The role of the SysAdmin is a technology role, but also a service role, and users can become frustrated and even angry when they approach a SysAdmin with things that are not working properly with their software or network access. Depending on who the user is, this situation can quickly escalate, no matter how large or small the problem. Also, the person may not care if the issue was simply caused by "user error." Even if it was their fault, they just want the issue fixed.
Often, it is not what the issue is that needs to be fixed, but how you handle the issue. And, the personality and role of the user can play a key role too. This makes how you handle the issue - both the person and the actual technology problem - very important.
Here are some tips for how to handle an unhappy or angry user so that you can get to solving the technology issue at hand.
Respond quickly - It is important to be responsive and address their issue as soon as possible. Making a user wait can make the situation escalate and can turn someone who is mildly inconvenienced into someone who is angry. This is often because the user starts to feel stress from being unproductive when they cannot use their network-based technology tools.
Show empathy - Understand that the user may already be frustrated when they approach you, so the first action that you may need to take is to calm them down. Showing empathy, by letting them know that their issue can be a frustrating one, but it can be fixed, can go a long way. If this is a common issue, explain to them that this has happened to other people, and is something that can be easily and quickly corrected. Also, thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. This helps to encourage people to reach out to IT support when there is a question that comes up or if they come across something that does not seem right.
Validate the request - Even if you already know that something was changed on the user side, don't put the customer's request in question. A lot of topics can easily become very complex, so the issue might be caused by another component in the IT system. Phrase direct questions to get the information that is required and give the user a great support experience.
Be honest - If you know that a request cannot be fulfilled, immediately tell the user. Even if this is not the desired answer, honesty will prevent more dissatisfaction that could develop over the long term. The most important thing is to explain why something is not possible. Never say "no" without a detailed explanation.
Communicate an action plan - Demonstrate confidence that you can resolve the issue, which can help put the user at ease. Knowing that the issue can be fixed can help calm them down. Explain the steps that are going to be required to fix the problem and how much time it will take. This is a good way to set expectations with the user if they are going to be without their laptop, tablet, network resources or other access for a period of time. This can also be a good "teaching moment" as well. As you are fixing the issue, if it is something that can be prevented in the future or resolved by the user, show them the steps that they can take to help themselves. However, if this is something that needs to be worked on by a SysAdmin, it is good to explain that if the issue arises again, they should reach out to you ASAP.
Offer a temporary solution - (If available) to keep them productive while you work on the issue. This can help to keep the user from falling behind, and can reduce their stress level over the situation. Also, keeping them busy can give you more time to work the problem.
Work as a team - If you are not exactly sure how to answer a request, work on a solution with your colleagues to ensure that the user will receive the best possible answer. Receiving an unqualified answer will not calm the user down, so work together to get the best possible answer. Also, be sure to share the knowledge among all the team members. For example, you could mark particular cases in your ticket system so that everyone can access the knowledge more easily in the future.
Take escalation seriously - If the user does not feel like they are being taken seriously and asks for an escalation, do it! Giving the user an opportunity to get a second opinion can help them feel like their request is being taken seriously.
In all, a fast response, showing empathy, communicating effectively and offering a temporary fix to keep users actively working can go a long way in keeping an inconvenienced user from becoming an angry user, and will help boost your reputation as a valuable resource within your company.