Deanna Troi on Technical Support


Today I announced formally to the campus the changing of our name from the Office of Information Services to just plain Technology Services, the result of a vote described earlier. I also announced our training sessions for this month, which, for the first time ever, include a session on the administrative use of collaborative tools (e.g. our meeting’s on a wiki!). And we’re offering Mac training now too. I received many responses, all positive, all saying things like, “It’s the dawn of a new era” etc. What’s funny is these changes cost us very little to implement. Are people really that easy to please?

How many of you have met with someone to discuss their technology need and, after talking with him for a while, realized that there was no significant problem for you to solve? You just had to talk with the person for a while in order to hear about the problem, indicate that you understood the problem, offer up your suggestion (e.g. maybe you could use a thumb drive instead of a floppy?), answer a few questions, and then walk away. We are therapists. We should have a position called “technology empath” or something. Can I be Deanna Troi?

9 Responses to “Deanna Troi on Technical Support”

  1. essprit said:

    Jul 01, 08 at 6:09 pm

    Um, do you remember all the bad things that happened to Deanna Troi throughout the years, before she finally made commander? Not so fun, although that might support your comparison even more than you originally intended. 🙂 Seriously, though, technology people who are perceived to be good listeners are much loved. Perhaps she was so successful at her job because people didn’t think she had an agenda other than helping people figure out their problems.

  2. Kyle said:

    Jul 02, 08 at 5:14 am

    When I arrived I made some small changes to the org chart and adjusted a few titles. It was hailed as by others as “a bold stroke.” Whatever.

    I do agree that customers often just want to feel like they are being valued and respected. I have one problem staff member who will never return emails from customers (why he gets them directly is a separate issue for later), doesn’t keep them up-to-date on the status of issues, etc. I’ve had two different department heads tell me that they understand that we are understaffed and things may take some time. It’s the not knowing where things are or that their issue has even been acknowledged that really irks them. The solution shouldn’t cost us anything, it’ll just take some time.

  3. cec said:

    Jul 02, 08 at 6:31 am

    I would venture to guess that the vast majority of the people I talk to about IT don’t really have major problems – they just need someone to listen and offer up suggestions.

    Think of it this way, IT is really just a tool (I know that’s trite, but bear with me). The IT support staff are the people that best understand the tools. We go and talk with people less familiar with those tools and find that they’ve been using a screwdriver as a hammer or a chisel as a screwdriver. Do they have major problems? Well, sort of. They certainly aren’t making effective use of the tools at hand, but at the same time, they may be getting their work done. We come along and show them a hammer or suggest the screwdriver and all of the sudden they are working much more effectively.

    So the suggestions are simple, but may seem profound to someone outside of IT. Beyond the suggestions, just listening is extremely important. Carrying the tool example a bit further, any time I do some new home repair project, I’m concerned that I’ll screw it up. It’s unfamiliar territory, what if I install something wrong and water pours out all over my house? I could hire a contractor to do the work, but that’s expensive and a waste of resources. All I really need to do is to talk to someone with more experience down at the Home Depot. They give me some reassurances (and occasional pointers), I feel more confident and then go home and do the job.

    Your technology empath is doing the same thing.

  4. kdghty said:

    Jul 02, 08 at 9:42 am

    Loath as I am to leave my office, I don’t go out on calls much, but when I do, it seems that 80% of the time, the problem resolves itself just when I walk in the room. Perhaps I frighten the technology – “Oooh – here comes Nanny – I better behave…” Working from that hypothesis, I should just wander the halls on a regular basis and calls to the help desk will diminish exponentially.

    Or maybe I just take the easy calls and that helps my batting average. ;^)

  5. rufusb said:

    Jul 02, 08 at 10:49 am

    I find a face to face discussion can heal most wounds. The problem is that with the proliferation of e-mail as THE method of communication, we now can avoid difficult or even slightly annoying conversations almost indefinitely. This requires us traditionally anti-social geek types to take the initiative. Rrrright. So, Admin, I think you’re truly on to something here. I can say that as I hire new folks, this skill is becoming more and more valuable. One would daresay it is becoming essential. *scratches chin and looks thoughtfully into the distance*

  6. admin said:

    Jul 02, 08 at 3:35 pm

    I think eesprit hits it with the “no hidden agenda” idea. I stopped watching after TNG so I don’t know what happened to Troi!

    KD, you should definitely wander the halls on a regular basis. I think there’s a name for that: Managing while walking around, or something like that. 🙂

    CEC–you’re right. What seems small to us can be a big deal to the customer. This is why we shouldn’t fear engaging with the customer–we actually do have knowledge and can be of help! It’s not that hard!

    Rufus, I have a vision that the IT office of the future will show someone in a white room sitting cross legged on the floor, eyes closed, in a meditative stance. maybe some sand and a few rocks to create a zen-like atmosphere. You come in with the problem, the guru closes his/her eyes, and then it’s done.

  7. rufusb said:

    Jul 03, 08 at 5:49 am

    I have one of the famed “Easy” buttons on my desk. When a user walks in with an “easy” question, I leap to my feet, slam my fist on the button (wait for the ‘that was easy’) and then scream “Yeah baby! Yeah!”. This will illicit either a guffaw from the staff and/or faculty or a polite chuckle from an undergrad. In other words: humor helps, too.

  8. jezebel said:

    Jul 05, 08 at 1:23 pm

    My sister, trying to understand what I do professionally said, “so, um, like, you’re a sort of therapist — a sociologist of technology” — yep, that just about captures it. MIT has an on again/off again job that gets posted: Relationship Manager. Every time it appears I apply out of respect for the job title! Technical projects are rarely difficulty technically.

  9. etselec said:

    Jul 06, 08 at 3:57 pm

    I have for the past year or two been calling myself the Deanna Troi of my department, for the very reasons that you point out. I end up doing the listening, sympathizing, suggesting, organizing, human end of the technical stuff. This is as opposed to the Spock-like fellow who did most of the real work in my old group. 😉 Between the two of us, we managed everything pretty well, actually.

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