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I work in an IT Department where a user logs a support request.

A number of requests each day are usually down to user error and to us it is obvious what the issue is.

When we point out the issue some users often feel embarrassed about the mistake, but it's never really a big deal.

How can I best communicate that it isn't an issue, and that we all miss things at times.

My usual tactic is to say things like "someone had the same issue the lithe day" "ah, I see it, you've just missed x", etc.

What methods can I use to stop them "feeling silly"?

  • If this happens a lot, then look at your user interface design. May be worth improving it, so you get fewer complaints that just waste your time and the user's time. – gnasher729 Aug 5 '16 at 6:09
  • The question is about interacting with colleagues, not interface design. – Terry Aug 5 '16 at 7:26
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Just give the solution to their problem. As long as you don't condescendingly do so, you'll be fine.

There are dangers in preemptively trying to proactively help people not "feel silly." One often overlooked problem is if the user did not initially feel silly. Or feel like their question/request was dumb. Now, attempts to make them not feel bad will likely come across as condescending and probably make them feel bad.

Anyone remember this guy? Pretty much the epitome of this. Proactively trying to help people not feel dumb often has the reverse effect.

enter image description here

Now if people self-acknowledge this, "oops, I'm an idiot" or something, it's a little different. But without an existing relationship with that person, I'd just say something like, "no worries, glad to help" or otherwise generic.

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Note: This answer is primarily for those who support an application that they also maintain and update - if this does not apply to you, you can safely disregard this answer.

I can't say precisely how to do this, since job-specific context makes all the difference, but the best way to keep the users from 'feeling dumb' is to make the application smart. What I mean by this is - design with user expectations in mind.

As you handle daily problems the users encounter, consider if there's any way to improve the tools/sites the user is consistently having problems with, not to 'warn' or to 'pre-suppose' what they want to do, but to re-design it in such a way that 'incorrect' choices are less obvious, and that correct choices happen naturally as a part of the user's experience.

Consider keeping a short list of common problems on hand when you are improving their tools/sites - you now have a short list of common problems that you can improve upon in your next build. By anticipating where things frequently go wrong, you can plan ahead and build your app so that these problems rarely, if ever, happen.

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    We haven't designed most of the software we use. The software varies too, so sometimes it might be an excel issue, other days out might be bloomberg. – Terry Aug 4 '16 at 15:41
  • @Terry An, my apologies, I've been in the Software-Engineering tag for too long. ^^; – Zibbobz Aug 4 '16 at 15:56
  • Not a problem :) our developers are pretty good so everything we produce is easy to use. – Terry Aug 4 '16 at 15:58
  • That's good at least. :) I'll leave this answer up in case any folks who are software-engineers come by. – Zibbobz Aug 4 '16 at 16:34

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