How the Web is keeping IT Support Honest

It is amazing how much the world of IT support has changed. Just a few years ago, the tech support folks were the reservoir of knowledge and users always took their advise, suggestions or diagnosis as the words of the wise. That, thankfully, has changed. We have computer users who are so savvy and tuned in to technology now that it will be foolish for an IT support technician to attempt pulling a fast one on them.

I remember when I first got started as an IT Manager and had to work on a Microsoft Exchange server that was foreign to me and we had to bring in an external support person to assist us whenever there was a problem. Looking back now, I feel really noobish because all the tech did was to hop on Microsoft Technet and search the knowledgebase (KB) for a solution to whatever errors the server was generating. Aw Snap.

Which brings me to the topic of this article. I recently got a call from a worried client who thought their computer had a virus. So I had them send me a screenshot of the error message and it was the “Aw, Snap” error largely attributed to the Google Chrome browser. So I got online and searched until a found an answer that was comprehensive enough for a self-service fix. I explained the error and what the likely causes were and sent them the article that had a list of possible solutions.

Long story short, they did not want to deal with it and I had to go in and work on it. But the interesting part was that as we were generally “shooting the breeze” so to speak, someone, perhaps unconsciously, mentioned that they had ‘googled’ the error and found out that it was related to the Google Chrome browser. Hmm. I quickly gave myself a pat on the back for not trying to pull a fast one.

What is the big deal you ask? Well, supposing I went in trying to make the problem bigger than it was, or worse yet, as many do, suggested a reformatting of their hard drive or an expensive “virus removal solution”? Don’t laugh, I have heard horror stories of technicians who had no clue about the cause of an error and their solution was a re-installation of the OS. Or, I could have come up with some bogus explanation about a “new virus in the wild”. Do you think there would have been a credibility issue here, since the client apparently knew what the cause of the error was and could have fixed it if they had enough patience? I would say so.

There was a time vendors and support folks could get away with outlandish pricing for servers and desktops. Try that today and you will get challenged by “Hey, that was not the price I saw online!”. So the next time you get a call or request for support, keep it at the back of your mind that the client probably knows the cause of the problem they are having and just do not want to deal with it. After all, they probably use search engine more than you do, just for different reasons. They are also on Twitter and Facebook and many belong to groups on LinkedIn. Most have either Bing, Yahoo!, Google or Wikipedia as their “Home” page.

Many users today have kids who do not ask questions about how to set up their iPhones, Zunes, or iPod Touches. They figure it out and can answer many tech questions their parents may have before they call technical support. Many users now have data plans that give them access to the Internet on their mobile devices. Information is truly at your fingertips these days. So If you go in and present an invoice that is outrageous relative to the problem, you may get the money, but you may also have just signed your pink slip as the support provider for that client.

Be honest out there, and welcome to the information age.