Alison Heusinkveld worked for the help desk while getting her undergrad here at UW. She currently works as a Marketing Representative for Gard Vinters Vineyards in Washington. She’s here to offer some sage, yet witty, advice for those on both ends of the line during help desk calls.
Writing the guest blog for University of Wyoming (UW) Information Technology (IT) Help Desk is such an honor for me, I spent many moons under the bright florescent lights of the old Ivininson and new Sorority Row buildings that once and now house the said UW Help Desk; literally, I usually worked the night-shift from 4pm to around 7 or 8pm. We were a small crew, but mighty. When I was hired in 2007 I had no idea what was in store, I came from the Big Horn town of Sheridan, Wyoming, where the IT department never required me to do much more than set up a couple of projectors and replace printer paper for the lab across the hall, however, as I interviewed for UW IT I came off as a seasoned vet. Sure, I knew a couple of things about operating systems, wireless internet, and CD-ROMs (are those even around anymore?) but my experience taught me the art of research and psychology. Over the next two hours (I kid, I kid), I will share with you some of most valuable lessons that I learned from two years at the UW IT Help Desk. Just now a light bulb came on; readers of this blog may actually recognize some of my experiences because you may have been on the other end of the phone line, if I insult or embarrass you in any way, I apologize. Please take this post with a grain of salt because it was always the interesting clients that left me with a smile on my face at the end of the night. Now onto the lessons:
1. You can Google any problem. “Error code 434” – Google it. “Printer capabilities not functioning” – Google it. “C Drive unable to take commands, massive internal error” – emm…Google it? Okay, so it’s not always the solution, but as much as I would love to tell you we have all that knowledge in our head or a manual given to us, we don’t. If I ever did make a remark about looking in that said solutions manual, Google might have been a little slow that day. Do NOT take Google lightly; I believe it is the single most powerful tool on the internet. I wish I could say my belief started early on because when I decided to buy stock in this powerful publicly owned company, I could have saved a little money. It is not a lifesaver in every event, but I can confidently say that over half of my client issues have been solved by Google. I would marry Google if it were possible; he would solve all of my problems and probably be very handsome. Sigh.
Customer: Hey, can you help me? My computer has locked up, and no matter how many times I type eleven, it won’t unfreeze.
Tech Support: What do you mean, “type eleven?”
Customer: The message on my screen says, “Error Type 11!”
Tech Support: “Hi, how can I help you?”
Customer: “Uh, yeah, I can’t print.”
Tech Support: “Ok, sir, I want you to click ‘Start’ and–“
Customer: “Listen, buddy, don’t get technical on me! I’m not Bill Freakin’ Gates, you know!”
2. There is a hierarchy in the help desk. Yes, even something as small as a password change is approved by more than just one person. While I don’t know the logistics of how and why this university entity works, there is a system. When a call comes into the help desk and is resolved, it is logged and approved by the manager; if the call is not resolved it generally moves on to the consultant. At this point it is somewhat out of the help desk’s hands. More times than not, the consultant gets a hold of the client and takes care of the issue swiftly. However, because several of the consultants have a large number of staff members and other clients to consult with, sometimes it doesn’t get answered immediately, and by immediately I mean not within 28.5 minutes. This is not the help desk staffer’s fault. Period. Although extremely smart and always dashing people, the help desk staff is the lowest peons of the IT system (but please don’t treat them that way), they will take your call and make a note that your case is extremely urgent being sure to calm you down and assure the client we are NOT out to get you, nor is your computer, or your consultant. This brings me to the psychological point I cannot leave out.
3. Sometimes the only thing I ever solved for a frustrated client was to calm them down. We can all agree that technology is powerful. Technology has made our lives simpler. Technology can be very complicated. Technology is expensive. And finally to a lot of people this powerful, expensive, complicated tool that was once used to make our lives simpler is broken, that is frustrating. Powerless people who are inconvenienced are about as scary as the movie Cujo when I was six. So, it is our job as fearless leaders to walk blindly into the deep souls of broken technology and hold your hand as you come along for the ride. And if not, there is always the remote computer option, I take over all aspects of your computer while you watch helplessly and hope for the best. Best part for the client; no hand holding. Best part for me (IT geek); I get to see your cute screensaver puppy looking all adorable while you list of your professional accomplishments so I value your time that much more. Win-win, eh?
Tech Support: “What’s on your screen right now?”
Customer: “A stuffed animal that my boyfriend got me at the grocery store.”
4. We are all human. Even us. Those who know all and see all, we enjoy pointing and laughing at the students who walk by our big bay windows and pick their noses, have ridiculous fitness contents in hopes that one day people will see us as more than tech geeks, and have extensions of the most frequent callers memorized to be the first “not it” shouted out. This being said, I was able to lose my temper just as quickly as the client on the phone. Please realize we haven’t been outsourced and we are the same students who visit your classroom, walk next to you in the Union, and help you recover that paper you forgot to save after you typed 15 pages. Be nice to us. Kill us with kindness, just don’t kill us. I will say it a hundred times and once more, I was much more inclined to help your situation if you were nice, rather than making you scroll through hundreds of folders and restart your computer three times (not to say I ever did that [wink]), than if you lose your temper during our “hello’ exchange. Technology is here to help, and if you are its friend, you will be wearing the smile at the end of the night.