Saving face

Sometimes when doing phone support, we know that the problem is something simple. However, we also know that the user will think we are insulting them by suggesting it’s so simple. Thus, a ruse must be employed in order to allow them to save face; if not, they will dismiss our solution out of hand.

The most obvious of these is the ‘are you sure it’s plugged in?’ question. Sometimes it’s bloody obvious that the problem is that the power/mouse/keyboard/printer cable  is not plugged in properly, but asking the user to check is so clichéd that they will either be insulted by us suggesting it, or claim they’ve already checked when they really haven’t.

My favourite ruse for this is to ask them to do the following:

  1. Unplug the cable from the back of the computer.
  2. Blow into the socket that the cable plugs into “to blow the dust out”.
  3. Plug the cable back in.

There is, of course, no dust in there at all, but many people will fall for this and check, only to find that the cable is not plugged in properly, and plug it in. Usually they will simply acknowledge that this has fixed the problem, but, very occasionally, they will lie about how much dust there was in an overblown attempt to disguise their muppetry.

About The Angry Technician

The Angry Technician is an experienced IT professional in the UK education sector. Normally found in various states of annoyance on his blog. All views are those of his imaginary pet dog, Howard.

One response to “Saving face”

  1. mr smith says :

    You are a very kind technician, allowing users to save face in this way.

    It’s the kind of thing they don’t teach you in customer services training, and definitely not in IT. (Not that I’ve had either, haha)

    And yes, allowing them to save face is one thing, but setting them up in such a way that shows their stupidity but only to you and the people you share it with (i.e. the rest of the staff, in my case haha) is the next logical step.

    “User A is not only really stupid, but if they didn’t honestly fall for the ‘blow the dust out’ thing then they are perfectly happy to say they did to save face, and that’s even worse!”

    GREAT blog by the way. Good post.