Trivia vs Troubleshooting

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Two people apply for the same position and are asked the same question regarding the height of a monument on-site. One of the applicants happens to know, having studied local monuments as a hobby, and offers the exact answer, down to the inch. The second applicant takes a moment, then steps outside, measures the monument’s shadow, then her own shadow, and using the known of her own height is able to estimate to within five feet of the answer.

Who do you want on your team? The one who happened to know, which was really more of a lucky break, or the one who used everything available to find the answer even though it was a question they had never been asked before?

I know people who know a lot of things, but if you ask them something they don’t know, they blink, stammer, and change the subject to something they know. They are like background characters, completely static, because they will never know anything new if they choose only to stick to what they know. Plus they are super boring to talk to after the first fifteen minutes, tops. Not a fan.

When you call a big tech company and you get “help” on the phone, how “helpful” is it? The kind individual starts with a script, you have to turn the computer off, check connections and turn it back on regardless of the problem, etc. They have very little actual tech training, what they have is a computer with a script, and based on the answers you give it brings up the next tip, like an Install Wizard for customer service. Ask them a question they don’t know the answer to and they will stammer and find the part of their script that most closely resembles but does not actually address your concern, and you repeat that process until someone gives up. It’s not pretty.

When you have a relationship with someone who knows you and your system, they don’t even pretend to know everything in the world. They listen, apply what you are telling them to what they know about your system, and relying on years and years worth of education and field experience, they troubleshoot and explore options. Instead of going in assuming they have all the answers written in the manual in their pocket, they go in to find a find the problem, whatever it may be, and solve it. Most of the time, the answer wasn’t in the manual anyway.

You have a relationship with your tech, and for most of us it’s a love-hate relationship where we love it until it doesn’t work, and then we curse its circuits. We hate calling customer support for very valid reasons. You need someone who can have a relationship with you and with your tech so all of you can work as a team.

We don’t know what’s wrong yet, but we won’t tell you to turn it off and turn it back on again for no reason, and once we understand the problem, it’s no longer your problem. No bogus answer using similar words, or scripted patter that sounds like we’ve said it 20 times today. 

We haven’t handled your problem 20 times because you haven’t had this exact problem 20 times and no two workflows are the same. But don’t worry, even if it’s something we’ve never seen before, there’s a way to find the answer.

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