary to popular opinion, no news is not good news. You want to be sure that everyone is getting a constant status update even if the status update says that nothing has changed since the last status update. That way, they know that you’re still checking out on the problem, you still know that you’re waiting on certain equipment to arrive, they know that you have been working on this issue, and everybody understands what the time-frames are and what the next steps might be.
After a problem has been solved, it’s always useful to circle back afterwards and make sure that everything is still working as expected. This is an opportunity for the customer to tell you that everything is working fine, or they may mention that there is another additional issue associated with this and we need to continue with our troubleshooting efforts.