Remote Support Best Practices: Tips for Avoiding “Tech Talk” Without Talking Down to Your Customers

Remote Support Best Practices: Tips for Avoiding “Tech Talk” Without Talking Down to Your Customers

A famous quote from Einstein is, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

There are two common frustrations with people that are dealing with any type of technology company, from their cable company to their IT provider. These are:

  • Hearing technical jargon and having no idea what it means; and
  • Getting talked down to like they’re a child.

Balancing those two can be challenging for a technology business owner, but it’s important if you want to keep good customer relations and continue growing your customer base.

42% of people will switch service companies if they feel put off by rude or unhelpful staff.

There’s a fine line during remote support sessions between oversimplifying and being way too technical in your explanations of an issue and resolution. But when you hit the sweet spot between the two, you can have a fruitful engagement with customers without any misunderstandings or hurt feelings.

The Problem With Speaking Tech Talk

When you speak in technology and IT jargon during a remote support session, what you say can go completely over the head of your client. You may think everyone knows what IP whitelisting means but find out later (when there is a problem) that wasn’t the case.

For example, say you’re adding an IT security measure that involves IP whitelisting. Your client only has a vague idea of what you mean, so when you ask if there are any other IP addresses to add to the whitelist, they say “no.”

Then a day or two later, you receive a frantic call because staff members suddenly can’t connect to resources. All the client knows is that something was working and now it’s broken because of something you did during your remote support session.

Had you noted that IP whitelisting looks at the virtual address of every device connecting to a system and blocks those not on the list you could have avoided a problem and a bad experience for your customer. They may have realized you were asking about the actual employee devices that needed to connect.

The Problem With “Talking Down” to Customers

On the flip side of speaking “tech talk” is speaking down to customers. No one likes to be disrespected, which is what they feel when they think they’re being talked down to.

They might feel that you’re wasting their time by over-explaining something that they already know. They can also end up feeling that they know more than you do because you’re speaking to them on such a low level of technical expertise.

How to Walk the Fine Line Between “Tech Talk” and “Talking Down”

Read the Room

When someone makes an inappropriate or irrelevant comment in a group, a friend might say to them, “Read the room!”

What this means for your remote support engagements is to cue from your client’s technical knowledge as you’re providing support.

If you’re getting ready to launch into an explanation of how email signatures work when helping someone with an email issue, pause and see if you’re getting some feedback. Such as, “Yes, I have my email signature set up already.” You’ll gain a clue into their technical knowledge and can adjust accordingly. 

MSP providers can be working with customers at drastically different technology comfort zones, and you must be able to adjust how you explain an issue and resolution to match each level.

Watch Your Tone

When people feel talked down to, it’s generally about the tone of the support person. You can say the same exact thing and have it taken two different ways, depending upon your tone.

If someone is hearing a condescending tone in your voice, they will instantly go into defensive mode, which is going to make your work harder and strain the customer/business relationship.

You may not have any idea that you’re speaking in a “tone,” at all. But if you begin to get negative reviews that mention this, it’s a clue that you may need to make some adjustments.

Learn to Explain Things Simply Using Examples

Going back to the Einstein quote about explaining things simply, often an example is a great way to shed light on a technical explanation.

For example, say you’re trying to explain how memory impacts performance and why someone may need a memory upgrade.

If you launch into a monologue about 8GB of RAM compared to 12GB of RAM, you’re bound to lose some people.

Instead use an example and simple, understandable terms, such as: 

“Memory, or RAM, impacts how many things you can do on a computer at one time. Expanding your system memory allows the PC to handle more programs being open at once and can respond faster to requests.

For example, I worked with a client having problems similar to yours with browser windows freezing, especially if they had videos or ads loading. We tripled their memory from 4GB to 12GB, and those freezing problems were eliminated. I think increasing your system memory will do the same for you.”

Use Speech Techniques for Better Remote Support Communications

One of the tenants of giving good speeches and training sessions includes these three steps:

  1. Tell them what you’re going to do.
  2. Do the thing.
  3. Tell them what you did.

Often support technicians might miss a step, causing confusion and leaving customers feeling uninformed.

Once you diagnose an issue, explain in simple terms what you’ll do to resolve it (rather than just jumping in keys flying).

Then once you’ve finished your session, you can explain the fix or resolution. One great way to do this when the client’s device may be unattended is to use remote support software, like Instant Housecall, that allows you to leave a visible “sticky note” on the customer’s computer. This neatly closes that communication circle.  

Use a Remote Support Software That Makes Your Connections Easy

When you’re trying to explain and address an issue, the last thing you want is problematic remote connection software. Instant Housecall is a powerful yet easy-to-use remote support tool that makes your life easier so you can focus on your customer support.

Try Instant Housecall risk-free for 15 days and experience it for yourself!

Tools you and your customers can use while working from home

Since it’s all the rage to work from home these days, there’s no better time than now to share the tools that we use to get the job done.

Working from home comes with its own set of challenges, many of which can be managed by properly understanding how to manage a remote team.


Monitoring your staff

One of the biggest concerns people who are new to having remote workforce is knowing whether or not their staff are actually working when they say they are.

I have very mixed feelings on surveillance apps. I don’t personally use them. In particular, I woudn’t install them in a BYOD situation, first because it’s an invasion of privacy; and second, because you’ll discover things about your staff that you’d probably rather not know.

You can generally get a better sense for how busy your team is by seeing what they actually deliver rather than how many hours they spend on reddit.

With that said, and since a lot of people have asked, if you want to monitor what your team is up to, you can use a tool like Activtrak to keep tabs on what they’re doing.


G-Suite alternative

One of my favourite tools in my arsenal is Nextcloud. We use it for everything: file sharing, as a drop box for files from external customers, and to share files internally among ourselves. It also has a calendar, contacts, email, a Talk app that lets you host video conferences, and even a password manager. Here’s an example of a document share.

Nextcloud is an excellent replacement for G-Suite, but not quite as robust. If you’re looking for higher margins, it’s an alternative that you can sell. It’s also open source so you can host your own instance (or an instance for your customers) or you can order Nextcloud hosting from a variety of vendors.


Collaboration tools

If you need to get documents signed, you can use the canonical Docusign or the poor man’s alternative, PDFFiller.

We use Zoom for meetings and webinars (yes, they’ve taken a lot of heat lately). There is not shortage of alternatives, but one of the more compelling ones is Jitsi.

Slack is our IM client of choice. We use it in place of email for just about everything, and it integrates nicely with our ticketing system. MatterMost is an excellent alternative and it comes with a ton of integrations. You can either use their hosted service or, again, host your own or host it for your customers. Riot.im and Rocket.chat receive honourable mentions.

Instant Housecall is, of course, how we provide  remote tech support to each other and remotely accessing Windows servers. We also use it for collaborating remotely on documents, graphics, and just about anything. If you want to give your customers remote access to their own PCs, subaccounts are accounts you can sell or give your customers so they can control their own unattended PC.

As always, if you’re looking to provide remote tech support, give Instant Housecall a try.

Did I miss anything? Share your favourite work at home tools in the comments below.


How to manage your workforce when you work remotely

I know a thing or two about working remotely. I sell remote support software (Instant Housecall — you should try it) and I’ve been working remotely for the past ten years myself. My developers are remote, my marketing person is remote, and while the blogger — you’ll be hearing more from her soon — and designer I work with are here in Toronto, they work remotely most of the time, too.

There are some things that MSPs, techs, other IT business owners — and their customers — can do  while working remotely to make sure it’s successful.

Start your day off by getting dressed and walking to work. It sounds simple, but it’s easy when working from home to avoid getting dressed for work. You need to dress the part, and so do your workers. “Walking to work” (ie, around the block) is not only refreshing and good exercise, but it makes a difference in your mindset.

Meet with your team first thing in the morning, every day. Set up a time every day that you do an informal morning check-in. We’re an agile software shop, so we do a daily scrum. I don’t see why this could couldn’t apply to anyone in any line of business. We spend 15 minutes, no more, answering the following questions:

  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What will you do today?
  • Do you have any impediments?

You can read more about how to conduct daily scrums at Mountain Goat Software. Watch this excellent video that illustrates very well how to do, and not do, a daily scrum. There are several advantages to meeting with your team at the beginning of each day

  • you ensure that your remote workers are actually there and ready for work
  • by asking those three questions, you know what they’re up to each day and can clear any blockers
  • you can set up offline discussions with your team as needed

Book meetings, just like you would if you were in an office. It’s easy, while working remotely, to lose some of the structure you had when you were working in an office. IM’s can fly fast and furious. You never know if someone is in front of their computer. Booking meetings gives you the structure that you need

Never use e-mail when connecting with colleagues. There are a number of reasons for this, not the least of which is that e-mails are annoying, mess up the flow of your day, and require more time than other methods of communication. If you need to collaborate with someone, either do it inside a ticket on the  platform you use (we use Jira, which also has a Service Desk app) or through instant messaging. E-mails are for external customers. IM and tickets are for internal work.

There are several tools in Instant Housecall that are good for remote workers. You can generate reports to see what your workers are doing, use standard remote support sessions to collaborate on a ticket or document, or if you have several workers who work at the same time, conference call is a great way to have everyone working on one computer at the same time. You can also create free subaccounts on Everything Edition so people can access their own unattended PC in the office.

In the next post I’ll talk about some of the tools we use to get the job done.

If you’re looking for remote support software, either to fix your customers’ computers, or to sell to your customers so they can remotely access their own PCs with subaccounts, give Instant Housecall a try.