As I head towards the bus on a normal evening’s commute, I pass by a homeless gentleman selling Spare Change newspapers. Since I usually have reading material or use my Blackberry on the way home (yes, I’m on a bus–drivers aren’t in danger), I don’t want the newspaper when I give him money, but he gets me to take one anyhow. How? He asks nicely.
He tells me in a positive, friendly voice that he’s been there since 6:00 AM (and it’s more than 12 hours later), and he only has a couple more to sell before he’s done. He then chats about how he heard it was below freezing in Maine this morning, or how everyone seems tired from watching the Red Sox last night.
I keep stopping and giving him money. I keep taking that paper that goes straight into the recycling at home. Why? Because he’s pleasant to deal with. After a long day, a friendly word and an uplifting little conversation really makes me smile.
This is something I attempt to teach my user-facing geeks. I know it’s tough to work a Help Desk, since you only interact with people when something goes wrong or they need something from you, but having that positive attitude and relating to them as fellow human beings can actually make the geek’s job easier. It can make the geek’s job easier because the person on the other end of the phone will be more likely to treat the geek politely the next time he or she has a computer problem.
As a leader of geeks, I have to make sure that my geeks know that they should come in and vent to me when they get frustrated rather than take it out on the users. That helps them to stay positive on the Help Desk. But even more effective is letting them get to know the users as people. I encourage them to go to firm social events and say hello to people in hallways. Unfortunately, the users themselves often ignore the geeks, but that’s a post for another day.