If I ever got smart enough, I think I’d hack the bank machine to spit out money, not play Angry Birds… but still pretty cool!
off your next computer service call with us.
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Contest Details: Contest ends March 31, 2013. Winner will be announced via FaceBook. Not redeemable for cash. Cannot be transferred. Only redeemable for labor charges, not hardware. Must be redeemed with 90 days.
Also be sure to check out our tech articles for tech tips on getting the most out of your digital world.
Update: March 31, 2013: Congratulations to Niki! You’ve won $75 in free tech support. Thank you for supporting us =)
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Not everyone is computer savvy, and from time-to-time we all need to call in some expert help.
If you find yourself needing to call in a computer pro to your home or business, here are some tips to consider on how to get the most out of your tech support visit:
- Know your schedule:
- When calling for an appointment, have your calendar ready to go so that when prospective time slots are offered, you can be quick to say yay or nay.
- Time is everything:
- If your computer takes 20 minutes to turn on, please do not start the conversation with, “it takes 20 minutes to turn on, here, I’ll show you.”
- Have your systems fired up and ready to go.
- IT professionals bill by the hour, it is rude to tack on extra questions after the bill has been written up.
- Our Time; Your Dime.
- Time is everything: Part II
- Some problems are really trivial to solve; free, over the phone.
- So when you call, have your computer ON and ready.
- If you say, “Oh, let me just turn it on and see if that will work”, you’ve lost your window of opportunity, and your tech will simply schedule an in-home visit.
- Make a list:
- Before your appointment, make a list of the problems you are having and the questions you have.
- Be clear on what is troubling you. “It doesn’t work” or “It’s broken” isn’t enough.
- What doesn’t work? When doesn’t it work? Is the computer slow for all programs, or is it just slow on the internet? All internet sites, or just one in particular?
- Are there any error messages? These are a good thing to have when trying to troubleshoot a misbehaving computer
- Make sure your IT technician knows the extent of your list so that they block off an appropriate amount of time.
- This ensures things are not rushed or forgotten, and will help keep everyone focused on specific objectives.
- Have resources ready to go:
- Have all Disks & Product Keys ready to go for the appointment.
- Make sure you have your System Recovery Disks on standby.
- If possible, have a fresh backup of your data so that you are protected against data loss.
- Frustration is contagious:
- Your technician understands that you really really need your computer up and running now!, but persistently reminding them of how frustrated you are doesn’t help. It will likely make them frustrated and possibly overlook suitable solutions to your problem.
- Calm down and leave the situation to the professional. That’s why you called them in the first place, right?
- Give your IT consultant some room:
- You will never get the best results from anyone if you hover over their shoulder. Trust them and leave them alone to do their professional best or decide they are not a fit for you or your organization and terminate the session.
- IT work requires concentration and thought. Please do not interrupt them with every question that pops into your head. Silence does not need to be filled with meaningless chatter. If your words are less important than silence, keep quiet.
- Most IT techs will happily answer your questions as to “why is it broken?” after they’ve have had more than 10 seconds in front of the computer.
- Remember, this is not a collaborative project. You called an IT technician to fix a problem, not to work on the problem side-by-side.
- I am happy to have you sit with me while I work and I will try to explain the salient points as I go, but I don’t want you standing behind me jiggling the change in your pocket while subjecting me to a barrage of questions about my every move.
- Hands Off
- When a tech is on-site, do not start dusting, organizing cables, or playing with your device
- I cannot count how many times a new computer setup has been brought to a crash because the owner decided NOW was the time to figure out the power cables and unplugged the entire works. This happens daily. STOP!, don’t touch that!
- If the tech working on your iPhone/iPad/Galaxy/Surface/whatever puts your device down, do not immediately snatch it up and start fiddling… chances are, they are in the middle of working on it.
- Keep on topic and to the point:
- Keep to the facts and answer questions honestly.
- Do not pepper your tech person with distracting (and often irrelevant) questions.
- Long background stories are not needed.
- Put Fido away:
- Personal Pet-Peeve: I don’t care if he’s really friendly or if she’s really excited to see company. I don’t want your dog jumping on me, I don’t want your dog’s hair all over me, and I don’t want to smell like dog for the rest of the day. I also don’t want your dog knocking over my equipment, getting into your newly opened computer case, or generally interfering in any work I am doing. For best results, put Fido in the back yard.
- I’ve honestly been told, “oh, he hardly ever bites”. Yeah, that’s nice.
- Understand terms and conditions before work commences:
- Make sure you know how much your IT consultant charges for an in-home / on-site visit. Get a best-guess estimate on how long the visit will take and what your final bill is likely going to cost. If you have a limit to your budget, make sure you communicate that with your technician and ensure they understand.
- If you can’t afford to fix your computer, do not call in a technician.
- Virus, Worms, and Trojans, oh my!:
- Determining the origin of a virus can be pretty tricky and time consuming. Your technician will usually spend their time removing the virus and patching your system against future problems, rather than spending time investigating the source of the virus.
- All too often people want to blame someone, some program, or some action on why they fell victim to a virus. In the digital age, you will likely pick up a digital bug. Yes, it may have been an attachment your nephew opened when he was visiting, yes it may have been a website your house sitter went to, but NO, I cannot pin-point it nor will I testify to that effect. You had a virus, you are all cleaned up, you have the latest antivirus / security software, you know more now than you did yesterday, let’s move on.
- See: How did I get a virus?
- I can explain it for you, but I can’t understand it for you.
- You may have to do some homework (i.e., read a book) in order to fully get your question answered.
- Errors can be a good thing:
- Being able to reproduce the error is vital to troubleshooting. When a tech is able to have the error re-occur, please do no jump in front of the screen and say, “there!, now I don’t feel so bad, it even happens to you”.
- One example of an error is all we need; having you sit at the computer demonstrating how the error message appears on every website isn’t helpful. Show us your problem and move out of the way.
- When a tech opens programs and files on your computer (i.e., Picasa) they are most likely testing performance and functionality and are not interested in hearing the full background story of your trip to Italy.
- Passwords – the key to a healthy relationship with your tech guy:
- Your email requires a password. Your user account requires a password. Your wireless network requires a password. They ALL require passwords.
- Knowing them can save a lot of time.
- Knowing them can save a lot of money.
August 20, 2012 – Originally written.
February 26, 2013 – Updated
If you are in business and send emails, you may want to revisit how your email signatures impact your daily communication, and ultimately reflect on you and your company.
A clean, professional email signature plays an important role in communicating important information.
If done properly, a good signature can help ensure that your email survives the spam-gauntlet that constitutes today’s email systems while still presenting a professional image that is consistent with your companies brand.
Here are some tips on creating a professional email signature.
A professional email signature is not the place to offer inspirational quotes.
It is not the place to play around with funky colors or fun fonts.
If your signature includes Comic Sans (and you aren’t running a Day Care), it’s time to revisit your signature.
In addition, lose the images. Keep to plain text (not HTML, not Rich Text; Plain Text) and lose company logos and anything that isn’t critical to communication.
It sounds obvious, but every day I get emails with pretty signatures that do not include essential information about the sender.
Include helpful items that let people reach you:
- Who You Are
- Your Company
- How Do I Contact You? or as is now more common: What is Your Preferred Method of Contact?
- Legal Disclaimers (which are ignored by ~100% of the population)
Smart phones turn every line item into an actionable event.
If you have a phone number in your signature, then that can be tapped for an immediate connection.
If you have a website, then that can be clicked for a look at your website (let’s hope you have a mobile version of your site).
If you have a street address included, then that can be tapped for instant mapping and turn-by-turn directions on how to get to you.
Do you see where this is going?
Also, you should keep in mind that taking all of this useful information and including it as an image completely defeats the purpose as the image is not actionable and may even be stripped out of the message.
Some professionals advise keeping the signature short and sweet, like this one I received from DropBox Teams.
Emma | Team Sales | Dropbox | 415-967-xxxx
Minimalistic indeed!, but I quite like its straight-forward simplicity.
Or how about Tech giant Dell? What do their Business signatures look like?
Senior Account Manager | Business Development
Dell | SMB Canada
Office: 416.773.5065 | Toll Free: 800.387.5752 ext. ****
Simple, to the point, smart-phone friendly, and contains everything I need to know on how to reach Mike at Dell.
I like to provide as much information as is necessary for a recipient to fully add me as a contact and to reach me.
Matthew K.W. Lehmann, M.A.Sc.
(c) 604 741 7575
(f) 206 222 2037
P.O. Box 1960
Sechelt, B.C., V0N 3A0
See www.mainstaycomputing.com for our latest projects, prices, testimonials, and Warranty & Policies.
And this is what an email from me looks like on a smart phone. Every critical piece of information is readily turned into an actionable item for instant communication.
Furthermore, should an email from me be printed, all critical information is contained in the printout.
Images add unnecessary bulk to each and every email you send. In addition, new cloud sourced spam filters are becoming significantly more fickle when it comes to filtering, or even blacklisting, accounts and IP addresses that they believe are a source of spam.
Images in your email increases your spam score and may cause your email to be blocked or filtered as Junk Mail / Spam Mail (see this Microsoft security article for more spooky stuff).
Ultimately, even MediaTemple can rarely answer your question: “Why was my email blocked?” because they (like many hosting providers) actually outsource their spam filtering to a 3rd party (Cloudmark, in their case).
Larger emails may not mean much to the desktop user, but your mobile user will appreciate a clean email that does not contain heavy images that only serve to eat up their monthly bandwidth allotments.
In addition, some email clients separate out your images and include them as attachments, which leads to confusion on the part of the recipient as it looks like every single email from you contains an attachment.
And if that wasn’t enough, some email clients have a fairly scary warning that attachments have been blocked.
For maximum viewing accessibility on all devices and by the vast majority of users, keep to simple, standard system fonts, with black text on a white background.
Avoid excessively large or small fonts and understand that the way your email looks on your computer, is unlikely to look the same on another computer.
Do you have any tips that I missed? Let me know in the comments section below.