I used to get annoyed when someone would send a complete screen shot along with their tech support request. I thought it was a waste of bandwidth when a simple text message would do just as well, and be faster to send, receive and display.

But the thing is, screenshots have their advantages. For one thing, they’re exact. There’s no risk of an error code being mistyped.

More importantly, a screenshot can tell you other information that the user hasn’t thought to mention. This is critical, because the reason people call tech support is because they don’t know how to solve a particular problem…and that often means they don’t know which information is relevant.

Like, say, the fact that they’re running another program which happens to conflict with the one that they’re calling about.

Still, I wish Windows would create a file instead of copying the screen to the clipboard. Users need to paste it into something, so they paste it into what they’re most familiar with: Microsoft Word — something even less suited for sending images by email than a .BMP file created by Paint.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on Screenshots for Tech Support

  1. I have to admit, I usually (at work, where I don’t have access to PSE) paste the screenshot into Paint, and then save it as a jpg. At least it’s not as large a file as a bmp…. And you know, I need to remember to NOT cut it down to just the error message — good point that the rest of the screen can give extra info to the person I’m asking for help!

  2. Even with screenshots there are a lot of times I want to be able to just lean over their shoulder and say “CLICK HERE so I can see THIS” …

    There’s probably good room out there for using one-shot remote screen sharing for tech support, like Fog Creek’s Copilot… but you have to be able to get supporter and supportee online at the same time and get them to install software.

  3. Windows 7 finally gets this right with Problem Steps Recorder. Quick info/demo here. Of course, that only helps if the client having trouble is running Windows 7…

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