Monday, December 10, 2012

The Six Steps for Handling a Tech Support Call

When you take a user support call, there’s a specific order for how things should happen.  I've created a video about the six steps for handling a tech support call, including a demonstration support call.

Here are the six steps, along with some comments.

The Greeting  It starts with your greeting.  Avoid curt greetings such as just saying “Tech Support” and, conversely, avoid lengthy, canned greetings such as “Thank you for calling Giganticom technical support services.  This is John Supportman, CCNA, MCDST.  My goal is to provide you with a perfect 10 support experience.  How may I provide you with excellent customer service today?  Make it friendly, professional, and respectful.  Something like this, “Tech Support, this is Don.  May I help you?”

Active Listening  After the greeting, you go into the active listening phase.  This starts when the caller begins to explain the problem.  After the initial explanation of the problem, be sure to get a callback phone number just in case you get disconnect.  During the active listening phase, give the caller verbal cues so he or she knows you’re still there and paying attention.

Gain Agreement  After the active listening phase, move into the gain agreement phase.  This is where you repeat the problem and get confirmation from the caller that you understand what the problem is.  You might say something like, “I’m going to repeat back the problem, just to make sure I understand what it is and to ensure I’m not missing anything.”  Then repeat it back to the caller and ask if you’ve got it right.

Apologize/Empathize/Reassure  After the gain agreement phase, you move into the apologize/empathize/reassure phase.  In this phase, if an apology is warranted, offer one.   Only apologize if the problem was caused by you, your company, or a product or service for which you’re responsible.  (Of course, an expression of sympathy and understanding for the user’s difficulty is always appropriate, as long as it’s authentic.)  You can empathize by using empathic statements such as, “I understand.”, “I don’t blame you.  I’d be upset, too, if that happened to me.”, or “Anyone in your situation would be upset.”  One word of caution here, don’t say you understand it you don’t.  That will only make things worse.  Instead, be authentic and say something like, “I’ve never been in your situation, so I’m not going to pretend I understand.  I’m sure if I were in your shoes, I’d feel the same way you do.”  The reassure part of this equation means you take ownership of the problem and let the user know you’re going to see it through to its conclusion.  Use phrases such as, “I’m going to take care of this personally.” Or, if you have to escalate it, say something like this, “I’m going to escalate your ticket to level two and I’m going to personally monitor it to make sure it’s taken care of.”

Problem Solving  After you finish the apologize/empathize/reassure phase, you’re ready to do the actual problem solving.  Problem solving, however, is not the final phase.

Confirm Resolution  The last phase is confirmation that the problem is indeed resolved.  That’s where you ask if the problem is resolved to the user’s satisfaction.  Do not close the ticket until the user confirms that the issue is resolved to her or his satisfaction.  If there’s time and the user doesn’t seem to be in a rush, you can ask the other two questions that go at the end of a support session, which are, “Are you satisfied with the way I handled your problem?” and “Is there anything I could have done better?”  If the user seems to be in a hurry, don’t ask the last two questions, but you must always, always, always ask the first question to get confirmation of resolution before hanging up and closing the ticket.

What about in-person support calls instead of on the telephone?  The same six steps still apply.  You still have to offer a friendly, professional greeting.  You must still do active listening and gain agreement to ensure you correctly understand the issue.  You’ll still apologize/empathize/reassure.  You’ve still got to problem solve and you certainly don’t want to leave without confirming that the problem is resolved.
Whether it’s on the phone, in person, in a chat session, or even in email, following these six steps will ensure you manage the support ticket or situation in a professional manner that will reflect well on you and your department.

This blog post is based on my one-day IT customer service training workshop Mastering Customer Service for IT Professionals.

For more ideas on how to provide outstanding customer service in your IT department, check out my book, The Compassionate Geek:  Mastering Customer Service for IT Professionals, available online in both paperback and Kindle editions at

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Admin password recovery (Cisco and Linux)

I've just completed three videos on password recovery for system and network administrators.  The first video is about how to recover a lost Cisco ASA password.  It's based on my book The Accidental Administrator:  Cisco ASA Security Appliance.

The second is about how to recover a lost Cisco router password.  This one is based on my book The Accidental Administrator:  Cisco Router Step-by-Step Configuration Guide.

And the third is about how to recover a lost Linux password (at least on RedHat-based systems).  This one is based on my book The Accidental Administrator:  Linux Server Step-by-Step Configuration Guide.

There are lots more videos available at our video channel:

Hope they're helpful.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

New Video: Cisco ASA 5505 Initial Setup

In this video, I show you how to erase the ASA's startup configuration, replace it with a factory-default configuration, and modify it using the ASDM Setup Wizard.  I also show you how to use the Cisco console cable, a USB-to-Serial adapter (if necessary), and how to understand the port configuration on a Cisco ASA 5505 Security Appliance.

This video is based on my book The Accidental Administrator:  Cisco ASA Security Appliance and my two-day Cisco ASA workshop.

New Video: How to Install ASDM Desktop Launcher for Cisco ASA

Although it's possible to connect to the Web interface on a Cisco ASA Security Appliance through an HTTPS connection in a browser, it's a lot easier just to launch the ASDM (Adaptive Security Device Manager) the same way you start any other program.  By installing the launcher, you have the option to connect to any ASA from your desktop without having to use a browser.  In this video, I'll show you how to install the ASDM launcher on a computer running the Windows 8 operating system.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Windows 8 Email App

More thoughts on Windows 8:  It seems to perform much faster than its predecessor, so that's great.  Some of the applications are just weird.  I've already written about the new Windows 8 Skype application (see my previous post).  This time, it's the email application.  At first, it seems pretty cool.  It's got a really clean layout and it allows you to aggregate multiple email services in a single interface.  I really like that, but then the oddities start.  There's no way to mark a message as spam and there doesn't appear to be a way to add an email signature.  Seriously!  I hope it's just that I haven't found the way to do it yet, but if that's the case, they've hidden it really well.  The more I work with it, the more it seems that Windows 8 is simply a high performance version of Windows 7 minus the familiar start menu and including a start screen of dubious value (at least on a traditional laptop).  More later as the saga continues.

UPDATE:  I found where you can add a signature.  It's under settings (Win+C), then Accounts.  It's still pretty lame because it doesn't appear to support formatting or links such as a link to a blog.  I still haven't found a way to mark messages as spam.

Friday, November 30, 2012

How to Update Cisco ASA Software from the Cisco Website

I've got a new video for you on how to update the software, including the ASDM (Adaptive Security Device Manager) on your Cisco ASA Security Appliance.  It's not difficult and here's the video (this video was updated on 12/1/2012):

Like most of my videos, it's based on information in my books, in this case The Accidental Administrator:  Cisco ASA Security Appliance.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Other Skill Set Required for Success in I.T.

Today’s IT professional must master two skill families in order to be successful.  The first is technical skills and knowledge.  That part of IT education is obvious.  Without a solid technical understanding, you simply can’t do the job.  The second is gaining skills for customer service in IT:  An ability to understand, get along with, and influence people.  Even though our jobs are indeed technical in nature, the human component is always present and it’s often the most challenging part of our jobs.  We may have the technical knowledge to help an end-user, but if they’re angry, frustrated, or otherwise upset, it’s our people skills that allow us first to manage the situation successfully.  Then we use our technical skills to solve the technical problem. 

Here's a video I just recorded about the other skill set required for success in I.T.

Not only do our people skills help us in our one-on-one interactions with our end-users, they also help us deal with organizational politics: how we interact with other people, both individually and in groups.  By mastering people skills, we can learn to successfully navigate the political landscape in the office to gain credibility with our co-workers, our end-users, and our bosses and, most importantly, gain their support behind our backs.

For information about my customer service for IT class one-day seminar, visit

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New video: Understanding an IP Address

I just posted a new video on understanding IP addresses.  It covers how to convert binary to decimal and vice versa, plus the fundamentals of a subnet.  It's based on chapter three in my Cisco router book.

If you're working on your CCNA or Network+ certifications, this should be helpful.  

Mister Rogers, IT, and Gratitude

This is Thanksgiving week in the US.  Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, because it's always been the least commercialized of our major holidays.  I love the time with family and friends, the great food, and the opportunity to reflect on the blessings of my life.

This year, I'd like to share a special video with you.  For our friends outside the US who aren't familiar with Mister Rogers, he was a television personality who focused on helping children.  He treated children with tremendous respect and was often an advocate for children.  Rogers was honored with numerous awards, including four Daytime Emmy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2002.  This is a video of his acceptance speech for his Lifetime Achievement award.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Please know that I'm very thankful for you.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

More on Windows 8 and my new hard drive

I've been working with my newly upgraded laptop for a week with Windows 8 and the Seagate hybrid hard drive.  Some thoughts:

  • It boots incredibly fast.  From death to life in about 35 seconds.  Very impressive.
  • I really like the start screen in Windows 8, especially now that I've figured out how to customize it by adding things to it.  (Right-click on the item to be added, perhaps a folder, and choose "Add to start screen".)
  • I haven't found a way to add Recent Files to the start screen.  I really miss that from the start menu in previous versions of Windows.  You can add Recent Places, but it's not even close to the same thing as Recent Files.
  • I don't particularly care for the Windows 8 start screen apps.  They just seem sort of clunky.  I find myself bypassing them and just using my old favorites such as Google Chrome.
  • The one exception to my previous comment about the Windows 8 start screen apps is the email client, which allows you to aggregate email from multiple sources, so I have my Hotmail, Gmail, and Yahoo mail all in a single interface.  That's handy.
  • As you might expect, there are compatibility issues, but so far the only big one I've discovered is with Quickbooks.  That's an Intuit issue, not a Microsoft issue.  (It's the same thing that happened going from XP to Vista and from Vista to 7 where you can't create PDFs of invoices and other documents to send to clients.)  Intuit has a lousy track record with me in this area.  Also, HP doesn't support my ancient laptop with Windows 8 drivers.  I had to go to the Nvidia website and download Windows 7 video drivers, but they work, so this is a minor hitch.  Canon, on the other hand, has Windows 8 drivers and software available now to download for use with their printers and multi-function devices, even old ones!

Overall?  I'm very impressed with the Seagate Momentus hard drive.  Windows 8?  The jury's still out, but I am enjoying far.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Getting the media interested in my Cisco router book

It's one thing to write a book.  It's a whole other thing to create awareness of the book so that prospective readers can find and purchase it.  The two have to work together.  You certainly don't want to spend months (or, in some cases, years) writing a book just to have no one read it.  The key is to create a compelling work that piques the interest of a few members of the media.  They, in turn, write about it (hopefully in a favorable tone), and prospective readers hear about it and buy it.  The challenge is getting those members of the media to a) become aware of the book and b) to write about it.  We've just completed the second press release for my new Cisco router book.  The first one didn't seem to work, so I hired a different firm to write and help distribute the second one.  Here's a link to it.  It's being distributed through PRWeb.  I'll let you know how it does.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Just passed the IPv6 Engineer Silver Certification

I came to San Jose, California for the Gogo6 IPv6 conference.  While I was here, I studied for and passed the IPv6 Forum's IPv6 Silver Engineer certification test.  Yes, I know most organizations seem to be dragging their feet on migrating to IPv6 for lots of very good reasons.  The reality is that eventually we're all going to have to make the move, so I just want to be ready...both for my own organization and to help students prepare.  Check out my Kindle e-book on implementing IPv6 on a Cisco router.  It's only $3.99 right now, but in the near future, I'm going to offer it for free to email list subscribers and people who like the Facebook page, so sign up for our email newsletter or "like" our Facebook page.  We're also going to be offering IPv6 training starting in 2013. I expect to have the 2013 public training calendar complete this week.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Windows 8 on a 5-Year-Old Laptop

After I returned the new Windows 8 laptop to the store, I ordered a new  Seagate Momentus Hybrid SSD 750GB (as I mentioned in a previous post).  I installed it last Friday on my five-year-old HP Pavillion laptop and, over the past few days, have been re-building the laptop.  It's got 4GB of RAM, an AMC Turion 64x2 processor running at 1.90 GHz, and now a 750GB hybrid hard drive.  I did a clean install of Windows 8 Pro.  Initial impressions?  Pretty impressive.  The laptop now boots from cold to fully functional in about 30 seconds.  (We'll see how well this works after I load it up with lots of apps, but so-far-so-good.)  It generally seems more responsive, actually much more responsive, than it did before.  How much of that is due to the new drive vs. getting rid of a bunch of crap that seems to accumulate over a period of years?  Hard to say, but, like I said, the computer seems to be running much faster than before.  I did have a couple problems, as you might expect, with drivers.  I had to install a Windows 7 driver for the video card, but it seems to be working fine.  More to come...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

To migrate or not to migrate. Is it a question?

Following on the heels of my blog post about my experience with Windows 8, I saw this post on TechRepublic about whether the enterprise plans to adopt Windows 8.  According to their research, 74% of  organizations have no plans to deploy it.  I can't help wondering what the percentages of organizations were who said something similar about moving from Windows 3.11 to Windows 95.  I realize, of course, that the world is considerably different today, but still...

Friday, November 2, 2012

My personal Windows 8 status

I finally decided to return my new HP ENVY dv6-7210us Notebook PC.  The deciding factor was the battery life which was less than half what was advertised.  I still have mixed feelings about Windows 8, but that may be more a reflection of my lack of time with it than real problems with the OS.  My biggest frustration with Windows 8, as I mentioned previously, is that MS is requiring us to use a Microsoft account such as Hotmail to log on to Skype now instead of our traditional Skypename.

To Staples credit, it was very easy to return the notebook.  I was in and out of the store in about five minutes with no questions asked.  That was some great customer service!  (That was easy!)

Here's what I'm going to do for the time being.  I ordered a new Seagate Momentus Hybrid SSD 750GB drive for my old laptop.  I'm going to install Windows 8 on it and see how it performs.  My existing laptop is far from being a power monster, but it's got 4GB of RAM and a dual-core AMD processor.  I'll let you know how things go.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New title for this blog

A couple of the partners I work with recently busted my chops for having a boring blog title.  I admit it was neither catchy, nor sexy.  It was, however, descriptive.  (If you don't remember what it was, that just underscores their point that it was boring.)  So I decided to re-title it after one of my books, The Compassionate Geek.  I've been a geeky, nerdy kind of guy most of my life and for the last few years I've been trying to understand compassion and to be more compassionate, thus the title.  I'm still going to rant (see my previous post on Windows 8 and Skype) and share thoughts on technology, customer service, and life.  Really, the only thing that has changed is the title...and the beautiful new header graphic. 

Wouldn't it be cool if the new title got millions of new readers!  Oh wait, you have to write regularly to do that.

Has Microsoft made Skype suck?

A bit of background on two things:  Thing one, like lots of people, I love Skype.  Thing two, I've been looking forward to the release of Windows 8 from our Seattle neighborhood software giant for a while.  I actually like a lot of Microsoft products, even though I'm a died-in-the-wool Linux devotee, at least on servers.  I was one of the three people in the universe who liked Windows Vista.

I didn't expect MS to ruin Skype when they bought it.  I hope it's just something I don't understand.  Here's the thing.  You can no longer log on to Skype with your Skype name.  The first time you run Skype on Windows 8, you have to join your former Skypename with your Microsoft account (think Hotmail, Windows Live, etc.)  You now have to use your Microsoft account to log on to Skype and doing so connects your Skype with some old Microsoft messaging account that you never used.  (Did anyone ever really take Microsoft seriously in the messaging arena?)  Okay, okay, I understand corporate takeovers and assimilating...err, integrating the taken-over into the Borg...err, new family.  The problem is that now I'm getting spammy IMs from who knows where, except that it's from somewhere on a MS messenger account that I never used anyway.  Grrrr.  Oh wait, I'll just right-click on the message and delete it.  Nope, can't do that.  You can only delete all messages.  Grrrr.  Okay, well, I'll just right-click on the account that's spamming me and report it.  Nope, can't do that either.  The right-click in Skype for Windows 8 does nothing.  WHAT?!?!?!  Does Windows 8 turn a computer into a Mac? What's happened to the power of the right-click?  Has it been emasculated? 

Someone told me that MS had invested a billion hours of testing into Windows 8.  Must have been a billion hours somewhere other than testing Skype, one of the world's most popular applications.  I wonder if we're witnessing another New Coke or Edsel in progress here.  I hope, I hope, I pray even, that it's something I'm missing and that Microsoft hasn't completely lost touch with their user base, including me.

In fairness, I like the Windows 8 tiles and the concept of the Start Screen instead of the Start button and menu.  However, I don't like my new HP ENVY dv6-7210us Notebook PC's battery life (or the lack thereof).  It's rated at about five hours and appears to run out at about three hours, even with the screen brightness set on the lowest level, plus the keyboard seems to occasionally miss keystrokes.  You know, part of the problem is that I expect better from both Microsoft and HP.

Now, the sentence I never thought I'd type and the words I never thought I'd utter:  I think I might, just possibly, return my new Windows 8 laptop and go visit the Apple store.  Oh, Steve...  Oh wait, there's that nasty issue with Apple Maps.  Maybe it's time for another look at Ubuntu.

I hope that someone will tell me I just haven't spent enough time with the new operating system.  I hope someone will call me a moron for overlooking the obvious.  (Well, I don't really want to be called a moron, but I do hope it's something I'm missing.)  We'll see.

More to come.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Getting used to Windows 8

I think I like the new Start screen in Windows 8, but of course it's going to take some getting used to.  I made an PICNIC* error today when I deleted the Start screen tile for Mail, thinking it was limited to Microsoft's mail products.  Turns out that it supports GMail, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, and any other mail service that uses POP3, IMAP, or Exchange Active Sync.  The benefit is that the live tile shows your latest email as it arrives.  So I decided that maybe I did want that tile after all.  Hmm, how to recover an accidentally deleted tile?  Turns out that it's easy, but not terribly well documented, at least as far as I could tell.  The mail tile is part of the Mail, Calendar, People, and Messaging app in the Microsoft app store.  A couple of mouse clicks and it's reinstalled and configured with all of my mail accounts in one place.  Aside from feeling like a moron for deleting it in the first place, no harm done.  Hmm, now let's see what else I can foobar!**

Speaking of messaging, I don't use messaging apps very much.  When I opened the messaging app, my friend Paul was looking over my shoulder and we were both quite surprised to see an IM from him.  Turns out it was some spam app.  That's annoying enough, but I couldn't find any way to block it, report spam, or do anything else.  MS seems to have decided to limit the use of context menus with right-clicks.  Grrr.

* Problem in chair, not in computer
** Foul up beyond repair

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Plunging into Windows 8

My very old laptop which I've upgraded over and over and over finally started to give up.  I decided to take the plunge and get a new HP Envy laptop running Windows 8.  I had already played around with Windows 8 in a VM, so this isn't entirely new territory for me, but it's always a little nerve-racking when you jump in and start running your business on new technology.  Still, initial impressions are positive.  I'm still learning my way around, but I really like the tiles already and I think I'll like them better after I learn more about customizing them.  I don't have thoughts yet about performance, but after the next seven days or so, I should get a pretty good idea of how it stacks up against Windows 7.  Of course, it's not an entirely fair comparison, since the Windows 7 computer is pretty old with only a dual-core processor and four gigs of RAM.  I'm still installing applications, but getting close to being finished with the initial setup.  What a pain!  It's about a three day process.  I'll let you know how things go, especially in the area of performance, after a few more days.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I wrote (whined, actually) in my new Cisco router book about my frustration with USB-to-Serial adapters.  I've used several and they all seem to make my computer blue screen or experience other weird problems.  I found this website,, which sells converters and ranks them based on performance and reliability.  I just ordered the Xetatronix USB Serial Adapter Pro for about $40.  It's supposed to be compatible with Windows 7, Linux, Windows 8, Mac, and just about any other operating system you can imagine (I wonder if that includes CP/M).  It's supposed to be here next week, just in time for a Cisco router onsite class in Iowa.  I'll let you know how things go.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Three Examples of Great Customer Service

I recently flew from Houston to Seattle on Alaska Airlines.  I experienced three examples of good customer service from, gasp, an airline.  Yes, I know it may seem hard to believe.  There are lessons here for those of us who support end-users.  Two examples were with Alaska Airlines and one was with Delta.  Here they are.
  • The first example is with Delta Air Lines.  Temperatures in Houston were very hot, hovering around 95 to 100 degrees.  Just down the concourse from our gate was the gate for a Delta flight.  The flight was delayed and I overheard the gate agent make an announcement saying that the food for the flight had been sitting in the hot sun.  He was concerned about spoilage, so they weren't going to load the food onto the plane.  Instead, they gave each of the passengers a voucher to go get food for the flight from one of the vendors on the concourse.  He was empathetic for the passengers long flight because he put himself in their position imagining what it would be like to go on a long flight with no food, he was compassionate in that he was aware that they would suffer and took steps to prevent their suffering, and he treated them with respect as one human to another.
  • The next two examples are with Alaska Airlines.  Our flight left the gate on time, taxied out to the runway and sat for several minutes.  The captain then made an announcement that there was a mechanical problem.  He was concerned about the safety of the aircraft and wanted the maintenance crew to take a look at it.  We taxied back to the gate and were told that the plane would be there long enough that the passengers could go back into the terminal if we wanted.  Once inside the terminal, the captain himself made several public address announcements letting us know what the problem was, what was being done to repair it, and how long he thought it might take.  I noticed several passengers approach the desk explaining their situation and in each case, the crew listened patiently, offering options when they were available.  Again, the captain and the rest of the flight crew and ground crew treated us with empathy sharing our frustration at the delays, compassion and respect by being aware of our frustration and doing an excellent job of communicating status with us, and by listening to us when we approached the agent's desk to describe our worries.
  • Finally, once the plane was repaired and we were taxiing to the runway, a small child started screaming.  This child wins the award for the loudest set of vocal chords on any child anywhere!  The parents were doing what they could, but the child kept screaming.  When it became apparent that the child was going to continue screaming, the flight attendants walked up and down the aisle offering us earplugs to help alleviate our suffering.
There is nothing particularly outstanding about any of these examples.  I share them with you because they're simply examples of people in the customer service field providing good customer service in times of duress.  In each of these three cases, small gestures of thoughtful caring or communication made the difference between having an awful experience and instead having one that was tolerable.  Obviously, none of us want to have a flight delayed and none of us want to listen to a screaming infant (especially the parents!).  In the IT field, none of us want to experience a downed server, a failed printer, or a crashed hard drive.  When unpleasant things happen, our ability to be human with each other, offering empathy, compassion, respect, and an ear to listen really do make a difference.

For more on empathy, compassion, listening, and respect, watch this video: 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How to Deliver Great Customer Service: What’s Your Empathy Quotient?

Author's note:  This is an update to a blog post originally published in 2007.

How's your empathy quotient?  Your ability to empathize may be your most important ability as a member of the IT support staff.  Empathy means providing caring and personal service. defines empathy as "the intellectual identification with...the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another."  Empathy is your ability to truly put yourself in your user's position so you can understand his/her frustration. Once we truly understand our user's frustration, fears, and aggravations, we can start the process of delivering a meaningful solution for them. Sometimes it only takes a moment to really understand where our user is coming from. Sometimes it takes several minutes of listening combined with empathetic statements such as "I understand why you feel that way." or "I'd feel that way, too, if I were in your situation."  Regardless, until you can empathize with your user, you're not ready to start the technical aspects of the support session. Remember, it may be your technical expertise that solves the problem, but it's your skill in dealing with people that produces satisfied end-users.

As a support person, you convey empathy when you listen for the hidden meaning in what a user is saying, when you acknowledge the emotion, and when you offer caring assistance.

Empathy is especially important when dealing with a user who is irritated, angry or emotional. When users are emotional, it is difficult for them to think and act rationally. This is because of the way the human brain is structured.  The amygdala is an area of the brain involved in processing emotional reactions.  It controls the fight or flight response to emotionally charged situations.  In such situations, the amygdala in essence hijacks the rest of our more rational, analytical brain and takes control.  In fact, this phenomenon is sometimes known as an amygdala hijack.

To get someone out of the grip of an amygdala hijack and pass the power over to the analytical brain takes one of three things:
  1. Intervention of a skilled listener or support professional
  2. Effort on the part of the emotional person 
  3. The passage of time
It is important to understand this as we deal with emotional, upset or angry users. Empathy is a remedy for calming an emotional person by simply and genuinely acknowledging the emotion that the user feels. Empathy is very powerful because it diffuses emotion. If you want to be able to deal rationally with an emotional user, or if you simply want to ensure that an interaction does not escalate into an emotional one, remember to use empathy. When sincerely applied, empathy works like a charm in most situations.

This video, from my YouTube channel, is about using emotional intelligence techniques to manage emotionally charged situations.

Here are some examples of empathy statements:
  • “I can hear how frustrated you are.”
  • “I can see how that would annoy you.”
  • “That’s terrible!”
  • “I understand how time-critical this is.”
  • “I would be unhappy if that happened to me, too.”
Television personality Ross Shafer really gets to the heart of the matter when he points out that people don’t really want customer service as much as they want customer empathy.  The same concept applies to end-user support incidents.  When you sincerely empathize with your user, you convey to them a sense of caring and understanding.  There’s a quote in customer service circles that says, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  When a user believes that you genuinely care about their particular problem, no matter how many times you’ve heard it before, you’re well on the way to creating a satisfied end-user before you even start to solve his or her problem!

This post is an excerpt from my book The Compassionate Geek:  Mastering Customer Service for IT Professionals.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Just finished and uploaded a new video.  Cisco ASA Training 101:  The Eight Basic Commands to Configure a Cisco ASA Security Appliance
More videos coming soon.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Three new Linux videos are now online

I've been a busy video producer lately.  I've got three new Linux videos uploaded to our YouTube channel in the last week.  One is on managing file and directory permissions:

Another is on getting help in Linux:

And the third is on task scheduling with cron:

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How would you answer?

My older sister just called from her meeting with a group of other women from her church.  They wanted an answer to what would seem to be a simple question:  What is the cloud?  Is it a physical thing?  Bear in mind that my sister, by her own admission, doesn't really "get" computers.  I answered that it is both a physical thing (servers, data centers, cables, routers, and so on) plus a virtual thing (applications and storage, for example).  They wanted to know if it's something that floats in the air like a traditional cloud.  I said no, not really.  They wanted to know if things in the cloud are permanent.  I said they can be.  They wanted to know if those things could be destroyed.  I said yes, but, thinking of Scott Thompson, I said "Don't count on it being destroyed."  They wanted to know if the cloud itself could be destroyed.  I said, "It's theoretically possible, but it (the Internet) was engineered back in the 60s to withstand nuclear war, so don't count on it." 

How did I do?  What would you say to a group of intelligent people who don't really understand computers and networks to answer questions like these?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How to Configure a DMZ on a Cisco ASA 5505

For anyone interested in Cisco ASA training, I've updated the procedures for configuring a DMZ on a Cisco ASA Security Appliance.  The config file is here at and there's a new companion video on our video channel at  Here's the video: 


There were some old configs in my book, The Accidental Administrator:  Cisco ASA Security Appliance, so this simply updates them for current ASA software versions.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How to keep the training "evergreen"

One of the biggest challenges in training is moving the new ideas and concepts from sensory memory into short-term memory and, ultimately, into long-term memory. This process is also known as keeping it "evergreen".

It's not easy, but it can be done with effective followup techniques. Here are some ideas you can implement to get the most value from your training dollars and reinforce the ideas I've shared with your staff. Even if I haven't been fortunate enough to work directly with your staff, you can still make use of these tools to help develop yourself and your I.T. staff.
  • Review Key Points:  Review at regular staff meetings. Hearing these ideas repeated by the boss reinforces your commitment to the process.
  • Show a Video:  I have several videos available on my YouTube channel and you're welcome to show these videos at staff meetings. Most of them are fairly short, they're all "to-the-point" and can help reinforce concepts from previous training sessions. Here is my latest video on YouTube, an excerpt from a presentation I gave at the 2012 Cascadia IT Conference in Seattle titled "Why Customer Service is Important to IT" (More are coming, so stay tuned!)
  • Post a List:  Post a bulleted list of objectives in break rooms and on employee bulletin boards. I've even seen some companies post such lists in restrooms. I'm working on preparing such a list in a poster form. I'll let you know as soon as it's ready.
  • Give a Test:  I recently prepared a brief exam based on my book The Compassionate Geek: Mastering Customer Service for IT Professionals. I'll be glad to send you a copy, along with the answer key. Just drop me an email.
The point is to not allow the training to be a one-time event.  Repetition helps move the information into long-term memory.  Find ways to keep the key points in front of your staff and you'll help them remember it and implement it.  Call or email if I can be of service.

    Monday, March 26, 2012

    Making the case for authenticity

    In my customer service workshops and speeches, I often talk about the importance of being authentic, of being real.  Here's a real-life story about Nick Sarillo, a Chicago-area pizza restauranteur saved his business with a very humble and equally authentic email to his customers.  Even if you're not particularly interested in business, it's a short read with a simple message about being authentic in our dealings with our fellow humans.  It's refreshing, especially considering that his bank and his PR team discouraged him from doing what, in his gut, he knew was the right thing to do.

    Always be authentic.

    Wednesday, February 29, 2012

    Just signed publishing deals for two books!

    I'm very excited right now.  I have just signed two publishing deals with Fair Trade Digital Exchange, a new publisher of technical books created by three veterans of the technical publishing business.  The two books are The Accidental Administrator:  Fundamentals of Computer Networking and an update of The Compassionate Geek:  Mastering Customer Service for I.T. Professionals.  Both books should be out within the next four months.  More details as they become available.

    Thursday, February 23, 2012

    Customer Service: Choosing the Right Tool for the Job

    My wife and I recently had a glass of wine with a woman who is a sys admin for a small company here in Seattle.  I asked her what systems she supported and her reply was refreshing.  She said, "Whatever my users need to do their jobs.  For some, it's a Mac, for others it's Windows."  Contrast that with my friend Jim who told me last night how his company's I.T. department dictates what tools will be used without understanding the business needs of the individual worker.  I realize, of course, that in the enterprise, it can be difficult to support multiple platforms and practical considerations sometimes dictate a single platform for all (or most) users.  After all, that's why both Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines standardize on the Boeing 737.  Makes it easier to train cockpit crew and mechanics and you only need to stock parts for a single platform.  Still, if our jobs in I.T. are about helping our users work more creatively, productively, and efficiently, doesn't it make sense to choose the right tool for the job instead of applying a universal solution to everyone?
    Shouldn't we spend some time each week listening to our users to learn more about how they work and what their needs are?  That way, we can craft technological solutions that will help them work more creatively, productively, and efficiently.  If you're already doing this, please send me an email telling me your story.  It just might end up in the next edition of The Compassionate Geek!

    Thursday, February 2, 2012

    4 Ways to Prevent Domain Name Hijacking

    Excellent article on the prevention of domain hijacking.  The four tips are practical and, frankly, a lot of common sense.  Of course, to quote George Harris, "If common sense was so common, no one would smoke."

    Thursday, January 26, 2012

    New HUD (Head Up Display) is coming for Ubuntu

    Yesterday, Mark Shuttleworth, the self-annointed Ubuntu benevolent dictator for life, unveiled a new user interface for Ubuntu called HUD, or Head Up Display.  Whether it will be accepted or not is speculation, of course.  It is innovative, especially in its integration of search within the CLI.  Check out the video.

    The two things that struck me most from watching the video were the CLI search capability and the search capability within applications.  The search within applications seems similar to what we have now with Google desktop and Microsoft's desktop search, still it looks like it might be a little easier to use.  Can't wait to check it out in April.