Conventional wisdom tells those of us that work in the service industry that the customer is always right. So what happens when your customer is almost always dead wrong? Or worse, very likely the root of the problem itself.

You see, I work in IT support. My job requires that I maintain a level of expertise with technology so that I can assist those with less skill. This may seem natural but take a minute to think about it. Could you or I walk onto a construction site and begin to operate the cranes and steamrollers without training or experience? Likely not without seriously injuring ourselves or others. That doesn’t stop us for a minute, however, from putting technically complex machines into the hands of nearly every single member of every single organization regardless of skill level or experience. Admittedly barring the self-realization of Skynet, human life is likely not at stake when you’re talking about laptop computers… but the principle remains.

Now, I’m fortunate enough to work in an environment (in this case, the oft alluded-to “Concordia Bubble”) where people are very often warm, understanding and (my favorite) reasonable. Yet even here the archetypes of IT support exist. You probably fall into one yourself.

The self-proclaimed Technologically Illiterate: These people are pretty great to work with actually. They probably have the basics down, like how to use Word and change the resolution of their monitors, but when things go south they need a hand. No harm in that; it’s what IT specialists are here for.

The Willfully Ignorant: If you’re not looking too closely, members of this group can sometimes be mistaken for those of the technologically illiterate variety, but look again. You see it now don’t you? Members of this exclusive club know nothing more than what they’ve been forced to choke down over the course of using the computers they work with every day, and they are proud of this fact. They understand that it’s your job to clean up their messes and are more than happy to leave some for you.

The Know-it-All: This customer is by far the most difficult to work with. He’s probably the “tech guy” in his department, the one our friends the technologically illiterate, go to first when they have a question about their computer. This has bolstered his misbegotten image of himself. He claims to know everything and is always full of helpful suggestions on how you might go about your job. His visits always beg the unasked question “If you know so much then what are you doing here?” Unfortunately, the answer is that he is usually very wrong, and it will be your job to show him this without damaging his fragile ego.

The Wizard: With a little customer service training, this guy could probably do your job. He’s knowledgeable, and he’s tried some logical troubleshooting himself, but for one reason or another he’s stuck and now it’s time for you to take over. This is another one of my favorites because he gets it. Not just the technical stuff but everything else. As a result he’s probably patient and helpful.

These are just a few types of people we see from time to time. Don’t get me wrong; fortunately for us the majority are happy, understanding people with a simple (or sometimes not so simple) question or  problem. The truth is most IT support professionals like doing their jobs. We like helping people, and we like solving problems, but we don’t like it when we have to do so in the face of rudeness or impatience.

So the next time you need something done to your computer, come see me. I’m more than happy to help no matter what group you fit in. Just remember to smile and be patient because, after all, there’s a reason IT professionals are fond of the phrase “user error.”

Eric Lillehaugen

A super-senior working at the ITS Solution Center on campus Eric enjoys the summer breezes, long walks on the beach and late-night Halo matches conquering all those who dare step before him.

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