How do you answer “dumb” support questions?

32960 pts.
What creative methods or responses have you used to answer "dumb" user questions? Do any of the answers in my blog [strong]Heard in passing - IT Trenches support at its finest[/strong] sound familiar? Have a great day!

Software/Hardware used:
support, helpdesk

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I think the best policy is to do everything you can to mask the fact that you think the question is “dumb”. Gracefully assisting without letting on how you feel is an art unto itself! I recall a user who called into helpdesk wanting to know why her laptop wouldn’t see the cd rom. The system shipped with an external cable. I asked her politely if that cable had a tag on it, she confirmed it did. I asked her what the tag said and she read “for use with floppy drive only”. I just waited for a moment for that to sink in and said nothing. Suddenly the light went on and she said “Ohhhhh, ok, I’m a dork!”. Well at least I didn’t say it! – ha


People who are asked questions that they consider “dumb” have to realize that everyone has a different skill set. Consider some questions you might ask a car mechanic; he might consider your questions dumb. Or what about questions you might ask a doctor; to him the questions might be dumb. Even someone like me, who has been in IT for over 30 years, cannot know everything. I ask questions of people, who have different expertise, that they might consider dumb.

I am a DBA and am constantly asked questions. There are two types of people who ask questions.
1) those who want to learn
2) those who want me to do their job and don’t want to learn

I do not believe that people in the first group ask stupid questions. Their questions come from ignorance, which is merely lack of knowledge.

It is the second group that gives me head aches.

Sometimes I will make a point of cracking a manual (even the electronic manuals, although they don’t crack as loudly) and read the answer to the one who asked.

Sometimes I give a long answer full of tid-bits and sidebars and background information. Frequently, this causes the one who asked the question to go away.

Sometimes I give short answers, such as “yes” and they go away.


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  • Troy Tate
    Notice I put the word "dumb" in quotes. I did not mean to disparage anyone's skill levels but to provide a venting forum and maybe get a smile and some other creative but somewhat technical responses that can mollify an aggressive user who wouldn't understand otherwise. It's kinda like saying that you need a left-handed metric screwdriver to adjust the blinker fluid retention screw. ;)
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  • Kevin Beaver
    In my experience it always seems to be the power users* who create the most problems. *Pc Operators Who Eventually Run, Unload, Screw up, Erase, and Remove Software
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