Computer Support in Simple English Please

By: Ken O'Brien

With PC and IT support many small businesses often see costs and not a lot of benefit. However what can cause the biggest problem for a small business buying IT equipment is why. Why this particular PC ? Why a server? What is a server and why should I have one? The benefits are not always obvious to non-technical users. Knowing what advantage the latest technology might have really doesn't matter if you work out taxes or you worry where your trucks are.

I think there are a number of possible reasons why this happens.

Technical people can appreciate functionality but may not always explain clearly how it can satisfy customer needs.

They can be guilty of not using simple English and pepper conversations with TLA (Three Letter Acronyms) and other IT jargon.

They tend to use IT Speak to explain IT problems they understand as simple, rather than simple English.


So how can we get from IT Speak to Simple English?

IT Speak is its own language. When a language teacher is teaching a beginner class they use a limited range of sentences or expressions to instruct the learners. If they use too many expressions students can get confused and find it harder to understand and learn the language.

IT Speak like any language also has a beginner level and a range of simple expressions that can help users understand and learn.

This is where we need to start. When I was faced with this problem some years ago I recognised it was essential for me to come up with some guidelines to help me talk to users at the right level.

Explain where they are and where the technology will bring them

Work out the basic vocabulary to use

Talk about things the customer can see

Limit talk about things they can't see, using words like "hard disk","memory","program" and "network"

Describe all actions in a step by step manner

Show users how to do things

Give them one easy way to perform an action

Encourage any kind of questions- this boosts user confidence in my experience

There is no such thing as a stupid question!


We also need to remember to stand back from the technology. By helping a customer understand the implications or benefits of a technology, trust is easier to establish and build. As a result there is more potential to develop a long-term relationship. It can also be a very rewarding learning experience.

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