Who I was
I would be happy to say that I am a born people person but unfortunately nothing is far more from true. Actually, I always had problems with communication with people and when I am seeing my personal type “logistician” I am getting quite idea why.
It was always: “Martin, you are an excellent technician, you have a lot of knowledge and you solve our problems fast but I still think you just don’t care about us”. I was definitely not the first sysadmin with this attitude, quite opposite, it is well known that everyone things that sysadmins just don’t care about users.
What I changed
Getting good with a people was always a headache for me. Much more than a technical thing. This is the main reason why I decided to work on it. I read countless books about communication and attended a lot of seminars. There are some improvements but I still believe there is a lot to change.
What I consider a good thing is that I understand people relationships practically. Some people are good with people naturally but they simply do not understand why. What they are doing good and what they are doing wrong. They just don’t know. I am different because I know exactly the system how to get better responses from users.
How to solve issues with users more smoothly
The large part of a problem with communication with users is that many times they might simply feel that you do not care about them. For example, you have a perfect monitoring system, you see no issues on the network and user calls you with his issue which you do not see and neither you cannot solve with given information. Normally you would say “on our network is everything fine, the issue must be on your site, and it is not my responsibility”. Now the user gets the idea – you just don’t care. That’s what majority of IT technicians would do.
What I do today is that I just acknowledge the issue and offer help even if I know there is nothing I can do. So I say: “something might be wrong on our servers, I will double check and call you back in an hour”. It does not matter that I receive all alerts on the network via e-mail and I would already know if something is happening. It does not matter there is nothing I can really do to solve the issue. A user will just feel better and will calm down within an hour.
It might happen that I will get some idea within an hour what it might be, more users will report incidents or I will really find something. And to my surprise it few times even happened.
Do not close issues
The large part of communication problems is when you try to close the ticket or finish something. When communicating with users the term “goal oriented” should be prohibited.
In user support, it is not so important to really solve the issue but rather make a user happy. I am “logistician” so I take commitments seriously but I found out that most people just do not and most people even do not really expect that I will achieve the goal.
If someone comes to you with something you cannot simply do or is technologically impossible the worst thing you can do is tell him this straight away. The best thing you can say is this: “I will have a look and do my best to help you with it”. Later you can come to a user with a few questions: “listen, I am having difficulties to do it because this technology is not allowing…”. At least you thought about it a little. You just tried and in most users eyes it counts.