In my opinion, the single-most important personal attribute that you can have if you are working in any field of tech support (this includes web designers who interact directly with clients) is approachability.
- Possible to approach; accessible.
- Easy to talk to or deal with; friendly.
I can’t stress this belief of mine enough. I remember what it’s like asking for help and being made to feel so small and stupid and useless because someone more knowledgable than me talked down to me and couldn’t be bothered pointing me in the right direction – even if they didn’t have time to explain everything in detail. I also remember what it’s like having burning questions but feeling too afraid to ask someone for help. People have enough barriers to getting going with technology (their own personal fears, inexperience, lack of knowledge) without people in tech support adding to them in any way.
I was thinking about this today because I read Smiley Cat’s experience of being flamed on a forum when asking for help. Unfortunately this experience is far too common.
One of my personal aims is to work hard on being an approachable web designer. I’m not saying I get it right all the time – I’m human – sometimes I answer queries when I’m tired and should probably wait until morning. Sometimes I misunderstand the question. Sometimes I don’t know the answer to the question. Sometimes I get frustrated and let it show in my communications. But I try and remember to remember what it’s like when you’re the one needing help.
A friendly (short) helpful reply or pointer to a site of help can go a long way.
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