The Biggest Secret to Learning From Your Experiences


I’m reading from John C Maxwell’s The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential . This morning I came across this quote:

“…stopping to reflect is one of the most valuable activities people can do to grow.”

Which caused me to stop to reflect on what I learned from a recent experience with Microsoft technical help line. I’m so thankful I did because I learned something valuable to apply to my interactions with customers and clients.

In a nut shell, a Microsoft app called Camera, which I’ve used since its first iteration in Windows 8 for my video capture needs failed. The app was simple and easy to use. Then came Windows 10 about three months ago, and the “Camera” app had been improved giving me more control by including an auto focus adjustment and a contrast adjustment which meant I didn’t have to log into Skype and disable the auto focus there (which doesn’t work any more by the way).

Beautiful. I loved it even more and it save me a step.

Until two days ago, when I went in to make a video, and the auto focus app no longer functioned. You couldn’t use it because it wasn’t clickable any more…like a dead link.

Thus began a 2 day chat marathon at Microsoft.

I have to say the first technician that helped me did the best job. He took the time to take remote control of my PC so he could see for himself exactly what my problem was. Once he saw my problem he began a whole series of actions to help resolve the issue which led him to discover that I hadn’t receive the huge November Windows 10 updates. Since this took several hours to install he couldn’t stay with me, but sent an email with a link back to the support desk if the updates didn’t fix the problem. They didn’t.

So yesterday, desperate to get my video back to a functional level I tried to log into the help desk only to discover that the help desk was out-of-order. Finally at 10:30 AM I got back into the system with a technician. I typed out an explanation of the situation, at which point he ended chat. Okay….back to the chat desk, new technician. Explained the problem again, stressing the problem was with their camera app. He told me he knew exactly what the problem was and would send me instructions on how to fix it by email.

Progress at last, I thought.

Then I read the email. Groan. The instructions where about how to uninstall my webcam  and reinstall it so the new drivers would fix the problem. I’d done all that the previous day, several times with the original tech. So back to chat with a new technician who seemed to understand the problem. She even typed back exactly what I’d written as the problem, wherein she asked if I had uninstall the webcam etc. I told her I’d done that, I even copied the previous email with the instruction so she could see what we’d done before. After quite a bit of back and forth, she told me she needed to check her resources and she’d be back in a minute or two. When she came back she said there was something wrong with my webcam and that I had a hardware issue and she would send me to the hardware help desk.

At the hardware help desk a very polite technician said they would have no problem resolving the issue all they needed from me was money.

At this point I politely declined.

Shortly after than I decided that I would try to upload the original software that went with my Webcam. This is old technology not set up to work with Windows 10, and I hadn’t used it in about 3 years. Nevertheless I went ahead an installed it over the objection of my PC that said it wasn’t compatible with  Windows 10. I had visions of crashing my whole system but what the hell. Thankfully the software still works and gives me direct access to my webcam. It’s not the best solution but it works, and the “camera app” from Microsoft remains unworkable.

Yesterday I didn’t really think any more about it except to give myself a pat on the back from all the growth I’d experience over the last ten years, cause I can assure you ten years ago, I’d have frothed at the mouth, completely frustrated and thrown things.

However , this morning reading John Maxwell I did reflect on my experience and asked myself what I’d learned.

  1. We tend to have prerecorded messages about what exactly a problem is, especially if we feel we have more experience than someone else. And technicians fall pray to this very easily. They assume that the customer doesn’t  know what the real problem is and it’s never what they say it is…thus the constantly insulting question about if your computer is plugged in.
  2. Even when we seem to listen, and can rephrase the question back for confirmation doesn’t mean we believe what we hear.
  3. We place our agenda ahead of the customer, focusing on standard responses to a varied range of situations.

Except for the first technician no one believed  the problem was the “Camera app” but rather the problem was with my software or hardware, this in spite of a rash of online help requests about webcams that failed after Windows 10 installation. Only my first tech asked me how long the app had worked for me before it failed, and tried to determine if an update created the problem.

So my biggest take away from this experience, isn’t that I should get an Apple…but that:

I need to really listen to what a customer or client is telling me and to get very clear on what I’m hearing and to check myself for automatic assumptions that might interfere with my understanding so the help I offer is valuable, concise and on target.


Don’t let what you think you know get in the way of what you need to know.

The biggest secret then, to learning from your experiences, is to take the time to reflect on them.

Go out there and:

Grow, Live, Love.



Here’s a workable technology you can really. The Support Desk is great.


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  • Yep we all need to listen more and talk less, the message is clear if you just
    wait a while and think before you speak…. Ok can’t get on Skype ??? oh well
    some other time … Later Steve “videomemo” Hall

  • Hi Nick I am sorry you had to go through all that. Sure sounds familiar. I went through something like that with Comcast a few years ago when my internet quit working. They blamed everything on my equipment, no matter who I talked to. After a week went by they finally sent out a technician and guess whose fault it was? Comcast did something on their end that cause me not to get Internet. Just shaking my head. 🙂
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