Data Centers

10 most common excuses heard from end users

If you've worked in IT support for awhile, you've probably heard it all -- the excuses from end users, that is. Do these sound familiar?

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If you've worked in IT support (be it within a company, remotely, or as a consultant) then you have probably heard every possible excuse and explanation end users can come up with for their problems.

I, for one, have heard so many I figured it was time I created a list of the ones that seem to pop up with regularity. Of course, being a fair guy, I also wanted to include in this why there might be some validity to each of these.

Might.

Without further ado, let's dig into this list and see how many times you find yourself nodding in agreement.

1. “That password is too hard to remember.”

There's a reason that password is too hard to remember – to keep your data safe! Many SMBs have solid policies to prevent users from having passwords like “password” or the user's name. But keep in mind, the more challenging the password policy, the more often you will wind up having to change end user passwords. When you create your password policy, be aware of your user base and find a common ground between strong passwords and passwords that users can actually type.

2. “This started after you worked on my machine.”

"Yes...and then you broke it" is the response you want to give. You can't, however. You may have just worked the miracle of miracles on a PC, but that doesn't mean the end user won't ruin your work. Or...and this can actually happen...you thought you fixed the issue, but didn't. One of the things I like to do is make sure the end user tests that the problem has been solved. That way they know you did your job and can't look you in the eye and say, “You did this!” (because they will). As much as I hate this about the support industry, you do have to protect your own back.

3. “But I have anti-virus.”

My go-to explanation for this is simple: if you use the Windows platform, it's not a matter of if you'll get virus, but when. End users seem to think that anti-virus is the end-all cure-all for what ails their computers. It's not and never will be. They have to be made aware that anti-virus doesn't give them carte blanche to do whatever they want.

4. “I pay you to keep these things working.”

Such vitriol from clients doesn't actually hurt the PC support specialist. Remember, support is a two-way street. Your job is to keep the PCs running as well as possible, knowing full well that eventually users (or faulty patches or some other element) will break the system again. If clients want PCs that never fail, they'd all be switching to paper and abacus.

5. “The machine is only X years old.”

Moving parts wear out. Period. Computers have a finite lifespan and there is absolutely no way around that. It's important to help end users understand that getting three years out of a computer is a good run. After that, it's time to start thinking of replacement. This is, after all, a business and they need to be able to count on technology not to fail – otherwise, they risk data loss.

6. “It's not happening to anyone else.”

Sure it's not. Users may think it's not happening to anyone else, but it very well could be. Or, the reason it's not happening to the others is that they quite possibly didn't make the same mistake. Or, perhaps some users don't really know how to use technology properly and should go back to using a Lite-Brite and Wooly Willy. Seriously, end users call this one out all the time – even though the other users have no bearing on their particular issue.

7. “I know a little about computers.”

Danger, Will Robinson, danger! When you hear this, you should be afraid. End users that claim to know a “little” bit about computers is like me saying I know a little bit about rocket science. End users with a “little” knowledge of computers are actually more dangerous than those that know nothing. Why? These users will wind up pushing buttons and madly clicking their mouse in a rush to fix the problem before you arrive. Their goal? Show you they know a “thing or two”.

8. “What's a web browser?”

This is the cry of someone at the very bottom of the end user ability scale. If they know not what a web browser is, then you better make sure you are there to hand-hold them through every minute of their training and have a quick route from your desk to theirs. Hearing this cry should also indicate to you that doing remote support is also going to be an issue. To that end, you will want to make sure that these users are set up such that all they need to do is double-click an icon to launch the support tool.

9. “I don't visit many websites.”

That's all good and well, but the select few sites often visited are the ones depositing malware on their computers. Downloading fun little screen savers, Facebook, and other notorious sites that offer toolbars and other pieces of malware are all over the place. End users have no idea what they are getting themselves into when they install those cute little tools that promise them the best chocolate cookie recipe on the planet. Education about safe browsing is a must for these users. Or, better yet, create a proxy server to block access to sites known to be suspect of deploying malware.

10. “I didn't do anything.”

That's right...the end user is always innocent and they will cry foul any time you say otherwise. In almost every instance, the problem on the computer is the result of shoddy work on the part of the IT staff. We've all heard this one; and we all know the truth. Half of the time the user did do something and half of the time they didn't. Okay, maybe a 50/50 split isn't exactly fair – but you get the idea. The truth of the matter is, however, you can't always just blame the end user. There are those instances when it could be, gasp, your fault.

You've probably heard one, all, or even more of these excuses. If not, expect them soon. But don't think end users are the only culprits in this crime. IT staff are also very well known for passing the buck of blame away from themselves.



About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

86 comments
Treknology
Treknology

1. Don't insist on such a strong password policy that people have to write it down somewhere. In one case I must use a password that has two Uppercase, two Lowercase, two Numerals and two Symbols minimum. In the event that you must write down a password, do other strange things to it: embed in the middle of something longer; insert what YOU will recognise as dummy material throughout it.


5. I still use a genuine PC/AT (and a COOL dot matrix printer). Why waste 600 Watts on a high speed super-OS machine when 130 Watts and DOS 3.3 can do the same job in the same time? AND I get to use a better quality keyboard!


8. You've been watching "The IT Crowd", haven't you? "I need you to install a web-browser on my laptop." "You already have one." "No, I don't!" "Right there! See that button?" "But that's the Internet button ..."


My all-time favorite excuse was, "Aliens abducted my computer and changed the BIOS password."

goedpaul
goedpaul

I can't believe there wasn't a flurry of responses questioning Lite Brite and Wooly Willy :) A good gift for the U53R with a sense of humor.

bind235
bind235

It is enjoyable to share funny things that happen to people and computers. 

but..

Ridiculing people for what they don't know is really unacceptable for a support person. 

Galane
Galane

One of the funniest incidents I encountered was a computer that the owner had taken to several other shops, who could find nothing wrong. When he brought it to me he was in a hurry so he didn't do the usual preparation he'd done every other time...


I came to the shop in the morning and the boss says there's a computer on the bench that came in last night. One step into the back and I just busted out laughing. The motherboard side of the tower was completely covered with magnetic business cards. Every other time the box's owner had taken them off before taking the system in to be checked out. I took them all off and sure enough, not one problem with the computer.

jbcosta
jbcosta

I knew an "IT Manger" that match numbers 7,8 and 10.

vindimuli
vindimuli

and you will have trouble if one user can access television on comp and not the others! others will refuse to use windows eg 7 and insist on xp when it was deployed by the co.! and want you to explain why some are in w7! wonders! how they switch off by end of the day? on the screen! its a whole class to tutor regardless of their level!anyway they are application system users!worse are those who carry laptops home for their children and the next day  it wont be ok yet they cant explain what "boy" did but smile about it. i found one with 42 of 1 game windows opening! whatdyudu?


vindimuli
vindimuli

it happens...  to date claims i spoilt his desktop after i was delegated  to install anti-v on it. just that. reason? he claimed it had anti-v as you say. yet it was expired and the org was deploying another one. how it happened? i entered his office, explained why i was there and the work procedure and then he gave me way...ok. after uninstalling the expired anti-v; he jerked.." and madam ryu updating it now? " i replied" ok.. i will leave it updating" .. the problem?  he didn't want to hear he was to credit the modem to update anti-v! yet he had acknowledged he would b4 i started! he was mad that he would have to spend to load the modem!!!! just that. he chased me halfway the installation after forcing me to cancel the operation!  now that he didn't  even have the solace of the expired anti-v... " madam , u spoilt my comp.. i will never allow a woman to work on my comp....." and the "song " was allover.. in the office of ICT, in the lift, on corrridors, on pavements... as in everywhere he saw me. i later came to learn that he was the most stubborn employeee. then is when i understood him and stopped being bothered by him. and he was old and believed women dont work on comps! stereotypes! 

other end user.. they hide porn or such when they get the pc "sick"  and wont say what they were doing? guess? they expect you wont know what they were doing. some delete stuff  to RB and will restore when you go away! others go a mile , switch off  "remember history"  but many do not know about cookies !!! whenever i come across such, believe me i don't explain but i activate it. at time the ISP will call and ask you to investigate certain IPs.. u v got to pin them! esp in large  orgs. other end users have so many setups( applic) that the dont even understand what they do.... like that one of  jemorris! Of end users, expect anything. dont worry. the best is to train them on good pc manners. They swirl their chairs and complain of net connections after messing cables! they uninstall programs and cancel halfway yet expect them to work! the worst is that some snoop over to get at how yo troubleshoot s they will later re do it!

one billing office kept clients for over 2hrs over low network connectivity ! problem? a cleaner had just finished the midday round and messed up cables..pulled and  loosened them from the port! i caught another one off-guard.. telling me there was no network to access the health insurance while in hosp??? i glanced at his indicators and everything was up up up! i told him the net was ok and gave my reason! guess what? he logged in, accessed ma records, printed and alas.. the net was down for the next patient in queue! it wasa pity!

one came to ask me to check on his comp after electricity was interrupted! in darkness! 

and once you fix them, u r  one of no use to them!

 i think sometimes its a mad mad world you v gotta create sanity in! you have to count your billable hours anyway!

jemorris
jemorris

I had a customer at a client site that blamed me for their computer being "broken" one particular time. This customer/user was notorious for downloading screensavers and other little cutesy programs off the internet.

I had about 5 billable hours cleaning his computer up, updating him to a legal copy of MS Office, defragged his hard drive, etc...

About 3 days later I get a call from the client contact asking what I had done to this guys computer, btw this was our biggest client. The client contact was one of the most computer literate people at this office so I shared what I had done, which is exactly all I had been contracted to do. But the user had a reputation so I had been asked  to come by later and check his computer to make sure I had not left something "undone".

He swore it started acting up after I left. He was one of their local "top" salesman and an epic BN, he had left early the day I was working on his computer the first time so I shut it down when I left. The very next morning they had a sales meeting where some of their international sales people had come into the office, one of which worked in Russia a lot. Seems Mr. Russian sales guy brought back some CD's of programs he bought really really cheap while in Russia. One was a Dictionary program that was supposed to be compatible with office.

I showed up to "check my work" with the client contact standing over my shoulder watching as I checked system error logs. First thing I see when I boot up the computer is a new icon on the desktop for the dictionary program and the A/V with a big red error condition symbol on top of it in the system tray.  I ask the user where this program came from as it was not installed on the computer when I left several evenings before. He kinda hym-haws around and reluctantly admits he got it from Mr. Russia sales guy. 

I open the system logs and numerous errors appear. Guess what? They started up between 10:30 and 10:45, just minutes after the sales meeting had ended. I get the A/V restarted and it starts popping warnings about numerous infected files in MS Office. I get the dictionary program removed and the computer virus free. I then ask the user if I can see the disk he installed from. The disk looks legit... I put it in the drive and shut the drive door and as soon as the disk spins up the A/V goes wild again. I look at the user with a raised eyebrow but that doesn't even compare to the looks the client contact was giving this user. 

Needless to say I redeemed myself with the client (I know that doesn't make sense but that's another story for another time.) and this user was very meek and humble for several months whenever he contacted us about computer issues.


j.valenciaochoa
j.valenciaochoa

Another excuses to include in the list:

- I've never seen that

- Before I turn on my computer everything was fine

- All that I want in my computer is to see it working how it was it

- I don't understand the new interface, all the programs are hidden

Ben Mutero
Ben Mutero

My Client called and say IP Phone is not working, I said to her cool, I can assist but in not in the province. She asked how? I said to her remote desktop. I then said to her open Google and type in teamviewer 8, she just gave me a confident answer "my Computer doesn't have Google" damm

dvroman
dvroman

I have come up with a nicer version of the I D Ten T error. I call it the U Fifty Three R Error. (ID10T, U53R)

dentalcrafters
dentalcrafters

I just fixed a monitor that wasn't working.... told me, won't show the program, won't even turn on. So I crawled under the desk and plugged it back in.Stood up and said, "Viola!!!  Struck the Freddie Mercury victory pose and said, Yes, I am a genius you may worship me in all my shining gloriousness, and by the way I like snacks you may place your offerings on my desk." 15 minutes later there was a can of diet dew and a bag of jalapeno potato chips sitting on my desk. I love my minions :)

jprice
jprice

I've heard all of these and more and they don't really bother me, because they've allowed me to make a pretty good living for nearly the last 20 years. But the one I absolutely hate is when a user comes up to me just as I'm about to leave for the day with an "Urgent" problem they've been having all day. 

Really? All day, and you're just coming to me now! If the problem was so bad why did you wait until the end of the day!!! 

(And yes, I do wind up staying late to fix their problem. In the end, it's better to be well thought of by the rest of the staff and I'd rather stay late fixing a problem rather than to be bothered when I'm home relaxing.

JCAlford
JCAlford

The opposite of #6 is true as well: "Everyone is having this issue!!"  Everyone?  Really??  The entirety of the company called you because this isn't working for them and wanted you to call me??

Also, I hate it when the secretary calls in for the supervisor because they "Can't get to their e-mail."  

"What happens when they try to get into e-mail?"  "I don't know."

What error message does it give."  "I don't know.  All he said is it doesn't work.  Fix it."


Riiiiiiiight.........

lgregg
lgregg

Great story from many years ago.  During the time of 5.25 floppy disks.  Husbands computer company helped small businesses computerize their accounting systems.  Set up system for Company A.  Accounting clerk for Company A starts calling every morning saying that all of her work is missing that she did the day before.  Extensive troubleshooting over the next few days.  Eventually in frustration at the continuing morning calls about lost work, my husband sends over a tech who sits with the clerk ALL DAY to double check what she's doing.  At the end of the day, the lady saves her work, closes down her desk and her last move was to remove the 5.25 floppy disk and "store" it on her metal filing cabinet with a GIANT magnet.

Problem was solved of course.  And this isn't a story of someone being a "stupid" user because computers were so new that she honestly didn't know.

Just a great story about sometimes tech support has to carefully watch exactly what a user does.  That attitude has served me well over the years.  Never assume.

cbeckers
cbeckers

A password that is "too hard to remember" will encourage end-users to write it down, which defeats the purpose of having a password.  Passwords must be memorable to the end-user, but not obvious to the intruder.  

jamjube
jamjube

Kind of hard of End Users to believe a person that says to restart the computer you first press the "Shutdown " Button!

dentalcrafters
dentalcrafters

My favorite is not really an excuse, it's the "my computer is being stupid, an error screen popped up but I clicked on it to make it go away." and when you ask them what it said they inevitably say.... (come one everyone say it with me you know you want too) "I don't know it's just being stupid". I am getting them trained better though, because I have made a point to tell them "well it's kind of hard for me to fix it when you can't tell me what's wrong next time it happens send me a screen shot of the error so I can fix it faster rather than  trying to recreate the issue."

Jimbfo
Jimbfo

I wonder if we could create a top ten list of our own excuses to compare this with

maybe there is a lesson to be learned

Treknology
Treknology

5. “The machine is only X years old.”

Is "X" a Roman Numeral? I only upgrade when absolutely forced to do so. I have a genuine IBM PC/AT that still gets used occasionally. I have some DOS software (music/hardware dependent) that will not run properly on a Pentium class machine, and many people bring me odd bits of hardware that require direct port access that is not permitted under Windows. So I have a small cache of sub-pentium machines for such specialist circumstances.

7. “I know a little about computers.”

Stop! Right now! Particularly if attempting to recover a deleted file. Do not shut down, do not press start, do not collect 200 idiot points. If the power fails, unplug the computer so it cannot attempt to start up again!

As a very small business (with no growth ambitions in tech-support), I can pick and choose which end-users I support, and it's very easy to get dropped as such a customer:

1. Failure to comply with crisis instructions;

2. Letting a third party interfere with the machine meaning I have to undo that damage before addressing the initial problem;

3. Repeated creation of the same fault because of refusal to learn what not to do.


jnord24
jnord24

I know you said not to click on the happy smiley faces, but my nephew likes them, so I did it anyway and now all these popups happen...can't you just prevent them so I can have the happy smiley faces?

Yes, I can, but you may need to have your equipment replaced with an etch-a-sketch.

I know about these things...I saw one on tv once and my nephew's cousin's cousin fixes them. 

Great, so what does this person do?  He's a lifeguard.  Oh, well then he's perfectly qualified.

Can't you just install an upgraded operating system without the key? No. Well how about giving me a new one for free?

Um, no.



framefritti
framefritti

"getting three years out of a computer is a good run"


So, I got a very, very, very good run with my PC... I think it is at least 6-7 years old, but almost surely more. It still has a 3.5" floppy drive (do you remember them?)  I remember that when I bought it I said "I want an awful lot of memory!  Something exaggerate!  Something unheard! I want 1 Giga byte!"  (yes, smile)  This should give you an idea of its age...

I guess that sooner or later it will go to the land of blessed PCs, but so far it works really nicely, so nicely that I do not feel any need to change it. Oh, and it boots (and it is usable) in less than one minute.

HipposRule
HipposRule

Standard Wallen FUD re viruses. I personally have never had one and the company that I work for (we have around 12000 Windows devices) have had less than a dozen in the 20 years I've been working for them.

mariel.
mariel.

I know these all too well, and i don't even work in IT. sigh.

sonnystarks
sonnystarks

A password that is too complicated (for a busy person who must try to juggle 5-10 ) to remember, will inevitably, wind up written on a "Post It" note and attached to the monitor, or worse, in a notepad that leaves the office. A new age has dawned and passwords only protect our files from ourselves, See: "Kill the Password: Why a String of Characters Can’t Protect Us Anymore." http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/11/ff-mat-honan-password-hacker/all/

Daniel Poobalan
Daniel Poobalan

Some people shouldn't use computers if they do not know how to use them at the first place!

Jeremy F
Jeremy F

After diagnosing hard drive failure, the client said "Oh I threw the laptop down the stairs.. i was mad at it"

RMSx32767
RMSx32767

Relieved to see you acknowledge that IT folks are also guilty of some less than stellar moments. The best dingbat-moment I ever encountered was a boss who deleted a critical file because he "did not know what it did." I restored it. Some time later the dumbass deleted it again.

ndean.jones
ndean.jones

I worked part time at a repair shop.

Our "fees" sign read.                           Tell me what the machine is doing or not doing........No Charge

                                                                Ask to watch ....................................................................Add 30% to bill

                                                                 Offer to Help .....................................................................Add 150% to bill

daryl_holt
daryl_holt

The trouble is most people think computers are SMART... We know they're NOT... 

They ONLY understand YES & NO (or 1 & 0... and combinations thereof). They just arrive at the solution very fast. They don't "bushwhack" people by being "really smart" and thinking for themselves.  

EUI (End User input) is the biggest problem of any tool. 

Use an axe the wrong way and lets just see if you can cut down a Gigantic Oak tree. You're probably going to end up hurting yourself... They're doing the same thing by trying to "Double Click" their way out a small problem to 'fix' it themselves, and we all know they have you on "Speed Dial" for the next round of the blame-game!

guillegr123
guillegr123

The worst thing is when the same IT staff behave as end users, and do the same questions, hehehe... Another question that could be added to the list: "Why the system doesn't do X thing? It's such a easy thing to do". And the possible answers are: "I didn't buy the system", "No one did ask for it", or "it's not so easy as you think" (a.k.a. it's easier to re-do all the application before doing such a thing), or even "it doesn't have any sense!"

Colin Thomson
Colin Thomson

I mopped up most of the coffee from the keyboard.......

Tanmoy Debnath
Tanmoy Debnath

2,6 & 10.. Someone even asked to install 'Shut down' on working windows PC ... lol ;)

Treknology
Treknology

@vindimuliI mentioned elsewhere, the BBC show "The IT Crowd".

"Hello, IT. Have you turned it off and back on again?"

"Are you sure it's properly plugged in?"

"OK I heard it start up."

"Yes, that's the sound it makes when it's starting up ..."

Treknology
Treknology

@dvroman   PEBCAK: Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard.

dvroman
dvroman

@lgregg I worked in NC for years. This thing happened many times. The first I saw is when the software was stored on a cassette tape and the office glued a small magnet to the cassette. As you can guess, it took a couple of weeks for the magnet to do it's job and many round trips for outside tech support to figure out that one.

Becca Alice
Becca Alice

@dentalcrafters What I love is the number of Networks guys in my organization who will tell me, just like an end user "Something's wrong with it" and not give me the error message.  ^_^

towkneed
towkneed

@dentalcrafters Ok, but what happens when you ask them to send you a screen shot and they reply "no" because they don't know how? Happened to me last week. The user didn't even ask how to send one. I emailed him "Could you please send me a screenshot of the issue?". I got an email back with one word - "no".

bsalloum
bsalloum

@dentalcrafters This is the most common one I experience. Users don't read any pop-ups, they just click what they have to in order to get rid of them. This includes pop-ups which occur every time they log in or start a program, which they say are annoying, but which also include a "don't show me again" checkbox. If they'd take a second to read the message, they could solve their own problem a lot of the time. Trying to train these people is a long and winding road ...

leeric
leeric

@framefritti 

Speaking of good run.....  I have an Amiga 4000T I purchased in 1996 which is still running.  Still going strong after 17 years. Of course it's had several hard drive and fan, and one PS replacement.  Runs 24/7/365 as a home controller, turning on/off lights, outlets (car block heater), etc.

Becca Alice
Becca Alice

@framefritti As long as you don't add a bunch of junk or need the latest greatest support for your Massive Online Processing Nightmare of a video game (or more practically your video editing or art work that might need megahojillion processing power), old workhorses can work like a dream for a very long time!  They just need their oats and combdown on occasion. ^_^

VMillan
VMillan

@daryl_holt I would like to have an euro for everytime I've heard "The computer doen't let me to do this!"

dentalcrafters
dentalcrafters

@Becca Alice @dentalcrafters Wow they really should know better....... that is funny. But that does seem to be the attitude; we are IT we should know all, see all and be able fix all without even breaking a sweat.

dentalcrafters
dentalcrafters

@towkneed @dentalcrafters Yeah had couple of those too, sometimes people don't like to admit to not knowing how to do something, I usually ask them if they know how to do it first and if so great if not then I show them. I make a point of telling them the only stupid question is the one that remains unasked. Which usually gets me a quizzical look or two. It takes a lot of time but eventually you can foster an environment where people feel confident enough to ask a question. IT is one of those "magical" jobs to most people because they do not understand how it works so they automatically react to IT people with some amount of intimidation. If you make them comfortable they will be ok with the fact that they don't know anything. No one likes to feel like a dummy especially educated people, I work in a manufacturing lab where everyone either has a degree or is working on their masters it seems. These types of people can be even harder to work with because they are intelligent.

dentalcrafters
dentalcrafters

@bsalloum @dentalcrafters The look on their face when you check the box and make it go away forever is priceless! Yes it is a very long and winding road but thankfully the people I work with are genuinely nice people so at least I don't want to do the back stroke in a bathtub full of margaritas when I go home and they don't blame me for what is wrong with their PC. They usually apologize and say I don't know what I did but can you fix it? I am very lucky indeed :) 

jred
jred

@dentalcrafters I usually add, "it took me a while to figure out how to do this", so they feel better about not knowing. Even if it's something stupid like typing the URL in the browser address bar instead of the search engine.


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