The most important lesson I've learned in the ten years experience I had in technical support was to assume nothing. The moment you start assuming what the caller has done or not done, you find that the universe has a way of proving you wrong. The second most important lesson is to be humble. Just because your role is to support someone, it doesn't mean the relationship automatically means you know more than they do in every single situation. This is not always the case. That brings me to lesson three: know that you will learn much more from the people you support than your formal training. And let me be clear here: I'm don't mean "learn more" in some esoteric, philosophical sense - I mean LITERALLY you will learn more about your support subject from those you support. There are many famous phrases that relate to the notion that the teacher learns from the student. This is certainly true for technical support. Let's take a look at one such example.
I supported a bookkeeping software package back in the 1990s. The support knowledge base was very well established. As soon as someone called about a certain problem, we literally read off scripts to support their query - it was that well known. However, this was at a time when the internet was just taking its baby steps, and so, unbeknownst to the support team I worked for, the software package had an upgrade path via online patches. Believe me, I didn't even know what an online patch was back then (1995). And so I took calls from people who wanted support for features that didn't even exist according to the version I was supporting. Since I didn't know there was an upgrade path already available online (I assumed they upgraded via DVD roll-outs), and that no upgrades were currently made available via DVD, of course I assumed they were using version X...when in fact they were using version X.1, replete with extra features. This got me into no end of trouble. I told customers they must be mistaken, this software simply doesn't have these features - they must be using another brand of software. Of course, I was wrong. We can't expect customers to tell us the version of the software unless we ask them. And I never asked, because I assumed.
Embarrassment is a great thing. It doesn't feel good, but if you let it, it will lead you to humility. Humility leads you to letting go of your ego. Letting go of your ego leads to a deeper understanding of how things work. I learned about the internet and that it could be used to update software - in 1995, no less. This lead me to a whole new career in website development.
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