The IT service desk has no reason to exist without the users. The users can’t expect to get their work done and stay safe online without the service desk. But sometimes there’s a little friction between the two. What can we do to help everyone see eye to eye? If the users understood these things, life for all involved would be a bit easier. So, take a few minutes to educate your users on these sometimes grey areas.
1. My “Computer” is Too Broad a Description
When a user calls to tell you about their computer problem, they often fail to mention little details, like what brand it is and what operating system it uses. It isn’t that they are unwilling, it’s just that they don’t understand how radically different a Macintosh OS X 10.9 is from a Dell Inspiron running Windows 7 Pro. You can help them by explaining how these are different in the same way a ’67 Corvette Stingray is different from a 2014 Toyota Prius, or perhaps how a blender is different from a mixing spoon. Put it in terms the user can easily relate to.
2. Not All Problems are Instantly Fixable
Some computer issues simply take time. This is especially true if it’s been infected by a virus. No matter how skilled and smart you are, tracking down issues like intermittent hardware problems or software incompatibility issues isn’t always simple or straightforward. Help users understand this by explaining how computers are a bit like tree roots — enormous, complex, and totally hidden beneath the surface. Unraveling some problems is a lot like trying to untangle tree roots without damaging the tree.
3. It’s Not Fair to Ask Us to Fix Your Personal Computer
Your CPA golf buddy doesn’t do your taxes for free. Your mechanic neighbor doesn’t fix your car for free. The doctor your kids carpool with doesn’t treat your medical problems for free. Yet everyone assumes that computer folks enjoy nothing more than spending all of their free time fixing other people’s computers for free. Most of them don’t realize what they’re doing, so be polite. Instead of turning them down, mention all the stuff you’ve got going on (sick parents, kids’ soccer practice, the yard needs tending to, and the roof is leaking). Most reasonable people will catch on fast. Others might require further explanation. Wink wink.
4. There are Reasons We Hang on to Old Technologies
The service desk tends to take the heat when the office computers, networking devices, monitors, keyboards, and other tools get outdated. But there are good reasons why companies don’t run out and replace everything every time a new technology rolls out. Most users would agree that salaries and benefits like vacation and retirement plans were more important. They don’t understand how expensive — not to mention labor intensive, time consuming, error fraught, and frustrating — wide-scale hardware and software updates can be. Explain that the company doesn’t invest in new technologies all the time for the same reason people don’t buy a new car every time a new model year comes out or sell their homes and buy new ones every time a new floor plan is available. It just doesn’t make sense.
5. Sorry, We Have to Assume You Know Nothing
Today’s users come in a wide assortment, ranging from those who are essentially completely technically illiterate (I have to plug the monitor into the big box?) to extraordinarily tech savvy (I just installed Ubuntu this weekend, and plan to develop a system to track my progress on learning machine language next week). The service desk has to meet the needs of all those users, and has no way of knowing who knows what. Help those who get impatient understand that, “it’s just part of the process.”
6. Yes, You Have to Follow Our Instructions Exactly
When talking users through a series of steps, 999 times out of 1,000 the user jumps ahead, clicking things and selecting things before you tell them to, and without you realizing it. All of a sudden they are asking about something that shouldn’t even be on the screen, and you’re completely lost as to how to help them. Before giving the user a series of steps to follow, explain that this is a lot like following a road map. If you don’t know they took a left turn somewhere, you won’t be able to navigate them through the twists and turns of wherever they happen to turn up.
7. We Know What You’re Using Your Computer for
This is perhaps the least fun thing to make users aware of: you know what they’re up to. Yes, you’re aware of their endless search for the perfect sweater for their cat, their tendency to indulge in online gambling when the manager is out of the office, and that not-so-secret stash of embarrassing photos they snapped on the sly at last year’s office Christmas party. This issue is best handled by an office-wide memo instead of one-on-one with the user, unless the problem gets out of control. Then, it’s probably better to let their direct supervisor address the situation instead of the service desk handling it.
8. We Don’t Always Agree With Corporate Policies Either
Unfortunately, IT workers don’t always agree with the policies, but they are in charge of enforcing the policies anyway. Lend a sympathetic ear, but follow up by expressing the reasons why management feels the policy is necessary (it saves money, makes systems more secure, increases productivity, we have to have this info to update our asset management system, etc.). If you allow them to vent their feelings for a few moments, they’re more likely to calm down and listen to reason.
Will every user become totally understanding and compliant once they understand your point of view? Probably not. But it will resolve a ton of issues that come up when working with the majority of reasonable users. Progress is progress!