Ask the Coach

Coach Users to Help Themselves

Q. Dear Help Desk Coach:

I work at a help desk that supports 396 educators in a school system. We provide phone support and on-site support, so we’re really busy all the time. I can’t understand why many of the teachers won’t learn how to solve their own problems. They’re teachers, but they don’t want to learn! I feel really frustrated when I have to go to classrooms multiple times to (re)solve the same problem over and over again. How can I teach teachers?

A. Dear Tech Guru:

Other tech support professionals will confirm that teachers aren’t the only end users who would prefer an on-site guru to resolve every issue. Part of our job is to provide technical assistance, and the other part is to provide technical coaching. Some users will always be dependent on us, however many will learn to help themselves if we coach them properly. Here are some guidelines for coaching users to help themselves:

  1. Wait for the teachable moment before you try to educate them. Most tech support agents try to educate the user while solving the problem. The user is still frustrated, and just wants the problem fixed!
  2. After you’ve solved the problem (and the user has calmed down) quickly offer a suggestion: “Next time this happens, try ______ first. If I’m busy and can’t get to you right away, it might solve the problem (or provide me with valuable troubleshooting information etc.)”
  3. Every time you resolve a problem or issue, add a brief suggestion or simple coaching tip. Most users will appreciate the information and will try to be more self-reliant.