The Arrogance of Technologists – Why They Should Treat End Users Like The Dummies They Are

Barbie Espinol

Recent experience and and excellent article in CIO magazine have me thinking about some of the things that are wrong about the Culture of Technology.

The article in CIO magazine “How to Save the Internet []”, the hilarious March 28 post (India Calling) at the Blog (I found them because they had signed up for my “Blinking Cursor PC Security Newsletter”), my own experience with HP Technical “Support” and Technical Support with Western Digital about an external hard drive all have something in common.

They all highlight the fact that Technologists (software and hardware companies) don’t get the fact that the vast majority of their consumers are not Technologists!

One of the points that the CIO article (about improving the security of the Internet) makes is that Technologists should “Treat End Users Like The Dummies They Are.”

While the characterization may be offensive, the principle is legitimate (read the article).

For example, why should updating a computer system’s software to enhance security (i.e. Microsoft SP2) NOT be automatic? (Yes, I know that for SP2 as of April 12 it is – but it’s the principle I am discussing). Why should millions of computers owned by non-Technologists be vulnerable to becoming Zombies and tools of hackers to invade and compromise other computers?

Yes, there should be an option for the Technologists to opt-out (they have more complex needs), but the default should mitigate towards a higher level of security.

Another manifestation of the Arrogance of Technologists is the information that comes with virtually any technology. It is almost incomprehensible to anyone not specializing in that particular aspect of technology. Try reading any of the articles in Microsoft’s knowledge base. The information necessary is there, but it might have just as well been written in cuniform.

I recently purchased a 250 GB Western Digital External Hard Drive as a backup, to follow my own advice in my PC Security eBook “Help! Something’s Got Hold of My Computer and It Won’t Let Go!” The instructions from Western Digital for dealing with the file structure of the hard drive were incomprehensible to me, and even confusing and incomplete for Western Digital Tech Support. I pity the non-Techie who tried to wend their way through this problem.

Finally, there is the issue of outsourcing Technical Support to other countries.

I know, the first thing that pops into people’s minds is “Here’s a guy who’s an ‘America Firster’ who is prejudiced against any foreigners.”

My history belies that perception. I’m an ex-Peace Corps Volunteer, speak several languages and was Director of the Human Rights Center in Portland, Oregon.

However the issue is customer service, satisfaction and the costs involved. As documented in Bud Stolker’s blog, there is a difference not only in language (yes, I know that English is the primary language of India, where much of HP Tech Support is located – but just because it is “English” does not mean it can be understood!), but also culture.

Here is the script with which the HP Tech Support phone is answered in India:

“Denku for galling HB. Sor, id is my gol to make zhur you ar gombleedly sadisfied doday, ifa denny dime you need me to sbeeg slowoor or rebeet zumding, I will be habby do do zo.”

That’s all very well and good, that they address up front that there may be some difficulty communicating. How much better would it be if they ELIMINATED the problem?

Here are the other facts HP should be considering:
1) If the average computer user is calling Tech Support he/she is probably frustrated, upset, fearful that their data will disappear and usually are under some kind of deadline.

2) They usually DO have to ask Tech Support to “sbeeg slowoor or rebeet zumding,” often many times. This costs the customer additional time and stress and results in having to make multiple calls back to Tech Support (which costs HP more money and loses them customers).

3) I was once told to “take my computer to Radio Shack,” an “authoorized HB rebair fazilidy where a benge tegnizhun will diagnoz the broblem.”

Is anyone aware of a Radio Shack that actually has a “bench technician?” It was obvious that the Tech Support rep had NEVER been in a Radio Shack.

4) When I asked to speak to a supervisor, I was told that they were all in a meeting. When I asked for the Tech Support’s name he said he was not allowed to tell me. When I insisted, he said his last name was “Pavilion.” How strange that it was the same as the name of an HP product. See Bud’s Blog for a similar situation.

In the U.S., most call centers give a first and last name, and often a Customer Service Representative’s ID number at the beginning of the call.

The point is that Technology companies are insensitive to the fact that their Customers are NOT Technologists, they are ordinary people who are just trying to get the Technology to work.

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