Friday, January 30, 2009

How to Call the Helpdesk

Ok… I was going to try to be nice about this, but I think I’m just going to come right out and say it: People need a lesson on how to call the IT helpdesk, and this geek is going to be the one to teach that lesson. As a IT helpdesk worker, there are certain behaviors, certain bits of etiquette, that I feel people should learn before calling us for help.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand that you’re in need. I understand that your problem is a crisis at that moment. However, I also understand that in order to help you most efficiently, I need to know certain things, and I need you to behave a certain way. So, in order to aide you in helping me help you, here are a few guidelines for you to follow when you give me, or people in my field, a ring for some assistance:

  1. Dispense with the niceties. I don’t care how you’re doing, what you’re doing, what you’re up to, how “it’s” going, or any other variation of the above. And neither, really, do you. I’m a geek. I only care about what your computer’s doing. And if you care more about what I’m doing than me getting right to fixing your computer, your problem is probably not that big and you’re wasting my time.
  2. Asking me questions right off the bat is a waste of both of our time. “Are we having network problems?” tells me nothing about what sort of problem you’re having, and considering you’re not the expert and I am, there is no conceivable reason why I would tell you if we’re having network, or any other type of, problems until I decide if that type of problem could be the root of your problem. So your best bet is to start right out with… well… your problem. Which leads us to #3…
  3. Don’t give me a crap description. “The system is really slow” is a crap description. “My computer is acting strange” is another crap description. “I get a server not found error when I try to get my email” is a GOOD description. It tells me what you were doing, what happened while you were doing it, and also informs me that there was an error message involved. Which leads me to #4…
  4. If there’s an error message on your screen, call me BEFORE you click anything to make it go away. Error messages exist for a reason. They allow IT professionals to quickly diagnose, and hopefully fix, problems with computer systems. They are not merely inconveniences on your path to destroying your computer. If you see an error message, stop what you’re doing (believe me, it’s a whole lot less inconvenient for you to be delayed for 30 minutes while I fix the problem than for you to lose your work altogether) and pick up your phone. You, and I, will be a lot happier that you did.
  5. Learn the language of computing. Your files aren’t stored in “memory”, they’re stored on a “hard drive.” You don’t “boot” programs, you “launch” them or “run” them. Just like doctors don't expect their patients to know how to diagnose and treat illnesses more complicated the the common cold or flu, IT professionals don't expect users to be able to fix complicated operating system or application conflict problems. However, just like a doctor, your local IT professional does expect you to know your head from your butt.
  6. Last, and definitely not least, we're busy, busy people. We're not your personal IT professional. We don't have time to hear about your computer at home and how you think you have a virus, or your how your entertainment system is on the fritz. Unless you're willing to shell out $100 per hour, I'm really not interested.
The above is not a comprehensive list, but just a start. I think you get the idea... treat us as you want to be treated. We're just as busy, just as stressed, and just as tired as you are. Remember that the next time you call.

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