This isn’t a complaint. I love teaching tech. I’m always glad to help friends and family with their phones, iPads, laptops, wifi, printers, and more. There is joy in supporting, teaching, and solving problems. But most of all I like seeing the light come on for those I care about. I do have some observations that might improve this relationship between you, the technical supporter, or you, the hopefully non-hostile recipient of service.
“I hear you’re handy with iPhones.” I smile. “Why are some text bubbles green and some blue?” Before I can explain, “Can [you] make them all blue?” I grin and explain the market forces between Google and Apple, ego dynamics, and capitalism, “Well, can [you] make them all blue?” I smile. and on it goes.
Never hesitate to ask for tech help. However, you might consider the meaning of Technical Support. Tech support is a service you pay a professional for. That made you pause, didn’t it? When you [pay] a professional for technical support—you can expect a professional diagnosis and resolution. If they don’t solve your problem you may still be required to pay a “bench fee” for the diagnosis/time. This is the relationship you can expect in that agreement.
On the other hand, when you ask a friend or a family member for technical support, the ask needs to come with the understanding that this is less of a professional service and more of a favor. In other words, your expectations may be just as high but their obligation and responsibility aren’t. Remember, money won’t likely change hands, so relax.
Family Lasts Longer Than Technology
It’s true, so where do we go from here? Well, you still have a technical issue that needs a resolution. Honestly, nothing has changed—other than the reminder that your expectations may have needed a reset. Trust me, it makes all the difference. Here are five tips to remember when you ask a family member or friend to solve a tech issue for you over the holidays.
Admit you have a problem
Eat some humble pie and open up to learning. Like Alcoholics Anonymous, to move forward it’s essential to admit you have a problem. And be verbose about the steps you have taken and have not taken to solve the problem.
Share everything you know and everything that may have changed, but let your tech person guide the conversation. Imagine you are in court standing in front of the judge. In other words, try to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. It’s funny, how often new details emerge at the end of a support session. “Did I mention everything stopped working last week after my battery went dead during a system update?” they share after I help them resolve the problem. “No, no you failed to mention this important detail,” I quip.
Omitting elements of the story just won’t help you in the long run—even if they are embarrassing. Once I helped a friend whose phone had obviously sustained water damage. She swore the phone hadn’t been dropped in saltwater. But after some sleuthing, we identified that she kept the phone in her sports bra while mowing the yard. Details matter.
Listen and Pay Attention
Just listen, especially if this is happening over the phone. It’s important to not get ahead of things or fall behind. You may want to sound helpful or it may bother you that you don’t know how to solve your own problem, but just listen. Like I said at the beginning, my payment is seeing the light come on. Sure I like the praise, but if you are listening and learning as we are solving, I’m left with a feeling that I have taught you to approach future problems with less fear and frustration.
Know When to Hire a Professional
This seems painfully obvious, but understand that when you need ongoing business IT, networking support, or consulting that goes beyond a favor or a quick fix, do the smart thing and hire a professional. Your tech guru may even provide IT for a living. But I suspect if she does, she will tell you what you need to hear. When money, time, and liability are on the line, both parties are better off when they enter this work through a professional relationship.
Say Thank You
If I haven’t made it abundantly clear, a lot of technologists like helping and teaching. A token of your appreciation goes a really long way. A simple thank you, a new word-of-mouth business lead, or a lunch on you is super appreciated. Good luck!