Cool-headed techie defuses hot-tempered users

The first rule of help desk: Chill out when the heated support calls come in. The solutions will roll in soon after

Cool-headed techie defuses hot-tempered users

How to handle the inevitable calls from frustrated users who blame IT for all their problems? There's not much else to do but take it one call and one step at a time. But when the problem turns out to not be tech-caused, it can be quite gratifying.

I worked in IT at a large university and one day received a call from a "frequent flyer" who would ring for help on any issue. Whenever anyone in our department sees it's him, we brace ourselves for what's coming -- this was no exception.

He called because the class computer was broken, and he was in the middle of a class lecture. He was very upset and getting angry. Of course, it was all IT's fault. I told him I was on my way.

Into the fighting ring

I watched the display as I walked into the room and noticed the computer had a mind of its own. Pop-ups were appearing without his input, which made him very angry, and curses peppered his lecture.

As I got closer, I noticed that the annoyances on the screen seemed to happen when he leaned over the podium display. I observed a couple of minutes more. Sure enough, his belly was hitting the keyboard and causing the strange actions.

I discreetly pulled him away from the microphone and advised him of what was happening.

Funny enough, our interactions with him after this became much more pleasant, and he's stated how much he appreciated my help that day. Sometimes answering a tech call with a cool head and a little discretion pays off.

Listen closely

Another time, I received an angry message that a new system installed in a classroom wasn't working correctly. Audio from a nearby classroom was bleeding into the system in the affected room.

These rooms were newly updated with extensive wiring and numerous components. The idea of troubleshooting cross talk was daunting, and I wanted to do a little research on the matter first. But the professor was insistent I come and take a look right now.

I gathered my laptop, test equipment, and podium keys, and I steeled myself for a long period of tracing cabling and signals.

I arrived in the room and powered up the system; all was normal. I then went to the other room, turned on the system there, and played a video. Back in the original room, no problem, so I cranked up the volume on the video in the other room. Sure enough, it was bleeding into the system in the first room -- or so it seemed.

Pausing a moment, I noticed two things: The sound was prevalent on one side of the room, and in that location was a speaker above an air vent.

Sure enough, the sound was going through the duct work, not the speaker. There wasn't much I could do, other than to suggest the next time it occurred the instructor should ask the party in the other room to bring down the volume.

Lesson learned: Before jumping to conclusions on a complaint, take a moment to visit the situation and calmly assess. It saves time and frustration.

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