The Barnes & Noble Review
The new “A+ 2003 Upgrade Core Hardware” and “A+ 2003 Upgrade OS Technologies” exams have arrived -- and you have some more studying to do.
Roughly 25 percent of the content has changed. The latest versions of Windows -- including both Windows XP and Me -- are now covered in detail. There’s new technology all over the place -- new I/O, new forms of PC memory, new peripherals, new wireless stuff, you name it.
Meanwhile, there’s been a quieter, maybe more important change: one that has little to do with the content. The job market has gotten tougher. Once, A+ certification was a luxury. Now, it’s a baseline necessity.
Now, let’s say you’re a reasonably experienced tech. Let’s imagine, further, that you hate studying for exams. You know most of this stuff. You know where to find stuff out when you need to. You just don’t like the whole test experience. But it’s time to hold your nose and get your credential. If only someone could make prepping less painful.
That’s where A+ for Dummies, Third Edition comes in.
Ron Gilster is great at extracting the boredom from certification exam review. He’s not only written For Dummies® books for A+, but also for CCNA, Network+, Server+, even Microsoft’s MCSA certification. He also knows the material backward and forward -- having spent 30 years upgrading, repairing, and programming computers, earning multiple CompTIA certs along the way.
Gilster’s formula makes a lot of sense. Quick, bite-size discussions (so you can review even if you only have a few minutes to spare.) Ten-question self-assessments at the beginning of every chapter (so you know where to spend your time). Hands-on labs that step you through many of the more challenging procedures you need to understand (for example, flashing a PC’s BIOS -- carefully).
And all that’s backed by twice as many exam questions as in the previous edition -- all provided on CD-ROM and delivered through the customizable Dummies Test Engine.
Gilster presents straight-to-the-point coverage of every exam objective, on both the hardware and OS exams. He starts with the “theoretical” stuff many techs never bothered to learn: the fundamentals, jargon, and properties of electronics and electricity inside the PC, and the ins-and-outs of binary and hex numbering. (Notwithstanding plug-and-play, you never know when you’ll have to mess with IRQs and memory addresses).
Then, it’s on to each hardware component covered on the A+ exam. Inside the box, you’ll find updated chapters on motherboards, BIOSes, buses, microprocessors, memory, storage, and power. Outside the box, you’ll find revamped coverage of the latest I/O ports and devices, printers, and notebooks.
What was formerly a single chapter on networking has been expanded to an entire section in this edition. You’ll find everything from LAN installation and configuration to management and troubleshooting -- as well as a full chapter on delivering Internet services. And, of course, there’s thorough Windows coverage: a chapter on the fundamentals of Windows, then drill-downs on Win95, 98, Me, 2000 Pro, and XP Pro.
Inexpensive, friendly, and mercifully concise, A+ for Dummies, Third Edition is a great way to go from experienced tech to certified tech. Bill Camarda
Bill Camarda is a consultant, writer, and web/multimedia content developer. His 15 books include Special Edition Using Word 2000 and Upgrading & Fixing Networks for Dummies, Second Edition.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 19: Interfacing With The Customer
The A+ Core exam is somewhat contradictory in the area of customer satisfaction. On one hand, about 10 percent of the test covers it, but your score on that section isn't included in the pass/fail analysis of the exam. I guess this contradiction is CompTIAs way of saying that customer service is a very important area of the test, but because every company may have its own way of doing things, they don't want to penalize anyone who may be confused by what's right and what the company policy may be.
- Using effective customer service behaviors
- Using good practices for eliciting problem symptoms from customers
On the A+ test, you can expect to find a few questions that deal with how you should react in a certain situation. If interacting with customers is an area you haven't had much training in a common problem in technical fields then read this chapter carefully. You don't find any pictures, graphs, or illustrations, just some information on how to interact with customers in a service call situation.
If you've been in the computer repair field for any length of time, you know what people I mean customers can be like. It's a very rare day when a customer calls you up out of the blue just to tell you what a fine job you did on his machine. However, you can count on hearing daily from somebody who's quite upset because her computer isn't doing whatever she thinks it should be doing and by golly, it worked yesterday!
Good and better ways exist to deal with customers. I emphasize the word customers because they are very likely the reason you have a job, or a business, or any interest in this test.
Understanding The Importance
Of Customer Service
CompTIA members include a number of large companies that do business directly with the public. The funny thing about the public is that if you don't treat them right, they'll find somebody who does. (Unless you're an electric, gas, or telephone utility; then they're stuck with you.) Nobody likes to be mistreated, ignored, irritated, insulted, ripped off, scolded, stood up, or made to feel inferior, and they like it even less when they become your customer.
As a customer, a person has power the power not to do business with you. If enough people don't do business with you, you don't have any business to do. So as business people, the CompTIA members decided to create some suggested standards of PC service technician behavior when in contact with customers. Of course, you and I don't have a problem in this area, but for all the other PC technical professionals, this standard is an excellent idea. In fact, it's not a bad idea for all occupations.
In this chapter, I focus on the part of the A+ exam that measures how well you can identify excellent customer service behaviors and effective ways for eliciting problem information from a customer. In addition, I cover some personal things you can do to instill confidence in your abilities as a PC service technical professional in your customer.
How much you study for this part of the test is really up to you. Exactly six questions deal with this area on the A+ Core exam. These 6 questions are part of the 69 real questions you are asked, but they do not figure into your pass/failure score. They are scored separately for the record. Some employers, present or future, may ask to see your A+ test results, in which case, they will see how well you did in the customer service and support domain.
Keep your technical skills and knowledge as current as possible by any means available to you. Keeping current is not an easy task, considering the present rate at which technology continues to emerge. A+ certification, and other third-party and industry certifications, such as MCSE, MCP, CCNA, Networking+, and others, is certainly one way to improve your knowledge as well as your marketability. Trade journals, magazines, and surfing the Net can provide you with the latest and greatest trends in technology. Specialized training and certification from hardware manufacturers and software publishers can help you move into new technical areas. Even an occasional class at the local community college can help you explore new areas and refresh old ones.
I don't mean that you should try to know everything; you already know that you can't. However, being current helps you be prepared for new situations or customer questions about new technologies. Saying, "I don't know, but I'll get back to you with an answer" is still perfectly all right. By keeping yourself abreast of current events that impact the computer and its use, you make yourself more likely to know where to look for the answer.
For the A+ Core exam, the primary points in providing good customer service are those skills that provide empathy and support for the customer. Review listening and feedback skills in the next few sections and skim through good telephone (see "Providing help over the telephone") and onsite practices (see "Going On-Site") in this chapter.
For far too many people, communicating means talking. What they don't realize is that communication is actually a two-way process. You can talk all you want, but unless someone listens to what you say, no communication takes place. Communication is a continuous feedback loop: I talk to you and you listen; then you respond to me and I listen; I respond to you while you listen, and so on. This process constitutes a conversation. In order for it to work, though, you and I must be equal participants in the dialogue. That doesn't mean that you and I have to speak the same amount of time. It only means that I respect you as an equal with important things to contribute to the communication, and vice versa.
Listening To Be A Better Communicator
Listening is the hard part of communication, which is why it's the most important part. From listening comes understanding. You can't understand what you haven't heard.
One of the most common failures of PC repair technicians (and many other service-related workers) is that they don't listen. I don't mean to say that they don't hear; they hear what the customer says just fine. It's just that they either think they know what the customer is going to say, or they hear with their eyes, by jumping to conclusions about what they see.
When you treat customers with respect and truly listen with interest to what they have to say, two things happen:
The former is for the present and the latter for the future, but both are good for business.
- You find out what needs to be fixed or looked at.
- The customer will feel comfortable working with you again in the future.
Ways exist to get the information you need from the customer. Earlier in this chapter, I describe communications as a continuous feedback loop. This loop is what you need to create to get the information you need. How? Let the customer tell you what is wrong while you listen. You may need to guide the conversation and keep it on track, which you can do with effective feedback. Effective feedback is your part of the conversation. Take a look at the following conversation snippet,.
The customer says, "This is the most frustrating problem I have ever had."
You say, I can understand how you might feel that way. When did it first happen..."