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How to keep a support contract: Make the user think they solved the problem (theregister.com)
142 points by sohkamyung 89 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

Eh... My experience disagrees with title, but not the actual content. What really happened was that the tech made the customer feel like part of the problem-solving team, and that they both worked together to solve the issue.

This is an important distinction. Make the client feel like they alone solved it, and you will wind up talking yourself out of a job.

Yeah, I think what specifically happened here is that they made the user realize (correctly) that they were breaking it through their own fault, and therefore culpability was not on the vendor. Which is a great trick if you can do it, but with most complex systems, it's very hard.

It's easier if a large part of your value add is being the cowboys that your customers' internal teams can't. Easier to justify shit breaking in weird ways when they pay you to slap shit together ASAP.

That story reminds me of working in business support and getting a call from the on-site tech who was ordering a new modem for the customer. The equipment closet was on the outside of the building and the very sweet business owner was concerned about the modem getting too cold with the winter weather and had wrapped it in a blanket. The technician explained to her that the modem needed to be cold and she was very apologetic for overheating it. If my memory serves me right, the manager that day was so amused by the situation that he comped the visit and equipment replacement since the biz owner was educated on the issue. It was a good thing all around as the story was used as a way to explain to techs that a bit of kindness and education goes a long way to keep customers happy and their service healthy.

> the very sweet business owner was concerned about the modem getting too cold with the winter weather and had wrapped it in a blanket

That's adorable. Thanks for sharing it :)

This kind of story feels rare for IT, thanks.

This only works if the user is invested. I work in a a technical support role (not IT) where the customer is my coworkers. Most of them simply want task x completed, and have no interest in anything else. Even fixing the core issue doesn’t matter, as many people just glide on autopilot through the workday.

I’ve found it’s maybe 1 in 10 people who would even be willing to think about the cause of the issue and be willing to move any distance past “just fix it”.

Yeah I wouldn’t have time for anything else. Just fix it, I have to focus on my main work. Can’t imagine any other attitude flies for most people.

Now, being able to delicately explain important details to a user who doesn’t care, that’s an art, which I have not yet solved for. The easiest I found was I think that’s a great idea, unfortunately the system cant do that, it would cost XXX to do it. Never say no, but make them say no by telling them the cost ;) Cost can also be time - it would take me 30 hours for this request, shall I proceed?

I would certainly not want to be 'invested' into fixing something in the car when you pay for a mechanic.

I'd much rather have the mechanic fix it and move on.

People don't want to deal with things that they don't care learning about, they just want it done

Depends on how you use your car. I travel long distances in very remote areas and am very invested in knowing that my mechanic has done their job well. I really don't want to end up on the side of the road waiting potentially days for somebody to come along and rescue me.

If somebody is interested in how things are being fixed, then it's a great idea to indulge them, they can be your greatest aid in solving other problems in their workplace so they never get to you.

Yeah I very much understand the logic. But if you have to go to the mechanic a couple times a day, it may be mutually beneficial to make that interaction less transactional.

But also, some days I do just put in my headphones and run through tickets. So I can’t blame anyone.

Getting invested is a trap. You could easily end up with more problems than what you started with, and there is no real gain in taking such a risk.

This is 100% my experience as well.

In my previous company, I used to tell people that one of my greatest skills was making people think that they had come up with the solution I wanted them to implement.

I ran a small Linux sys admin consultancy, at one point we had 4-5 doing the work. I found if someone was struggling with solving a customer's problem, talking them through the options, their ideas, and eventually them "discovering" the solution I already had in my head, was very beneficial. I think it created a sense of ownership, as well as helping with future solution building.

Even better, sometimes along the way they'd find a better solution than mine, and everyone won!

Or you could just be sincere and genuine, and leave the Machiavellian mind games up to the corpses of the questionable philosophers. I work for a small company that makes video servers, I'm the lead developer currently. I still end up having to talk to customers sometimes, and while it hasn't always gone great, at least I can say that I was sincere and honest in my efforts to be helpful. Is that so hard?

Yeah, don't treat them like they are idiots just because they are not domain experts.. Listen to them and educate them if they want to learn. Don't blame them for not knowing something, that's your job.

In short, don't be a dick and treat them with respect and you are ahead of 90% of the people who seem to fall into support roles these days.

It's also good to take your user through the process, to let them know how complex a certain problem is and to make sure you get all the angles from a user perspective. This also makes them think they work with you instead of just being a client.

In my case the customer actually is coming up with good ideas about the cause of the problem, a significant number of times. It balances out the times I figure out the issue in other companies products.

I have a support contract with a company that I'm absolutely going to lose. I built a platform for them when I was a full-time employee that they're going to attempt to eventually replace using Wordpress plugins. We've tried to explain to them that the 400K users who have accounts with the site are comfortable with using it as is, and we spent months crafting the SEO which would be lost in the transition, but they're looking at cutting costs against all odds, which unfortunately will eventually include my contract. My cost to them is about 3.5% of the revenue from the site, and I suspect that when they switch over, they will lose about 80% to save that 3.5%.

I guess they would think you're not impartial in this. Perhaps encourage them to get a third party opinion.

They've had two different third party opinions who have both told them the same thing, but the company they've contracted with for hosting the CMS portion of their website has told them that they can do this other stuff for cheaper.

But to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with, the first thing the new CEO did when she took over was to move all the local Windows servers to a datacenter without consulting with the COO (who was in charge of all IT operations) for why they were in the physical office in the first place. He walked into the office and saw people he didn't know disassembling the racks. The business reason for having the servers remain local is because when you work with print, you're dealing with gigantic files which are best manipulated on a local gigabit network. Even business internet in that area is only 200Mbps down. She didn't understand the technical issue, and she never asked. She just wanted to appear to be professional. With the COO gone, now the IT responsibilities have been shifted onto a mid-30s writer with no technical background.

Part of me will hate losing the retainer. The rest of me will be happy to be free of the headache.

The manufacturer probably shouldn't have made the top of the terminal so flat - kind of inviting the user to use it as an extra shelf.


(Or perhaps put vents on the sides too.)

>"Ah!" he exclaimed, "Did you see how that flicker started from the top and moved to the down?"

Guessing a typo, but it had me thinking about "moved to the down" for a while.

Edit: Separately, there were other popular terminals that didn't have vent holes on the top. Not a great design choice if you can avoid it.

It's universal. If you want someone to do something, make them feel like it was their idea to begin with.

This is basically how I teach my 3-year old to learn stuff.

I think some scientific experiment would be needed to prove the hypothesis made by the article.

How to win friends and influence people, I guess

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