Talking to the mechanic


Most people have a difficult time explaining problems with their computer or any other piece of technology. Instead of providing useful details like what they were doing when the problem took place or what sort of error they received, the typical person just reverts to saying “It’s broken.” To make things easier on customers and technology providers, I propose a simple solution: explain computer problems just like you’d tell your mechanic about problems with your car. Here are some questions to get you started:

“When did the noise start?” In other words, how long have you been having the problem?

“What does it sound like?” Describe the problem and any error messages you saw.

“What are you typically doing when you hear it?” What action immediately preceded the problem? In other words, what were you trying to do and what did you expect to happen when you got the error instead?

“Does it happen all the time or just some of the time?” How consistently can you reproduce the issue? Can you make it occur right now if you want to?

“Have you changed anything lately, like the gas you use?” Did you switch to a new web browser, upgrade your computer, or install new programs?

If users were to compile even a little bit of this information before reporting an issue, the time and effort required to resolve problems would drop significantly — leading to a better customer experience. Similarly, tech providers might want to offer up a similar list of diagnostic questions when the usual report of “the damn thing’s broken” arrives at the call center or in the support mailbox.