back to article Helpdesk Heroes or unappreciated geeks?

The helpdesk has always been the most visible part of the IT support operation. It is here that the “my password isn’t working anymore” and the “computer says no” calls are taken by valiant members of the IT team. As we move into an era when the help desk may become more of a ‘service centre’ and less of fault reporting point, …


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  1. Jamie Kitson

    From a Friend

    The best one I've had was at my last company where I wasn't even on the helpdesk.

    One of the account managers I worked for was complaining she couldn't see her laptop directories on the network.

    Asked where the laptop was to inspect it she said she'd forgotten to bring it to work & had left it in her hallway at home!!!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Brain Dead

    While helping out the PC support team due to staff being off sick I received the following call at 8:50AM

    User: Hi, is that support?

    Me: Yes, it is.

    User: My screen is flickering and the picture is jumping about.

    Me: Was this happening yesterday or any other day?

    User: No

    Me: Was your computer turned off last night?

    User: Yes

    Me: Did you screen work when you first switched on?

    User: Yes

    Me: When did you screen start flickering?

    User: After water dropped into it?

    Me: Switch off the screen!

    User: Done that.

    Me: What water dropped into the screen?

    User: The water dropped when I closed the window.

    Me: An engineer will there shortly.

    Note: The window was hinged in the middle and had been left horizontal collecting a nice pool of water from the rain overnight. The user concerned worked in the Sales Department and was surprisingly male.

  3. Bruce Ordway

    Both Sides

    It seems rare that I can call for support and receive meaningful help. I have found that in the IT world learning how to fix it yourself is usually faster and better than trying to get somebody else to do it. Many of my IT support stories are as a customer. They aren't really that funny either.

    So, when I'm called to help somebody who is having a problem with their PC or application; I'll remember all the pricks I've dealt with over the years and try not to be one myself.


    About 20 years ago, I made the move from engineering to full time IT. I'm working with MRP systems and called analyst (today) but I still spend the majority of my time helping end users getting their "stuff" working. I continue to acquire new IT skills due to the lack of adequate support for stuff that doesn't work well.

  4. Matt Mc

    This is just what I remember. I have notes somewhere...



    "Ma'am, can you press the power button for me?"

    "I don't have a power button..."

    * * *

    "Sir, I need you to right-click My Computer."

    "My right, or yours?"

    * * *

    "I think I'm spelling my username wrong."

    "Nah, maybe you need to change your password, how are you spelling your last name?"

    She was spelling it wrong.

    * * *

    "Sir, what seems to be the problem?"

    "You're stealing RAM out of my computer!"

    "How am I doing that, sir?"

    "Over the Internet!"

    * * *

    "You broke my monitor!"

    "Uh, you never brought us the monitor."

    "No, but it worked before I brought you my PC and now it doesn't turn on."

    The computer/monitor were won in a work raffle and had to be 5 years old.

    * * *

    "My login doesn't work."

    "How are you spelling your username?" Pause. "Uh huh, that's not your last name."

    "I know, I just got married."

    "Did you tell HR?"


    * * *

    With Dell Tech Support: "There's a monitor at a branch office in Oklahoma that doesn't work and I need it replaced under warranty. I've already had the user swap it with a couple other monitors just to check if it was a computer problem. It's not."

    "Okay, so I need you to swap that monitor with another one for testing."

    "I already did that."

    "We need to do it over the phone."

    "I just spent an hour with them doing this. It's a CRT not and LCD."

    "I need to log that we did this over the phone."

    "It's in Oklahoma, I'm in Massachusetts."

    "Sir, please, I cannot help you unless--"

    "Unless I get my fat ass on a plane and fly to f'ing Oklahoma?"

    "Sir, there's no need to shout..."

    * * *

    "No one in New York state can get any work done!"

    "Why not, Jeremy?"

    "Well, Tisha can't get email... From one person..."

    * * *

    "My email doesn't work."

    "Why not, Jeremy?"

    "I don't know it just gives me errors."

    "What are the errors, is your laptop on?"

    "No, I'm in my car on the interstate."



    "My keboard doesn't work."

    "Did you spill anything on it?"

    "Of course not."

    "Then why is water spilling out of it?"

    * * *

    Replaced a mouse for an older woman, went from a ball mouse to a laser mouse. She held it against the screen and moved it around.

    * * *

    "This computer doesn't play my game."

    "What game is that?"

    "Wing Commander IV."

    After some research. "The game company can't even play that game. They've stopped supporting it."

    "So it's a problem with the computer you sold me?"

    * * *

    "My computer's frozen."

    I venture down and see her keyboard works and Windows responds nicely. Her mouse didn't work and somehow the screwed in serial mouse had come unhooked.

    * * *

    You can tell how many cats someone has by the hairballs in their PC fans.

    * * *

    "What's the problem, ma'am?"

    "Microsoft said that I needed to reload my PC to get rid of AOL and it would take 6 hours and $250."

    I unloaded AOL in ten minutes. Cost her $45.

  5. Neil Greatorex

    Headmistress of a very famous

    Girl's school on the south coast.

    At the time (90's) we produced a CD-ROM based database product, said headmistress called support to say the latest CD wasn't working, after the usual click this, click that blah, blah. I said; "Well, I',m sorry, there must be a hardware problem, as we can't see the CD-ROM!" She replied, gospel, "Don't be silly young man, it's right in front of me on the desk!"


    Another one, call from remote location; "please shut down the firewall & DC, we're having electrical work done in the comm's room.", Me: "When?", her: "Now!". So I shut down the DC & firewall.

    8¾ minutes later, same woman called in: "Internet is not working & I can't get to my Jay drive!!!!!"

  6. Andrew Macrobie

    Professional User == Qualified Idiot

    @ Jam + Others

    Yes, if it has any form of cable attached it's very obviously an IT issue. Kettle, microwave, television, vcr, dvd player, answering machine, photocopier.... all are supported by frequently understaffed IT departments - allegedly.

    In my experience, users are generally stupid, deceitful and spiteful. So-called qualified professionals (solicitors, accountants, anyone who works in education) are merely qualified idiots :).

    As a friend once said to me; Ignorance is an condition that can be cured with time and study. Stupidity is an affliction for life.

    Every IT staffer I've worked with has been more than happy to help educate users, what they resent is being systematically lied to about the root cause of problems.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    I think I may have had the same customer

    I was working front line support at a telecoms company

    Customer came through, moaning like hell that they had to use their mobile

    as our bloody phone system was rubbish, they should never have changed.

    As i didn't know the site, I took a look at the notes and saw "PBX Installed in Basement"

    Notes also said Server & Rack also installed in basement

    I asked the customer what was displayed on the phones, Answer "Nothing"

    I asked the customer if they could get someone to take a look at the system on the wall

    in the basement, She Said "Thats Impossible, it's under 3 feet of water, I just told the

    other support company that"...."Don't you people talk to each other"

    Didn't stop laughing about that for ages.

    My other claim to fame was a text message from a certain Embassador, from an embassy in London. one that currently wants to make nuclear thingies!!

    The text read "Seasons Greating to you and beast wishes for the new year".. "Please can you fix our phone system" and this was on NEW YEARS EVE @ 23.45

    Oh the fun

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Oh so many memories.....

    Where to start.....

    The techincian who complained to me that he couldn't get the CDROM drive to eject his CDROM. The system he showed me was an HP workstation that didn't even have a CDROM drive in it - he'd managed to stuff it through the gap on the front.

    The manager that shouted at me for not telling him that the Netware file server was about to crash. He was upset that he had lost the past hour's work because he hadn't saved it, and thought I should have predicted the crash!

    The poor American lady that rang me up because she couldn't start her database. When I told her to check a certain directory she told me that earlier the server had filled up the filesystem so she'd done a little 'housekeeping' - effectively deleting the entire database. Oh, and their last backup was over a week old.

    While on secondment to the US, a Southern American guy rang up with a problem on a VMS system. Not knowing much about VMS (I'm a UNIX kid), I talked to another technician. He said that he'd sent instructions before. So I went back and told him to follow the instructions. Which he failed to do. 4 times. Despite me telling him again and again to FOLLOW the DAMNED instructions.

    Helping one American women - who then propositioned me. Unfortunately I was in the UK at the time.... but met up with her a year or so later. Went OK until she told me her husband was a drug addict!

    A friend of a friend who complained that her CDROM drive stopped working after she had her computer repaired. It was disonnected.

    Taking another US call, the user complained that their database was not working. I asked the customer to log in - only to be asked how to do that - they were new in the job and didn't know how to connect to the computer, let alone log in and fix the database.

    The company I worked for bought another company for a specific piece of software. We had a demo after the fact, and I found several serious problems. When questioning the presenter, we were told that disgruntled former employees had deleted the source code so no fixes were going to be available for some time.

    New release of software by the company I worked for was to be demoed in the UK. US office sent an expensive server via air freight because 'it would save them some time'. Case arrived more or less intact. The server rattled when picked up. After putting the system back together, found that the only way it would boot up at all was to lay it on its side. Every time the system was booted, more cylinders would go bad. JUST scraped through the week before the disk failed completely.

    Had a disk go bad on an SGI workstation - it just refused to boot. Rang up to get the disk replaced - the engineer on the other end told me to remove the disk and hit it edge on on the desk. I was game, so did it. He said to do it harder so he could hear it. Banged the disk so hard I put a dent in the desktop. Put it back in and the system booted without any problems (enough to get a backup and run for a few days until the replacement disk arrived).

    Had the VP of Europe call me urgently to the office - his laptop wouldn't connect to the Internet. Dropped everything and went to fix the problem. Once working, the first thing he did was bring up that day's Dilbert cartoon.

    Being acutely embaressed when checking out the floppy disk drive in one of the female employees laptop. I asked her if she'd had a 3 1/2 inch floppy in her slot recently. The conversation went rapidly downhill from there.

  9. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    "it doesn't work"

    Possibly the most annoying sentence you can get from a luser over the phone. Also, the most detailed error report you can possibly pry out of the average luser.. Typical example:

    Luser: "Hi, I'm trying to do <whatever>, and it doesn't work and your system is crap and I need it done 30 minutes ago oh my god I'm gonna die"

    IT person: "OK, click on the <whatever> button. What does it do?" or "type <whatever> in the text box and press enter. What does it say?"

    Luser: "it doesn't work"

    ITP: "OK, but what does it say?"

    L: "It says that it doesn't work"

    ITP: "What does it say PRECISELY?"

    L: "Oh, it just said that it didn't work, so I just closed everything" (optionally: "so I just rebooted")

    ITP: "can you please try again and tell me PECISELY WHAT THE MACHINE SAYS"

    L (after 5-30 min to reboot and/or repeat steps): "OK, I just tried what you said again. It still doesn't work"

    ad lib...

    and in the end, 99% of the time they just stupidly mistyped what you told them.

  10. Inachu

    The entire IT staff could not install the software!

    Years ago at MLS company where I was newly hired had customer drop by.

    The client was unable to install the software that lets them do their MLS searches.

    Ok so our head of helpdesk operations went to help out the client.

    Let it be known the head helpdesk person had over 4 different certifications relating to Microsoft certification.

    She was unable to get the software installed. So she let the 3rd teir support team look at it.

    The third tier also failed to get the program installed.

    The second teir also failed and the stunned server room admin guy also failed.

    Also who was hired was a summer intern. Apretty blonde hair girl at that WOOT!

    She is new to the computer world and no certifications what so ever.

    So the helpdesk manager let me train her in a simple to understand layman approach to

    fixing and repairing computers.

    So I got the bad pc that failed with the install.

    I was curious as to why it failed.

    So i started at the beginning with it off and spoke as I went along.

    Booted into the OS then began the install.

    Low and behold I got the software installed and working and the summer intern ran out and told the helpdesk manager SHE fixed what nobody else could fix when it was ME who fixed it.

    So what was the fix? The 386enhanced button was not enabled.

    So the summer intern liar got the praise and not me.

    NEVER TRUST A BLONDE girl for the rest of my life.

    Also never use T-III software lest you be made a fool of in the IT world.

  11. Mark 127

    Feading the baby

    Had many intresting calls, during my time @ BT Yahoo, in Derby (Untill they buggered the lot off to India), mostaly being called a Paki B******** (Asian I am not, 1/2 welsh maybe).

    Anyways, can always remember one user from North Nottingham, called in with a driver issue on their Speedtouch 330 USB Modem.

    Bearing in mind, my phone was on loud speaker (I broken my headset earlier), and was waiting for her comp to reboot.

    Whilst talking to this lass, she suddenaly said.... gimmie a mo, just swapping my son onto my other tit.

    Q myself with a big sh*t eating grin, perverted thoughts, and the lass next to me, blushing like buggery.

    Finished the call, and the guy next to me just started howling with laughter.

    Did wish I asked the lass, if I could jump onto the spare nipple, as I was hungry :D

  12. Kev K
    Thumb Up

    Neat file structures

    Back in Windows 98 days a client had a top of the range PII 4 or 500 from Packard Smell, Compaq or one of the off the shelf Curry's/PC World/Dixons type places & I was forever being called round there to sort out something that had broke.

    This time Windows was doing its no bootable media thing & for once it wasn't because there was a floppy in the drive, fired up the box up on a bootable CD and had a poke around - no, autoexec etc - in fact nothing but folders in the root.

    Turns out she had been on a course about directory structures and how it was important to keep all your files properly files away and in a logical order, so all the "funny files" in the root had been filed neatly away in a folder called "Misc".

    Bless her.

  13. jacksongreen

    Car crushing madness

    Amongst the various incidents, most of which are depressingly common such as network leads pulled out and placed in drawers to tidy up desks and keyboards mysteriously not working that soak your trousers when you pick them up, my favourite stands head and shoulders above the rest.

    I was working on a helpdesk where we supported internal and external users. The external users where a little odd in that they were self employed and leased their laptops from the company and had insurance policies on them for damage etc. Well one guy called in and said he needed to raise an insurance claim, I duly called up the appropriate form and asked what happened. It transpired that the guy had got stuck in snow and in order to gain traction had stuffed his laptop bag behind one of the wheels and had somehow FORGOTTEN that his several thousand pound laptop was inside! Took a while to stop laughing after that one.

    That said it's good to have served my time on the frontline - as a lead engineer myself these days I get new engineers who have never worked on the frontlines and are extremely substandard when it comes to problem solving and it worries me that these days people don't automatically work in support before they're allowed near anything else.

  14. Pan Narrans


    'nuff said

    grenade for the classic complaints department picture

  15. CanaDanimal

    Who helps the helpdesk?

    Our dearest colleagues in our help desk had just moved to their shiny new digs, and we getting themselves all set up, when our property and services group received a notification that they needed 13 new light bulbs for their task lights.

    Our contractor duly ordered the lights, and when setting about to replace them, made a joke about how they had surely checked to ensure that the lamps had all been plugged back in.

    Imagine their embarassment when it was found that none of the 13 lamps were plugged in, and, in fact, all the lights were working!

    FAIL, obviously

  16. Nusato

    Users are stranger than fiction

    Worst IT memory:

    - I was on call this one week in September a few years ago. Someone called me on a particular weekday morning to ask why they couldn't contact the NY office servers. I was staring at the news the entire time he was talking, wondering, just wondering, how to make this person connect with reality.

    Of course, it's not all grim darkness. For every user who puts in a ticket that just says "I need help ASAP" with no detail, there's a tech who closes a really complicated ticket by entering "Problem solved." I keep a special LART around for those technicians.

    Best IT memories:

    Every time someone puts their music/video/picture collection on their work computer. :D

    Funniest IT memory:

    Pulling a user's computer out from under her desk by sliding it across the rug, opening it while kneeling on the floor, and leaning over to pull out some memory cards when I am stopped by a gigantic crackling noise so loud even the user turned around. Did I mention this was in December, and I was wearing a sweater and had my hair in a ponytail? The look on my face was apparently enough to make her not say anything for a second (quite an achievement!) and finally I just told her I would be replacing the entire machine and I would be right back.

    Most heroic IT memory:

    (This was a few years ago, you'll recognize it in a bit) In a petrified whisper, user calls for help. Her machine is frozen while trying to save the document she's been working on for hours (of course, hasn't saved, of course it's due tomorrow, and of course it's vitally important). Can we help her?

    She was right around the corner, so I stopped reading the latest news on El Reg (this was my daily thing, I'm in the US and I love being the first to know about IT stuff across the water) and walked over to her desk.

    Her hard drive is grinding away doing something, Word is open, Outlook is open in the background, and I can see the title of the last email she opened: "I love you."

    I felt panic. Genuine panic. First, I disconnected her computer from the network. Then I asked: Did you open that attachment? It didn't even occur to her to ask how I knew that an email from a friend had an attachment to it. Of course she had opened it. Before she could even finish asking about saving her document, I ran back to find the Exchange admin. My manager, sensing something bad, followed me and listened to my panicked story about this brand new virus that was now loose on our system. There was this stunned silence, the Exchange guy ran to his desk to see the El Reg article that I had just been reading for himself and my manager went to go write up a virus alert. He hadn't even finished reading the article before he turned a funny color and just shut down the network. Since we couldn't email the warnings, we instead walked around and handed out flyers and told people not to open any attachments. The face to face worked, people were less ruffled about not having any email for hours, and we escaped with minimal damage thanks to my quick assessment of the situation. I got an actual "thank you" for that and a little bonus! How often does that happen in IT?

    Stupidest IT memory (well, one of many):

    "Hello, is this the helpdesk?"

    "Yes, how can I help you?"

    "Can you call me a cab?"

    (pause.... assess... consider....)

    "Certainly, ma'am. You're a cab." (click)

  17. Shane Kent

    My Favorite...

    Cust: My friend said to call and get you to help me format my hard drive.

    Tech: Do you have data on your drive?

    Cust: No. (customer gets mad you ask question back)

    Tech: Do you know what data is?

    Cust: No. (cust getting more mad that you are asking questions back)

    Customer makes comment "they said this would be easy", and "do you know what you are doing?".

    Tech: You have no data but don't know what data is. Data is the files you created on your computer.

    Cust: Yes, I got several years worth of work on the computer.

    Tech: Well you format you loose everything.....

  18. James McAllister

    empowering users...

    "Hey, my terminal is working now. What was the problem?"

    "The power mode selector switch was in the O-F-F position."

    "What should I do if this happens again?"

    "Move it to the O-N position."

  19. M man

    adjust inteligence


    my mother ship wont start.

    i now dont get caught out by the turn off pc(monitor) trap.

    or user who keep a large collection of magnets on thier monitor.

    or those that call IT hell desk on skype,....right you need to reboot...hello....hello...

    talk to them like people, instruct them like idiots.

  20. Colin Miller


    I can't believe that no-one has mentioned techtales before.

  21. Anonymous John

    Can't remember where I heard this one.

    A user reported that her password only worked when she was sitting down. A claim that was initially disbelieved until demonstrated a few times.

    Much later, someone noticed that two key caps had been swapped over. But as she was an excellent touch typist, this went unnoticed. But if she was standing up, she hunted and pecked like the rest of us.

  22. Evil Genius
    Thumb Up

    keep them coming

    More, more, more please.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Know that scene from clockwork orange

    well if a user phones up with a problem, and they do the wrong thing, then off to a re-education centre with them.

    Couple of matchsticks, eye drops, Beethoven's Fifth and some flashing images of ultra computing, job's done.

    Hell desk is pointless, if someone cannot do their job with the basic tools of modern society then fire their arse, they are incompetent, the very definition of. And those in hell desk jobs can go off and do the work of those bozos.

  24. poobumwilly


  25. Kevin 6

    Ahh the helpdesk

    I kind of miss it in ways.

    I worked helpdesk for 2 years and was actually thanked ONE time by a extremely grateful department who were very sad (among a quite a few other users) to see me quit. I pretty much recovered 2 years of documents off a PC that the hard drive was crapping out, they never bothered to save to their network drive.

    I think my favorite call was when we had a new guy who was very optimistic, eager to help people and had a very friendly personality (he became a cynical pessimist in 2 weeks). When the phone rang I said before he picked it up TELL THEM TO TURN THE PC ON. He looked at me with a confused look on his face and asked "How can you say that without listening to them", I replied "Easy I'm psychic and I'm not wasting my time going out because I got enough crap to fix by the end of the shift". So he decided to answer it and be polite and after hanging up I was like "I'll bet you the machine is not on and they are pressing the monitors power button repededly" he replied I doubt anyone here would mix up a monitor power switch and mistake a monitor for a computers case" so i placed a wager on it and sent another new guy with him to learn how stupid our users really are he doubted my psychic helpdesk powers also(BTW I worked in a technical university that specialized in computer programming networking and electronics). So 15 minutes after he left he came back with a surprised look on his face and asked me "how did you know exactly the issue without answering the phone" I told him after working in the department for a few months you kind of can just guess depending on the time of day.

    We also had teachers who couldn't remember their friggin passwords even though they never changed them from the default password which was THEIR LAST NAME.

    Another call I remember very vividly (mainly due to being bitched out my my boss from it) was from this crazy teacher who thought programming and new students on how to use the network...

    OK so the guy calls up asking us to install some bootleg copy of XP on his office machine (It was a leaked pirated copy of XP cause XP came out officially a month later). I said "nope we do not support XP or have any licensing for it", then he asks "Can I install it myself" I replied "Sir, I just said we cannot have it on any of our machines due to not having it licensed" and he hangs up.

    3 hours later I see a ticket in the queue from him for his pc not working (take a wild guess where this goes)... So I am forced to go deal with him and took a imaging disk with knowing all too well what he probably did. Well turns out I was right he failed setting up his bootleg XP and deleted his hard drives partitions... Than after I reimage his pc he screams at me (literally) "WHAT YOU DO TO MY GRADES! WHERE ARE THEY! YOU DELETED MY GRADES ON ME!", I asked him if he saved them to the network drive his response "I SAVED THEM ON MY HARD DRIVE SO NO ONE COULD TAMPER WITH THEM" (BTW one teacher who was a psychiatrist that I talked to back then said the guy shows all signs of schizophrenia) I TRIED my best to explain he trashed the partition and lost everything but instead he decided to keep blaming me while screaming till I finally got up and just walked out.

    Then he called up the IT director and said that I purposely destroyed his data, was rude, and disrespectful to him... The IT director called up my boss and chewed her out then she called me into her office and bitched me out for 10 minutes not letting me get a word in edgewise till I stood up and started to walk out of the office. Then she asked me "what the hell do you think your doing" I responded "if you want to bitch at me might as well bitch at the wall seeing I did nothing wrong", she finally decided to ask me what happened... After I told her EXACTLY what he did to his pc and why he was mad she apologized to me for not listening, than told the IT director.

    I quit a few months after that and a fair amount of users (and the network admins) were actually sad to see me go seeing I was one of the only people who knew what they were doing in the department, and was the only person who knew how to fix any piece of equipment in the place(I memorized every schematic to memory on things I had to solder). A year later I was in the area and ran into a user I dealt with regularly and he told me he missed me and that the people(yes plural I did 4 peoples jobs in 2 departments) they replaced me with were all "fuckin idiots". Also the boss I had quit a few months after I did do to stress issues I heard because of the QUALITY employees she hired (as sarcastically typed as possible) to fill the large gaping hole I left when I err.. left :D

    Actually if they would get rid of the night boss I would re-apply there I actually kind of miss it. I had a VERY big argument with her and she is the main reasons I quit (I actually called her a dumb bitch to her face and kept my job over 8 months, till I quit, while she tried to find a replacement for me :D ). Actually her stupidity was the reason 90% of the people we hired would quit within 2 weeks after being hired.

    Sorry for the long post ;)

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Problems with power outages on a floor

    I got a call one morning, from a lady working accounting at our main corporate office. The lady was complaining that her PC had once again shutoff. Looking in her call history, I see no previously reported issues, so begin basic troubleshooting to realise that her PC was working fine, but the floor was suffering from a power cut. Not only that, but this kept happening and she expected me to fix the power outage issue.

    Explaining to her she should call building maintenance, not IT support, she non the less kept insisting I find out why they kept getting power failures. Not wanting to stay on the phone any more with her, as I am tired of being called names, I say I will look into it and go see my boss. Explaining it all to him (he used to work the HD, so he knows I'm not just making it up), he tells me I should call the onsite tech and see if he can't find more info.

    Calling the guy, he says he'll call maintenance and call me back.

    20 minutes later, I get a call from a very amused tech. He spoke to maintenance and they went to the floor. He now had 19 personal space heaters and 19 power bars they had confiscated from the 19 people working on that floor. Each one of those personal space heater pulled 9 amps, more then doubling the electrical load from the PCs. Each station had only 2 sockets, one for the PC, one for the monitor and the load had been calculated that they would only be used to power the office PCs. All the suden, no more power outage ...

  27. Barry 3
    Thumb Up

    Just this morning...

    Colleague having a problem with his WinXP desktop in failed 'active desktop' mode.

    Cue email from our Technical Architect, detailing the 'fix', requiring hacking of the system registry & reboot.


    Me: Show me the problem.

    Colleague: <click. click. click. click>

    M: You realise you can minimise all your windows by clicking there? (icon on quickstart bar)

    C: <click>

    M: Click on the desktop.

    C: <right-click>

    M: No... *click* on the desktop. Not, right-click on the desktop.

    C: <click>

    M: <hits F5 on keyboard>

    <screen is restored. Icons reappear>

    Colleagues: What did you do?

    M: Is this were I do my Fonzie impression?

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The cable was still connected...

    My favorite call to our Helpdesk was from a user who rang to tell us that her mouse wasn't working.

    We ran through all of the usual steps, got her to check the ball and rollers were clean, and that the mouse was still plugged in, and she confirmed that yes, everything inside the mouse was fine, and yes the cable was still plugged in.

    Remoting into the system we could move the mouse pointer about, without any problems, and on asking her to move the mouse, could see that the pointer was stationary.

    Having had enough of this, one of the lads volunteered to go and see if he could find out what was wrong. when he go there, he discovered that she was quite right, the mouse was still plugged in, and the innards of it were indeed clean. It was just a shame that she had managed to cut the mouse cable.

    We ended up giving her a new USB optical mouse, so that we could ask if the light was on in future, but we never did find out how she cut the cable.

    Also, some of our users have the most disgusting keyboards ever, how they are still working always amazes me.

  29. James O'Brien

    Heh memories

    Still working help desk (for home users) and I remember 2 things that really stand out:

    1) Customer was being a complete cockbite and screaming, yelling cursing me out that it was all my fault that his machine wouldnt work because he decided to surf to porn site and get himself the computer aids) so in the middle of me saying something to him i hung up on myself. I wasnt about to call him back so after 10 mintues he called back himself and started appologizing to me and said his cell must have dropped the call :)

    2) This lady shouldnt have owned a computer. Going to skip the majority and get right to the good part.

    Me: Press and hold the power button until the machine turns off.

    Her: Press and hold it?

    Me: Yes, press and hold it until the BSOD you have goes away.

    Her: But that will turn the machine off!

    Me: Yes I know that. That is what we want to do.

    Her: But it will turn the machine off!!!

    (repeat those last couple lines a few times me getting more and more frustrated each time)


    Her: Oh ok......I held the button and the machine turned off.....

    Me: ..........Thank god.........

    Yep I want out of the job.....people at work wonder why I hit their nuckles with a ball peen hammer when they do a Killroy over the cubicle wall.....

  30. jake Silver badge


    Not exactly Help Desk stuff, but in the same "unclear on the concept" vein:

    Twenty-odd years ago I was doing a server upgrade at a small company in Palo Alto. After bringing the system back up and telling the users they could get on with it, a friend of mine and I had a late-morning snack at her desk while I monitored the system for errors. The print queue spiked almost instantly, and the secretary started typing again. After about 10 minutes, the Boss's secretary went and claimed her print job. She put the pile of paper on the desk, hit "print" again, and then again furiously started typing (she could maintain 140 WPM, I think it was ... she was FAST). When done typing that document, she went and got coffee, and waited for the job at the printer to be finished ... again, it took about ten minutes. When done, she hit "print" again ...

    About ten minutes later, she had a third pile of paper. Keep in mind that this was the era of ~25 pages per minute ... As I watched, she pealed the top sheet or three off the top of each pile, and dumped the rest into the "recycle" bin[1].

    I looked at my friend & said "WTF?!?!" (or something similar) ... She just smiled sadly & shrugged. The secretary proof-read the documents, and then wandered into the Boss's office with them. I snuck over and eyeballed the secretary's computer ... and discovered that she had every document she had ever created in that office (about a month's worth) saved as a single, large file! I couldn't believe what I was seeing ... She was printing the entire thing each time!

    I wandered back to my friend's desk, and again said something like "WTF?!?!?!?" She suggested that I get paid, and cash the check before bringing it up to the Boss.

    I took the advice, cashed the check, and then called the Boss, asking for a "free" follow up to my upgrade work in the following week. He readily agreed (freebies are good). My friend & I conspired to get me in when she knew that the secretary would be doing a lot of printing.

    The followup showed the network was working fine. Then I brought up the "unusual" behavior of the secretary. The Boss got very red, and yelled at me, allowing as to how the secretary had impeccable references, and if she was doing it that way, that was the way it was done in the industry. I was escorted from the building by a security guard ... but not before I got in an over-the-shoulder "I suggest you look into your recycle bin, and see what kind of company business is being exposed to the world ... and how much paper is being wasted" ...

    The secretary lasted another week. The other folks in the office bought me dinner the evening after the day she was fired ... It seems the Boss stayed late one night and discovered she had wasted a couple cases of paper in about a week ... When confronted, she flat refused to learn how to conserve paper. I have no idea what happened to her after that, but the Boss never hired me for a job again.

    [1] Yes, recycling 20-odd years ago. This was Palo Alto, after all :-)

  31. shane 7
    Jobs Horns

    server outage affects keyboard

    A couple of years ago a user rang me convinced that a scheduled server upgrade done the night before (she had read about it in the daily staff communication email) had stopped her keyboard from working the morning after. After explaining this couldn't be the case, I asked her to trace the cable from the keyboard to the computer and "wiggle" the cable a bit. This fixed the problem

  32. dlinker
    Thumb Up

    Printer only works in the morning

    Sometimes - the user isn't lying.

    When I first started working in IT support in the late 80s, we got a call from one of the remote office that their printer would stop working every afternoon. Thinking this was some form of practical joke, the boss sends me (the young fall guy) out to fix it.

    I went there in the morning (luckily it's the closest depot - only about 5km - 3 miles away) and check everything is working as expected. Remember this is the days of DOS and WordPerfect and dot matrix printers using paper with holes down the sides. I check everything out, make copies of some important files and ask them to call me when it stops working.

    Sure enough, at about 2pm they call to say the printer stopped working. I drive there and discover that sure enough, it won't print. I notice the "On line" light is Off. I check all the cables and drivers and so on. I look around expecting to find some guy with a remote switch with a big grin on his face but there's literally nobody there - the admin person went to lunch when I arrived.

    I lean over to check the cables again (remembering the golden Rules) and out of the corner of my eye see the online light turn on. I stand up to look around for the joker and the light goes off. Nobody is around. I slowly lean forward and the light turns on. I spot my shadow moving across the printer. I now start waving my hand above the printer. I soon discover the sunlight coming in the window is shining right in to the light detector that ensures there's paper loaded - so it doesn't print on the rubber roller when the paper runs out. I reach up and close the blinds (curtains) and the printer is now working. The admin person comes back from lunch and I show her my solution - to close the blinds in the afternoon when the sun is shining in the window.

    We called the manufacturer who admitted they had several other unsolved calls from people whose printer worked intermitently. The developed a piece of plastic that fitted over the paer empty detector and fixed the problem. Still can't believe I figured this one out - but it sure was fun.

  33. KaD

    When not to call IT

    I was on the IT help desk for a company that sold farming and agriculture related items and products. They also had some gasoline stations for farmers to buy bulk fuel from and the like.

    Anyway it is late in the evening when a manager from a gasoline location calls and starts screaming at me that the fuel pumps are on fire and burning gasoline is everywhere. He wanted me to tell him what buttons to press on the new point-of-sale system to stop the fire. I had to tell him five or six times in very a very stern tone to hang up the phone and dial 911 ( emergency services in North America ) immediately. I got in trouble for that because the guy later called the boss and said I was very rude to him on the phone when he needed help.... <sigh>

    The same boss from the above call asked me to come in to his office a few weeks later. Needed me to install a sound card in his system so he could watch and listen to porn videos he would download from the net.

    Some days it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps.

  34. Adam H 1

    Strange days ...

    Strangest Tech call I ever had was when I working for an ISP doing dialup and email support way way back.

    Customer: Hello is this <ISP>?

    Me: Yes how can I help you?

    Customer: I would like free support.

    Me: Is it windows or a Mac you are using Sir?

    Customer: Its a Sharp Microwave.

    Me: Eh?

    Customer: Your CD says you provide free technical Support!

    Me: <stifled laughter>click ....

  35. Stu_The_Jock

    Paper jams

    Working solely with printers and copiers can lead to some unusualy calls to.

    A colleague was called out to a larger machine ( well for 2000 ) that was constantly jamming. He started dismantling it to get to the point where paper stopped and produced a small childs plastic aircraft, of the size that would fit a plastic egg inside a well known chocolate egg.

    When presented with this the customer goes "Oh, is that were it was?"

    They usually used the side feeder that held 2000 sheets for "Letterhead" paper, but once a month did a financial run on normal paper, and the model was to remind them of the "PLANE" paper in use, and it vibrated into the machine !

    Needless to say he ticked the box to send the customer a nice big bill for that visit.

  36. BigBadAl

    Ah the good ole days

    As a lad of 11 would help my father in the 70's work on the local councils NCR mainframe. One evening a collegue of my fathers comes in to let him know 'THAT BLOODY' woman's problem has finally been sorted. Back then it was a big deal to get an electric type writer let alone use of one of the 5 terminals of the computer. SO the story goes:-

    She get a new electric typewriter (golfball style) from IBM and a new desk to use it on ( they were very heavy) Anyway she complained from day one it kept putting random spaces everywhere. People went to check it - they tried - no fault found. IBM were getting worried as this was a good contract and dispatched a senior techy to look at this issue. He checked it - no fault found. He advised the office he woudl stay until he found the fault.

    The woman came back from her coffee break - she always took one when and engineer arrived. The engineer asked her to start working. After 2 mins asked her to stop and get another coffee as he could fix the issue. Her manager came in all puffed up and demanded to know what was wrong etc as this had taken to long to resolve. Only to find the techy lowering the height of the IBM desk ( they had screw type legs) The manager asked what he was doing - he replied fixing it!

    The woman came back started typing - and no errors. The techy asked to speak to her manager privately. It turns out that the woman got the job because she had (how can I put this) a large chest. Everytiem she started typing her breasts touched the space bar on the typewriter. By lowering the desk no more problem! The techy left the manager to tell her.

    That was the first and I think one of the best helpdesk storires I have heard

    (Bootnote my father made me promise not to tell my mother!!! - Well I was 11)

  37. BigBadAl

    And Another one

    After starting my own Computer Company - I soon relaised what I had let myself in for.

    Epson inkjets - they started shipping CDROMS instead of Floppys. Big pain for W95 users with No CD ROM. Anyway the standard question when you bought one was - DO you have a CD ROM drive?

    This user said yes they did - so off they went. 2 hours later they called up complaining it didn't work. Usual checks is the computer on , printer plugged in CD ROM in the drive? Nothing was working so off my collegue went - she then came back with the printer!? I wanted to know if it was broken? - No she said they had no CD ROM drive. But they said they did. Yes she said they have a CD ROM player (for music) in the office. The user plugged in the printer and went over to the radio / CD Player and inserted the CD ROM - and wanted to know why it didn;t work.

    We never gave them back the printer - sent a refund in the post!

  38. Anonymous Coward

    'I love you' 2 and a couple of others

    The 'I love you' virus story reminded me of the day it struck. I was in the server programming department of a really bit website company just before the bubble burst. We logged on as usual and went straight to our favourite news sites... didn't take more than 30 seconds for me to contact my boss and 30 seconds more we were running around the building warning everyone. Last stop was our department and we both made the anouncement. This one big head who thought he knew everything piped up saying he could always tell the difference between a virus and a normal file.

    Yep - a couple of minutes later he starts complaining his computer isn't responding. We yanked the network cable out of the back of his machine and started to beat him up.

    He left the company shortly after.

    In the same company we had just finished a complicated little website for a client and they were really impressed with the results and had asked our sales rep if they could have a copy of it on a CD to show their partners. Took me about 30 minutes to explain to our sales lass that it was a dynamic website that needed a web server and database to run and we couldn't just 'copy it to a CD'. She says 'fine, ok' and calls the client back on her new mobile in front of me... 'no, I'm sorry we can't put it on a CD..(pause as client talks).... DISKETTES!!! Well of course we can put it on DISKETTES!!'

    She didn't last long either.

    Two companies later I was in a small website outfit where I did just about everything including changing the lightbulbs. My boss was a posh cow who hadn't done a hard days work in her life and complained about the most pathetic things. We had a running argument about the 'cables' - she wouldn't pay for plastic channelling but still demanded that I had to 'get rid of those unasthetic cables'. Finally one day she came literally screaming at me that if i didn't get those damned cables off her desk by the morning I was fired...

    Yep - got rid of all her cables for her - from the mouse to the power cables - all nicely rolled up in her drawer.

    Next morning she comes complaining to me her PC isn't booting up. I shout back at her to check her cables and left for a coffee.

    At least when I came back she apologized :)

    Best move I ever made was working from home

  39. Anonymous Coward

    ADSL test

    I worked in 1st line once and they had a huge amount of questions we had to ask if anyone had a ADSL broadband issue so for call time targets, etc, this might sound bad... However, the 2nd or 3rd question was along the lines of, 'Have you tried disconnecting all other devices from the phone line, and any other phone connectors in the house using the same line, just leaving the modem connected, to see if it works then?' So many times, this question was followed by:


  40. Paul Rafferty

    A long time ago...

    I took a job in a financial house in Dublin. Day one, I remember the overly smiley boss walk me into a room that had no windows, where three incredibly stressed-out helpdesk staff were on the ceaselessly ringing telephones. After 20 minutes of waiting to get a chance to introduce myself, I found myself picking up the 4th telephone and saying, ", good morning, you're through to the helpdesk" and getting an earful from the other end. The next 3 hours (I'm not kidding) were spent picking up the phone, writing down details, hanging up the phone which immediately rang, and repeating the process. By lunch time I had a nice little list of 'things to do'. Thus began, what was to be, a daily occurance.

    I found within about a week, that they were imaging their NT workstations using some weird archaic software. They only had three types of PC hardware, but around nine NT builds, none of which had been updated in over a year. All had huge problems, like failed software installations, hard-coded WINS entries and 'previous' user profiles. Complete mess. I remember building one and realising that several apps didn't work. "Oh, that must be the Market Data build. Yeah, you're better off using the Valuations build and installing EDW on it."

    Solution: Create one NT Workstation build with ALL software perfectly installed and configured. Install ALL disk controller & network card drivers, enabling them only in certain 'hardware profiles' (remember them?). The result was an image that worked on all PCs in any department (only breaking one or two licenses). I burned a bootable imaging CD and made four copies. "Every problem you get, no matter how small, use this CD." A few months later, you could hear a pin drop in that office.

    Feedback from overly smiley boss: "I'm failing you in this performance review. You've been coming in late."

  41. Steve 149


    An IT lecturer that on being told the entire network was down asked if he could check his emails still...

  42. raggjarboffel

    user guide?

    I had one user call me that could not get Exceed to work; I asked him if he had read the provided instructions (word document that pops up when the installation is done). He answered: "the instructions were of no use to me as it only listed the servers I can connect to".

    I was dumbfounded as I know that the server listing is just the first page of the user guide, and there are about 10 more pages. So I asked him why he didn't think of reading the rest of the guide.

    His answer was: "How could he know that there were more pages? It should say so in the document!"

    So maybe we should write on the first page: "please keep on scrolling, there are more pages"?

  43. Crazy Goat Man Al

    Now i'm not in support but

    As i work in computers my friends and especially family think that thats all I am good for.

    My favorite one was when my big sister rang me up. She had just had an email from her friend in australia asking her if she could ask me why her copy of office wasnt working. No other details. Just office isnt working.

    I think my response was somewhere along the lines of how the fcuk should I know.

  44. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Dumb bosses are the worst

    Many years ago, I was both developing and supporting database apps for local authorities. When travelling on business, my boss would often demand a set of floppies containing the latest & greatest version to test drive the install on his laptop. Unfortunately he did this on the train, in Cornwall, in the early days of mobile telephony, so support calls were often brief and noisy (and he was a bit deaf).

    The install script (usually a DOS batch or Powerbatch script) would verify that the correct disc had been inserted by checking its label (anyone with DOS experience will know that this is held on the disc itself as part of the formatting info). The discs he had been given hadn't had the correct labels assigned, so we asked him to change them.

    He calls back a few minutes later - still no joy. Turns out he'd changed the sticky label on the outside of the disc...

  45. Anonymous Coward

    'I had this friend . . .'

    Early on in my I.T. career, I would help out other people from time to time, as detailed PC knowledge was a bit sparse.

    A good friend of mine asked me to help set up a new PC for someone he knew who wanted Windows 95 (just released) on his machine, but who wasn't technically minded enough to give it a go himself. Afer about 2 hours or so, it was all running and convfigured just nicely.

    Two months later, the same chap gave me a call.

    HIM: "Hi. I'm hoping you can help me. I had this friend who loaned me a game to install on my machine, but when it was installed it completely messed up Windows. I need your help sorting it out"

    ME: "What was it he installed?"

    HIM: "The latest (game of some sort)"

    ME: "So, what happened when it was installed?"

    HIM: "Well, the install seemed to go fine, but then when it went to reboot, the PC wouldn't start up at all. And when my friend saw that, he said 'Hmm. That happened to my last friends computer as well!'"

    Some friend. Notice the the chap said 'I HAD this friend . . .'

  46. Alan Parsons
    Thumb Up

    the best workaround ever

    My absolute favourite was an outside-of-work call. A relative of mine was working at a local primary school and had mentioned that I was IT savvy when a panicked secretary discovered a 'virus' on her machine.

    Every time she typed the word 'the' it was replaced with 'we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year!'

    Perplexed and for once interested in a 'can you look at my computer' issue I drove in. Once I had observed the word 'the' actually changing upon completion the cause was obvious. Someone had configured MSWord to autocorrect 'the'. A headmaster that had been in meetings all morning and had no idea that I had been called sheepishly apologised for the modification. However, for me, the very best part, for which the secretary deserves a prize, was the fact that she had typed an impeccably written 2 sides of A4 letter to the local church thanking them for the use of their hall for their school play, which read perfectly naturally, entirely avoiding the use of 'the'.

  47. Tweets

    I posted one yesterday...

    ... but I remembered this one while reading some of the fab responses!

    It's not exactly funny, but does go to show that there really are some shallow people who call helpdesks...

    I was working for a major ISP at the time that 911 came around. We were all watching it streaming, from the bbc web site... and the ISP in question was actually responsible for the leased line of the bbc, so you can see where this is going.

    Anyway, the bbc web servers were getting overloaded, major problems serving that live video feed the the millions that wanted to know... so essentially shut down.

    And then the calls start, to us, asking why they couldn't get to the bbc!

    It was our very difficult duty to advise them that the news events of the day were causing a massive overload of the network and to be patient, the system will right itself eventually.

    I got asked by one woman "What events? I just wanted to check the lottery results"... had to tell her to turn on the TV and sit down with a large drink!

  48. Rat

    Even The Cleaners Are Against Us

    A while back, I was sysadmin for a small-ish call centre in the southwest UK. Amongst our various servers was a small unit that had originally been a desktop, but had had Linux installed on it and was temporarily acting as mail server for the company. Now, whilst we had UPS for our "mission critical" machines - PDC, fileserver, db server, and the server that ran the call centre package we used - the little Linux mailserver was just plugged into the wall like any other desktop.

    It ran fine for about a week following deployment. Then, the first Monday morning following installation, I arrived in work to find the early-rising MD running around like a headless chicken. "Email is broken!" she wailed. "Fix it now!". First port of call, obviously, was the mail server, which I found be sitting awaiting approval to run a full disk check. "Odd", I thought, and let it run. An hour or so later, mail was back up and all the stuff that had been sent over the weekend arrived in people's mailboxes.

    All was fine for the rest of the week. The following Monday, I arrived in work to find that "email is broken again! Fix it now!". Of course, I went to look at the mailserver.

    This time I found that it was unplugged. Consequently, I asked about the areas that the weekend cleaners covered, and was told that yes, the server room was an area that they were supposed to clean, and yes, they had a key.

    I affixed a small Post-It note to the plug that read "DO NOT UNPLUG!", and the mailserver served us reliably and faithfully for another six months until management made good on their threat and bought a new server and a copy of Exchange. But that's a whole other story...

  49. mystra

    It's not a foot rest...

    Had a user once that constantly emailed that their mouse would stop working. Every time I went over, sat down, checked the wire, etc. everything looked fine. After 2 weeks with 5 emails I gave up and was about to change the thing out. Get to the user's desk and I happen to see she's using the cabling as a foot rest. Duh?!

  50. MrPatrick

    Too many to mention

    As with everyone who's done front line support the number of stories is nearly endless, some of the few I remember...

    Worked for a prestigious Norfolk based sports car manufacturer. There was a guy who dealt with displays outside of the dealers, lots of stands and displays. However he insisted in using the word 'erection' to describe most of them, I'd daily have to unblock a mail that was blocked due to profanity. The mail filter was ancient and wouldn't accept new words in the 'allowed' list, he simply refused to use a different term. Nice chap though so not a problem.

    At the same place I ducked a call due to being lazy, turns out that a laptop was losing its connection to equipment attached to its serial port, turns out that this laptop was owned by a testing engineer, and the problem only occured at over 90mph on a particularly exciting chicane on the companies test track, colleague got a go in the passengar seat of the new Exige whilst being sped round the track :( (it was a dodgy cable, and we both knew it straight away, didn't stop him going over to 'confirm it' though)

    Major insurer, based out of Norwich (recently renamed!). 'Customer' as we were forced to call them* called. her mouse pointer wasn't moving smoothly. Basic checks were performed, she was asked to look at hte rollers in the mouse, which were covered in filth. When it was explained that she needed to give them a quick scrape to get the cack off she refused. She busted out with the whole 'don't you know who I am, I'm too busy to do this, I want an engineer over immediatly' line. After much too-ing and fro-ing she got put through to a team leader, who immediatly capitulated (as usual!). So an engineer was sent, with ear buds and some rubbing alchohol. 3 days later (all within SLA ;) )

    Also heard about someone from the Premier Support (look aftr the bigwigs/vips) getting called out to remove a wasp from some VP's office. I believe he picked up a copy of a tabloid en-route and beat the poor guy to death (the wasp that is). Didn't go down to well apparently, they wanted it dealt with humanely. Had a good laugh about that one.

    *apparently the term user made 'everyone sound like they had drug problems', when I suggested that it didn't sound like that to me, and asked what that said about the incumbent head of's personal habits I was asked to leave the meeting :(

    Current place - mysterious virus sprung up, over and over again. Our AV was capturing it as it tried to launch itself across the network. The infrastructure guys honeypot machines were getting hammered though (VMWare, incoming stuff only!). Some diligent tracing led to an office in some godforsaken town somewhere, whilst attempting to track down someone on site who we could ask what the hell they were doing it became apparent that said office had been closed some 6 months before. However no-one had informed IT, therefore the ADSL line in and switch were still in place and live. Someone in the office who'd taken over had obviously found it and was attempting to get some kind of connection on it. And when I say switch, this wasn't some netgear shit that cost £20 from ebuyer...

    I understand that huge public facing support desks have to have what is tradionally a first line (ie call loggers, working from a script that is unbendable and is forced to confirm to statistical requirements) any company with a limited user base of internal customers really need to review what they want from their helpdesk. From my experience your single best bet is to have well paid, competent people on your first line. Basically when customers ring they get someone who is 2nd line. Your first call fix goes through the roof, call times drop to next to nothing, customer satisfaction is up and generally things work. Of course this requires a more relaxed attitude towards the frontline staff, less of a concentration on performance metrics and more of a concentration of 'softer' targets like customer satisfaction. I know for a fact that if people call helpdesk and the phone gets picked up by someone who sounds like they know what they are talking about and who apparently have a genuine understanding of the issue in hand they are going to be far more accepting if their problem can't be fixed immediatly.

    The major problem I see with this at the moment (sorry - its challenge these days isn't it).

    Moving to having a a 'service desk' (looking at you ITIL) which is interpreted by adopters as being a script based, call logging call centre. Not a helpdesk at all... The problem that this causes is that in the unlikely event that someone who knows what they are doing is employed, they immediuatly look to move to second line and end up off the phones. Or they get promoted to a 'team leader' and end up off the phones. Basicallly all progression within a helpdesk, for the talented people, ends up with the good people leaving the phones, leaving only those who are only capable of basic script following left.

    I actually *enjoy* talking to our customers. So I'm still on the helpdesk, but I've found a place that agrees with my beliefs. I'm good at what I do, I'm a 2nd line tech but I still answer the phones. But when people call me (or my 'helpdesk' colleagues) they know that we'll know what needs doing and do it straight off.

    Having worked for a large Helpdesk (120 1st line staff) where they generally employed students who are looking for a summer job, or people with a 3rd in CompSci or other people who weren't techy at all I can say that this drives the very issues that the company were looking to get rid of. They thought that call metrics were how to drive improvements, so we *had* to take at least 60 calls a day and answer 10 emails. How much time do you think this left us (especially the few of us who were useful) to actually help people. Very little is the answer. So everyone moved on. Except for me. Their solution, reduce costs and move half the call centre offshore. Admittedly I got 3 months in Chennai living large with a personal driver, in a plush hotel but the model of getting people on the phones over there was a mess. Middle management had a desperation for it *not* to be script based, but then watching the guys over there floundering, unable to think of the right questions meant that we ended up with a list of 'suggested' questions, which was followed religiously. It was impossible.

    Unfortunatly the Indian team I was working with, who were exceptionally intelligent and twice as hard working as my English colleagues, were entirely unsuited to the style of work (most of them anyway).

    And once again the company devised metrics to keep everyone in check.

    The problem really comes down to this. Offer a decent wage to your 'first line' team and you'll get genuinely capable people who'll stick around for a few years before naturally progressing to the next level, making space for the next talented individual who wants to get in on the act.

    Helpdesk is stil lone of hte most valuable tools for learning how IT fits in with the business you are supporting, you talk to people who'll explain why they urgently need this email fixed, or how this loss of data will impact peoples lives (or any other thing that they've generally caused). Once you have that understanding moving to a backoffice team means you'll be able to continue to sympathise and therefore provide a far superior service.

    Basically most customers are o.k. if you treat them as if they have half a brain, and they think you know what you are on about. Most of them, some of them are just retards.

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