Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How I Changed My Attitude Toward Internal Tech Support

In the past, I've been inclined to have an 'it'll be quicker if I do it' attitude when it comes to providing tech support.
An important point to keep in mind if you're going to educate vs. enable is this: It's probably not going to save you time right now. You've got to think long term.
I recently realized that I was training my coworkers to be dependent on me. I decided I'd much rather educate than enable.

My new perspective:
  • I want to be prompt, polite and helpful.
  • I want the person I'm helping to be able to remember what I showed them.
  • In-person sessions can be useful but often forgettable and not everyone has the time.

With those points in mind, I've been putting a few handy apps and practices to good use to help me educate more and enable less.

Continue reading to find out why it doesn't always work, the name of my favorite app and how the magic actually happens.

Why Bother?

Most of the time, it takes me a lot less time to just do something myself.

But, if I take just a few extra minutes and prepare a brief tutorial, then I'm saving myself time in the future.

Building my own collection of brief tutorials doesn't just benefit the recipients. I now have dozens of articles at my fingertips answering questions that often come up again. Whenever I find myself referencing a previously-created a tutorial, I'm thankful that I took the time to document the answer the first time.

When it Doesn't Work

Sometimes, being the 'go to' person just makes the most sense.

With each request, I weigh whether or not it would be beneficial for the user (and myself) if they could accomplish this task on their own.

Their attitude also plays an important part. Some people are eager to learn so they don't have to come to me for help. Others prefer reaching out for assistance. And that's just fine.

It's my job, and my passion, to help them.

How to Do It

Okay, let's get down to my actual process:

  1. Receive request (usually via email) from coworker.
  2. After clarifying any details, I decide if it's worth it to just do it or do it and show them how.
  3. Check for tutorial.
    • Already have: Complete request. Jump to step 4.
    • Nope: Complete their request and as I go, I capture each step. This is not as time consuming as you might think thanks to one awesome tool (see next subheading for details).
  4. Reply. Include in response something like this: 'if you're interested in learning how to do this yourself, here's a tutorial' (+ hyperlink).

What I Use

Screencaptures are key. Instead of capturing them one at a time and inserting them into an emailed reply, I make use of a tool called Clarify (by Blue Mango Software).

Clarify lets me capture screenshots of each step with a quick keyboard shortcut and then add descriptive text. When I'm done, the step-by-step tutorial is published to a secure url which I then share. I can also choose to save to Evernote or as a PDF, along with saving to my local computer in case I need to update it later.

If I find myself answering the same question repeatedly, I use TextExpander to create a snippet with the link to a tutorial or resource information that I've gathered.


Since I began implementing my 'educate not enable' approach, I've been building my repository of helpful tutorials almost every day. I've found that my attitude toward internal support has greatly improved and I'm enjoying that aspect of my job a lot more.

Are you trying to do something similar? I'd love to hear your perspective in the comments below.

Jenna Weiner is a rather geeky girl with average social skills and an affinity for: Google Apps,, Pinterest, Firefly, dresses, indoor plants and life-hacking. Have a suggestion for a post or a question? Feel free to get in touch.
Twitter: @RatherGeeky
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  1. Great post! I was having a discussion with Trevor (a Blue Mango developer) about this very thing. We were talking about how if you spend a little time creating documentation now, it will pay off in the future.

    But we're a culture of wanting things done now and paying little attention to future consequences (e.g. credit card debt), so this concept is hard to implement - we usually follow the path of least resistance. And the path of least resistance usually includes being the go-to person, not creating documentation.

    1. Thanks Jonathan! It's definitely a hard pattern to break. But I'm glad to have tools like Clarify to help me!