Re: Noting error messages....Let's be fair here...
Some error messages DON'T stay on screen indefinitely, so are long gone before the user can read them to tech support.
OK, so you remind users over and over to "tell" you the error message...er, yes, but how do you suggest they do this? It's unbelievable that most tech support people I've worked with either complain the user "didn't remember" it (didn't instantly memorize a multi-character error code and the surrounding technical jargon?), or - worse - complain the user didn't "write it down."
I'm sorry....what century is this again?
First, if you're having to repeat things over and over, maybe the problem is you're not repeating anything useful. Maybe you should consider making a practical suggestion as to how a non-technical person go about reporting what is often a very, very technical error, accurately, and EASILY.
Everyone I support knows how to take a screenshot of an error message and e-mail it to me - including my 82-year-old father, who is by no means a technical genius. I make it as easy as possible by installing one of a couple of simple, free, screenshot programs that make the process a breeze - accessible via a keyboard shortcut or an icon in the System Tray.
Too many people would forget the Windows command..but once an icon was available, they remembered to do the screenshot every single time.
What if the computer is completely frozen? Well, that's less usual, considering most errors I hear about aren't the ones that take down the OS completely.
But on those occasions, if their only option is to write the error message down, NOW they actually DO. Once reporting error messages was made dead simple, they learned it was to their benefit, and so now they WANT to do it.
And one lovely man took a picture of the error on his frozen computer... with his cell phone camera. He then texted the pic to me before he called to ask for help...which I hated, of course because I didn't think of it first. Of course, I stole the idea and now suggest that as an alternative where possible.
Oh, by the way, 75% of my home clients are over the age of 65, and frankly, they are much better students than the younger professionals I deal with at work.
But then, all my clients (and most of my work users) get a little cheat sheet of basic terminology. I go over it with them, to make certain they know which thingamabob is which, what button does what, that they're oriented with regard to standard toolbars, menus, control panels, and crucial keyboard shortcuts. And yes, it includes a few warnings as to what they should NEVER do.
This can be accomplished without making people feel like idiots. I've found even folks who claim they already know everything are happy to take the cheat sheet to "pass along" to someone who "really" needs it. (This rarely happens, interestingly. Most of the sheets end up posted somewhere near the computer...although several clients HAVE claimed it's only there because their spouse needs it...ahem.)
It's sad that the computer industry and tech support professionals alike have largely failed users, especially over the past decade, by acting as if the basics are somehow acquired via osmosis.
They've failed their clients and customers through arrogance and condescension, instead of being the vanguard for education of the new users coming into the market daily.
If WE won't help teach them, who will?
(Oh, and in closing: though normally I'm a big proponent of professionalism and good manners, it's nonetheless my opinion anyone who uses the word "intuitive" with regard to any aspect of computing should be taken out and slapped. Thank you.)