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Sounding Off

RTFM. Please, RTFM! By Joseph Dobson
Published August 2015

RTFM. Please, RTFM.

I work for the technical support department of a company that writes plug-ins for the music industry (no, I’m not going to tell you which one) and I’ve had a really bad day. My co-workers are nice people, my working environment is light and airy, and the coffee was fresh all day. So what was the problem? In short, you were.

My first call of the day boiled down to, “How do I install your software?” I asked whether he (for a young-ish male it was) had read the ‘How to get started’ section in the accompanying documentation, and received the increasingly common response, “No, I don’t read manuals”. Biting back many urges, I put on my most helpful smile (which, I’m told, makes the tone of one’s voice more appealing, even over the telephone) and directed him to the appropriate pages that would answer all of his questions. Query: technical. Support: provided. Job done.Sounding Off

No such luck. “Why don’t you tell me?” he demanded, so I explained that, without knowledge of his hardware, operating system, host software and god knows what else, I couldn’t give him a definitive answer. “But I don’t read manuals”, he repeated, “on principle”. On principle? On f***ing principle? What idiot believes that ignorance is not only acceptable, but a principled position that gives him the right to waste my time and the finances of my employers in equal measure? Nonetheless, I did my job and guided him through. Did he thank me? Of course not. Pillock.

The next call made things worse. “I tried your software and it doesn’t work. It’s shit, and I’m going to tell everyone it’s shit.” Following the experiences of countless hotels bullied into offering discounts by threats of damning reviews on TripAdvisor, we’ve been trained how to handle these calls. My smile was looking a bit ragged at the edges, but I did my best. “Please can you explain something about your audio”, I asked sweetly, “and how you’ve set up the controls, and what results you’ve obtained?” Another classic reply ensued. “I don’t know, I just turned the knobs and it all sounded like shit.” I had to do it I asked whether he (for a young-ish male it was) had read the manual. Of course he hadn’t. So I spent the next 20 minutes explaining things that would have been understood more quickly and, given the copious screenshots and diagrams in the printed manual, more thoroughly on a postprandial trip to the bog. Did he thank me? Of course not. Pillock.

I must have done something to annoy the assembled deities of Heaven, Nirvana and Asgard, because the rest of the day was an endless stream of more of the same. I found myself silently begging for an irresolvable driver conflict, or two manufacturers’ protection mechanisms that refused to co-exist, or even a good ol’ fashioned blue screen of death. But no, I suffered a stream of idiots who either hadn’t or wouldn’t read the manual. Still smiling sweetly, I helped as best I could.

But here’s the rub. You’re the ones who’re going to suffer. My employers have until now been resistant to creating an online technical support service that, if a set of basic FAQs don’t answer your problem, merely offers the opportunity to fill in an extensive online form. This will place barriers between them and their customers, and they’re concerned about looking after people who may have a genuine need for immediate technical support. But the online service is increasingly likely to happen. So here’s the thing: if you want to retain immediate, knowledgeable and human technical support for when you genuinely need it, stop wasting our time with trivia. Moreover (and I don’t know whether Sound On Sound will allow me to say this in print) RTFM: Read The F’ing Manual. If your first urge is to pick up the phone, RTFM. If your second urge is to scour the interwebsphere for a video recorded by someone with no greater knowledge than you, RTFM. In fact, if any of your urges are to do anything other than read the manual, RTFM anyway. Depending upon the complexity of the software, highly knowledgeable people will have spent weeks, months or even years writing the bloody thing, and they did it all for your benefit, not their own. After all, they already know how to launch the software and which knobs do what, so the least you can do is have the decency to RTFM.

About The Author

Joseph Dobson is a real, live human with feelings. Why must you torment him?