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2012-07-02

A+: Professional Behavior

Passing the A+ Certification exams isn’t an end in itself—it is designed to help start (or advance) your Information Technology (IT) career. In most IT careers, how you deal with customers, whether they’re people you see day after day in your company or clients you might see only once or twice, can have as much of an impact on your career progress as your knowledge of hardware, software, firmware, and operating systems. The following sections will help you master the “soft skills” you need to move up in the computing world.

How to Talk to Customers

 
According to pop-culture references like the Dilbert comic strip and innumerable others, computer techs are incapable of relating to “normal” people in either social or professional situations. Unfortunately, these comic stereotypes are based on a lot of real-world data. Here’s how to reverse the stereotype, one customer interaction at a time:
• No matter how difficult the problem, maintain a positive attitude and tone of voice—Your job is to make possible the seemingly impossible. As discussed earlier in this chapter, there are abundant resources available from Microsoft, hardware vendors, and numerous forums and newsgroups to help you solve problems.
• No matter how tough the problem (or the customer), avoid arguing with customers—and drop the defensive attitude too—Your job is to solve the customer’s problem.To do that, you need to work with the customer. Get it? Got it? Good!  
• No matter how many times you’ve seen the same problem show up, do not minimize customers’ problems—Sure, you might have seen a couple of dozen instances of drive failure, for example, but keep in mind that every person with a dead drive has lost valuable personal or business data—maybe even enough of a loss to wipe out a business. You wouldn’t want your handyman or mechanic acting as if your house or car problems were trivial—don’t act as if your customers’ problems are trivial, either. 
• No matter how incorrect their actions or poor their judgment, avoid being judgmental of your customers—and while you’re at it, drop the insults and name-calling—Declaring “war” on your customers just adds to everyone’s stress level and doesn’t get you any closer to a solution. Even if the customer decides to call your ancestry or intelligence into question, avoid responding in kind. “Fight the real enemy”—the computer problem!  
• Don’t let your cell phone, the big game on the big-screen TV, or the view out the corner office window get between you and a solution: avoid distractions and/or interruptions when talking with customers—Stay focused on what your customer is telling you, and the solution will be easier to find.

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