Hopeless at the help desk: A tale of two users

Sometimes working in tech support feels like 'Groundhog Day' -- minus the incremental progress

Hopeless at the help desk: A tale of two users
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I work at a midsize corporation supporting users who have a variety of comfort levels with technology. But for one reason or another, some don’t seem to “get it.” I feel bad for them because they become quite frustrated. But I feel bad for us on the IT team because we’re constantly called on to deal with small problems -- often over and over for the same issue.

Off the top of my head, two users stand out. They couldn't be more different in their approach and demeanor, but their help desk calls tread a familiar, frustrating path, with little hope of change.

The strategy of ignorance

“Joe” contacts us frequently, and he has a history of overlooking common computer tasks or calling for simple items. Our best efforts to help him know what was wrong or how to fix it for the next round seem to go nowhere.

For example, Joe called me to his desk one day with the stated problem: “I can't browse the Internet."

I suppose there's one silver lining to being familiar with repeat customers: You know where to start with the troubleshooting. With Joe, you begin with the absolute basics.

I didn’t check connections or activity. Instead, I sat down at his desk, launched Internet Explorer, and went to the Google website. Voilà! The Internet was up and running just fine on his PC.

He took a look and exclaimed in surprise and relief, “Oh, it’s working.”

To get a glimpse into his thought process, I asked if he had tried launching any of the Internet browsers on his PC. His answer: "No!"

How on earth did he know he couldn't browse the Internet if he didn't try it in the first place?

Nonetheless, we went through the steps to check his Internet connections and launch the browsers. Meanwhile, he listens to our tutorials with only one ear, takes multiple phone calls and visits throughout, and treats the whole appointment with apathy.

Pretend to pay attention

There’s another user at our company who calls us for the same kinds of simple oversights or misunderstandings that Joe does. However, "Tom" seems to take our explanations seriously. In fact, he dutifully takes notes as we explain and even has a notepad dedicated to tech support’s computer walkthroughs.

Alas, it doesn’t seem to stick. He calls us for the same problems over and over. I’m not sure which is worse: Joe’s apathy or Tom’s apparent attempts at understanding. The result is the same, and we find ourselves walking the well-worn trail between our department and their desks.

Patience is the name of the game for us IT staff. Maybe one day we’ll quit trying to explain and simply answer the calls and fix what needs to be done within a mere minutes. But it would be nice to think that one day some info will sink in.