Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/07/27/something_for_the_weekend_tech_support/

IT support bod? Whatever you earn, it's not enough

Betwixt chair and keyboard sits the problem of which you speak

By Alistair Dabbs

Posted in Software, 27th July 2012 11:00 GMT

Something for the weekend, Sir? It might amuse you to read that one of the senior IT support managers at one of my client workplaces confessed this week that his experience of IT support 'from the other side' was disappointing. By 'from the other side', of course, I mean as a user: my colleague is not a spectral secret shopper from beyond the grave.

Laurel and Hardy on the phone

"You promised me a phone next to my desk."
Source: MGM

Temporarily relocated in the building, he found it could take days rather than hours to get a PC properly connected to the network. He won't tell me how long it took to get new shares set up on the NAS. This is not reticence on his part but simply because it still hasn't been done yet. As for getting a landline phone installed at his new desk, he has given up on this entirely.

My intention is not to slag off IT support, or 'customer services' as they call it now (along with everything else from street sweeping to illegal invasions of Middle Eastern countries). I simply like to point out that it's revealing to sit on the other side of the desk from time to time.

On occasion, I make the switch the other way around. I am an Adobe Certified Instructor, and classroom training is sometimes followed up with on-site training support. This is something I do with trepidation, however, because putting oneself forward as someone offering 'support' makes you a marked man. It takes otherwise normal users and brings out the stupid in them.

Homer Simpson driving

Warning: slavish GPS obedience can damage your doughnuts
Source: 20th Century Fox Television

It's a bit like when my dad switches on the GPS in his car and thereafter ceases looking at what's happening on the other side of the windscreen. The GPS says 'turn left' and my dad obediently swings hard on the steering wheel and invariably vanishes up someone's front drive.

Picture me gaily frolicking (steady) in an open-plan field of fresh users, publicly outed as the day's 'training support' man, besuited and brandishing two mobile phones like some kind of middle-class urban rioter. Got a question about Creative Suite? I'm the dude.

Two mobiles man

"I'll call you back, I'm CS training. Oh, one last thing, can you remember their fucking log ins?"

The first question rolls in: 'What's my login?' My answer reeks of professionalism: 'I'm not really IT support but perhaps I can try and find out for you.' And I do. What a pro. The second question of the day is: 'What's my login?' OK, I'll do my best. The third question of the day is the same, as indeed is the fourth, and so on. By the 20th occasion, all civility is lost and my reply has been modified to: 'I don't know, moron, it's YOUR login, the one you've been using for the last five fucking years.'

Certifiable behaviour

I want to scream: 'I'm a highly qualified, certified expert in Adobe software! Stop asking me IT stuff I don't know the answers to!' By the afternoon, I find myself simply staring in stony silence at one user who has forgotten how to scroll from the top half of a document to the bottom half (he claims that his Mac at home doesn't need to do such a thing), and when someone asks me to plug the power cable into the back of his display because it has just fallen out, I sense myself close to committing an act of physical violence.

Confused computer keyboard

I suspect I’m not really cut out for IT support. Big respect to those of you who do it for a living. I feel shame for all the daft things I've probably said to you at all the companies I have ever worked for. Whatever you earn, it's not enough.

But the dickhead of the day award went to a user who complained that 'the system' was producing erroneous documents. As per standard practice, I ask him to repeat the steps that led to the problem, while I watch over his shoulder. All goes well up to the point at which he allows 'the system' to auto-generate the file, and I say: 'OK, let's have a look at it.'

'No,' he replies curtly. 'I don't have time for that. I'm too busy.' Well, hang on, I'm not asking him to proofread every copy of some prissy mailmerge going to a million unlucky householders. I'm suggesting he takes a moment to check one of merely a handful of highly complex and commercially sensitive documents. If it's wrong, it could cost the company tens of thousands of pounds. How can he casually send it off without even a cursory peek?

His answer still echoes through my head: 'The computer is supposed to do that.'

Hopefully, the user found my reply equally memorable. I confess I may have allowed myself to indulge in faint sarcasm, as I recommended that he keep his eyes closed while typing – it would only waste his valuable time to use his eyes and the computer really ought to get his keystrokes right anyway – and I offered to remove his display in order to save himself the time and trouble of looking at it.

Kitten on the run

At that moment, all around the country, thousands of kittens were massacred and dads swerved into random people’s front drives. ®

Alistair DabbsAlistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He has sold his soul to small publishers while maintaining his street cred working for big corporations, and is currently developing new ways to tabletise the Sidebar of Shame.