Tech support or babysitting? It can be hard to tell

Fix my password, hook up my computer, and hold my hand -- it's all in a day's work for tech support

Tech support or babysitting? It can be hard to tell
Credit: Thinkstock

I work in tech support, and at times I feel like a babysitter walking users through the most basic tasks with the simplest of explanations over and over again. Some users seem to try to understand, and others don’t, but the sheer volume of hand-holding can build up. Here are a few examples, starting with passwords.

One user comes to see us every time his password expires. He figured out how to change his password on his computer, so there is a little progress, but not on his phone. We’ve given written instructions, but he never looks at them. Thus, it falls to the tech department each time. One day, maybe it’ll sink in.

While on the subject of passwords, another user came to me and had me walk him through changing his computer password at his desk. Then he made sure he told me his new password ... because he thought I should know what it was. I have no idea why.

Say what?

On more than one occasion, I'll walk a user through a process and tell them to click on something. They ask, "Left click or right click?" I tell them, "Always left-click, unless I say specifically right-click." My co-worker had to explain it even further to one user -- he told one user that left-click is to execute a command, and right-click is to bring up the options menu. Now, the user always says, "Executing now," upon left-clicking when we walk him through something over the phone.

One user came to my office to give me a heads-up. She had used her work email the night before on what sounded like a phishing website. She got a phishing text message that said a website had 75 percent off purses, so when her home email address didn't work, she used her work email to log into it. In less than two minutes, her credit card (she entered that too) had been charged twice in China. She said it looked a little suspicious, but she really wanted that purse!

A while back, I had a manager come to me and tell me his computer had shut off without warning. I went to his office and tried to turn on the laptop, and there was no power indicator whatsoever. It was in the dock, and I took a good look at everything. The power cord was plugged into the dock, of course, but was it plugged into the wall? Nope! His statement, "Well, it worked for several hours this morning." In other words, when his laptop shut off, it was because the battery died. I plugged it back into the wall, and he was up and running again.

What’s in a name?

Over and over again, I have to remotely access users' computers. The best way to determine the computer name is to ask them to give it to me so that I can connect to the computers. The conversation usually goes like this:

Me: "Hey, can you give me your computer name, please?"
User: "Harold."
Me: "No, not your name, your computer name."
User: "Oh. It's Herbert."
Me: "Is that the nickname you gave it?"
User: "Yep. Is that not right?"
Me: "Well, Herbert is fine, but I need to know Herbert's official name, please."
User: "Right. It is (they proceed to give their user name)."
Me: "Nope, that's your user name. Let me walk you through finding the computer name. Please press the Start button on your computer."
User: "The what?"
Me: "The Start button. It is in the lower-left corner of your screen. That's how you get to all your programs."
User: "I don't see anything that says Start. I see All Programs ..."
Me: "That's the right button. If you see All Programs, then you are in the right place. Look in the right-hand column, and your computer name should be there. It starts with XXX."
User: "There is no right-hand column. All I see is Outlook, Excel, Accessories, Control Panel."
Me: "You see the words Control Panel? That's on the right side. Look up from there. It should be just above that."
User: "Nope. I just see my name."
Me: "What do you see below your name?"
User: "Documents, then something weird that starts with XXX...."
Me: "That's it! That's your computer name."


Voilà! It’s magic

A manager called and said that the policy mapped share drive (we'll call it M: drive) isn't on one employee's computer, and he wants to know if we allow them to have access to that drive. I told him that if it isn't there, then he should reboot the computer because, yes, that employee has access. I then told the manager that if he is logging on as himself (as he should be doing), he should still have access, and if he doesn't see the M: drive, then he should reboot.

A few minutes later, he called me back. "I still don't see the M: drive," he said. I asked him if he is logged on as himself, and he answered in the affirmative.

From past experience with this user, I know he struggles with technology, so I decided to jump on the computer and see for myself. Fortunately, over time this user has figured out how to quickly find the computer name, so it didn't take long for me to remotely connect.

I opened Windows Explorer, expanded the computer name in the navigation pane (where all the mapped drives are located), clicked on the M: drive to open that shared drive in the main reading pane, and said, "Here it is!"

These details are fairly simple to most people, but some users struggle so much with the basics that I wonder if the company should send them to a technology fundamentals course to help them out. In the meantime I do what I can, though some days feel like I’m watching the door to see when the parents will come home and take a shift.