The 5 users you meet in hell (and one you'll find in heaven)

Recognize any of these people -- the Know-It-All? The Finger-Pointer? The Whiz Kid? We thought so ...

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2. The Know-Nothing


We've all heard the joke about the clueless user who looks in vain for the "any" key when prompted by their computer to "hit any key." Unfortunately, that's no joke. Meet the Know-It-All's polar opposite, the Know-Nothing -- i.e., the person who knows so little about technology he requires handholding for even the simplest tasks.

These novice users demand a lot of attention and often require multiple visits for help, managers say. They're frequently unable to articulate problems on the phone or over e-mail.

Know-Nothings like routine and often appear terrified of change, and once they've learned a program or task, they're hard-pressed to adapt to a new or different way. Also, they get freaked out by things like unfamiliar icons or new tool bars.

How to handle: Here, too, a little empathy can go a long way, says Kenneth Lauderdale, a flight test engineer for the U.S. Navy who was formerly in a full-time IT support role and who now supports users in the Navy part time. Lauderdale says it's tough for IT pros to put themselves in the position of novice users, partly because you can't assume they have any level of technical proficiency whatever.

Agrees Olson: "It's hard for geeks to oversimplify things."

Mac Equipment's McCloud says he tries not to get frustrated with his less-experienced users but instead tries to empower them to learn about technology and not be afraid of their computers. "A good IT staff offers training, documents with screenshots and yes, holds hands" when need be, he says.

To build the confidence of novice users, one help desk manager at a Denver company created and archived hundreds of very simple training videos using Adobe System Inc.'s Captivate screen-capture software.

The Flash-based learning program uses screenshots, podcasting and animation to walk users through tasks such as inserting a table into a Word document, changing printer settings or using a particular PowerPoint feature. The IT department is constantly adding new tutorial videos as user needs' dictate, according to the manager, who asked not to be identified. Since implementing the videos last year, he said, help desk calls have been cut in half.

John O'Keefe, system support technician at Chicago-based Oxxford Clothes, agrees that screenshots and other visuals are very helpful when teaching users -- "I use very little written instruction," he says -- though he does caution that images used as teaching tools must be identical to what users will see in real-world use.

3. Mr. Entitlement


Often heard uttering the phrase, "Do you know who I am?" this particular user type comes in a variety of subspecies. It may be the CEO, who (let's face it) is genuinely entitled, or it may be a peon in marketing who thinks he's entitled simply because you're in customer service and he's, well, not.

The Entitlement twins are always on deadline with a super-important project, which means it's OK (in their minds, at least) to demand your immediate attention, ask you to skirt established procedures or call when you've got one foot out the door on Friday at 6 p.m.

How to handle: Delicately. All offices have politics, and users in a position of importance can make your life difficult until an issue is resolved.

When dealing with a senior executive, it's almost always in your best interest to drop what you're doing to fix a problem, support pros say; it's simply the smartest course given the reality of office hierarchies.

For those users sitting lower on the corporate totem pole, it's sometimes (stress sometimes) prudent to cater to their demands, provided the criticality of the situation is validated by the user's higher-ups.

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