This is just a start, I’m sure that more will come to me as time goes on:
Rule #1 (People Suck rule): Customers are filthy liars. They change things, screw up their system, and then call you and insist that “it just stopped working out of the blue.” Okay, yeah, sometimes Windows or Visual Studio will randomly goof something up. The only thing that truly happens “just out of the blue” though is hardware failure. Everything else is either the result of something a customer screwed up or an new update that was automatically installed (or wasn’t installed in some cases). Customers will almost NEVER fess up and say what they did to goof up their system, though. Instead, they will make something up or just answer “Yes” because they think you’re working from a script.
Rule #2 (Sherlock Holmes rule) If all possibilities are eliminated, the impossible has to be the answer. When dealing with Windows and Visual Studio, sometimes weird stuff does just happen (see above). Hell, we’ve had Microsoft tell us: “Yeah, we know about that bug, but we aren’t going to fix it.” No matter how much a customer insists your suggestion will not work, insist that they do it. Even if it sounds obvious or weird to you, give it a shot, IT JUST MIGHT WORK.
Rule #3 (Mr. Rogers rule): Customers are like little kids; they want the newest stuff, they whine when it doesn’t work, they threaten to tell your parents (supervisor) if you don’t do something for them, you have to hold their hands and walk them across the street, and you also need to pat them on their head and tell them they’re special every once in a while. Always keep this in mind, especially the head-pat bit.
Rule #4 (Time Warner/Comcast/your cable company rule): If you are unable to help the customer (or cannot), always give them the illusion that you are trying. Every support team has certain customers that “cry wolf” and specialize in making mountains out of molehills, or that want help with somebody else’s product (usually Windows). Fark ’em. Give ’em what I call the “cable company” answer: “We’re working on it.” Wait, and then give ’em the bad news. If they think you tried, they will be less likely to get angry when they get the bad news.
Rule #5 (Lion King rule): EVERYTHING IS YOUR FAULT. Its your fault that the customer spilled tea on the keyboard. Its your fault that the power supply on their database server blew up and they have no backups. Its your fault the head programmer left and the source code for the app was on his machine that has already been re-imaged. Learn to live with this. Water off a duck’s back, baby.