IT Policies

Button pressers and non-button pressers

Some people ask for help, others work it out for themselves. Is this what makes the difference between a help desk tech and a user?

I have often wondered what separates the people who support technology from those who use it. I got my answer in a most surprising place this weekend.

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I was in the local co-op supermarket in Swanage when I overheard a snippet of conversation between two elderly ladies who had caught the technology bug.

First lady: “My Grandson has just come back from his gap year; he said he was going to bring his photographs around, but he only brought a CD with him." Second lady: “I thought CDs were just for sound....” First lady: “No, Elsie dear, apparently you can put any kind of files on them. He put the disc into my DVD player, and the photos came up on the screen!" Second lady: “Really?” First lady: “Oh, yes; he plays DVD films on his laptop as well. I thought they were just for writing letters on.”

It got me thinking though; most of what I know and understand about technology is what I have found out through pressing buttons to see what happens. There are those people who are happy to press buttons, and those who have a strong need to know what will happen before they press the button.

How many times have you received a call from a user asking what would happen if…? The usual way to answer the question (if you don't already know the answer) is to try it and see.

If someone asks how to do a particular task, you open the application and work it out. It seems obvious to us as support people, but you have to have the mind-set that allows you to experiment and take risks.

This allows us to amass the experience to help others and to take the risks on their behalf. I analyzed some of the logs raised by our team and found that they were almost exclusively reporting failures. Advice calls are not common, because we are a team of experimenters and "suck and see" people.

Other teams that use the help desk may have a different problem profile, which got me thinking that it might be a good idea to have a separate phone number for advice rather than fault reporting. This would help us to keep a separate log of help calls, which could be used to supplement user training or identify the users who could use some extra help.

I firmly believe that the role of the help desk is to grow the skill sets of the user base, to identify trends, not only in system reliability but for gaps in knowledge, to generate shortcuts that can save time, and to share other generalized knowledge.

By reviewing the help calls, you can use the information you amass to create proactive support tools, like FAQs, post a "Tip of the Day" on the help desk intranet page, provide extra input to the user training program, or include in the new starter's induction day.

33 comments
Joe_R
Joe_R

That's a great way to approach it. I try to do the same. Unfortunately, there are those who don't want to expand them - they have blinders on. Good piece.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

Sometimes I am the curious type and push buttons, and try to learn the SW. And sometimes I am not (depends on how much I like it or NEED to learn it). Most things are not too difficult to understand, ven if it seems foreign. What really bugs me though, isnt the people that mess around a little, and call once in a while, but those that call for EVERYTHING. "I am installing this new SW, and it says to install I need to push Continue. What should I do??" I wanna shoot these people for being..................

reisen55
reisen55

Smart users are a wonderful thing, far too few of them in this world. My real issue with office people are the semi-smart. I have seen many of them. If there is a problem, instead of calling IT for professional help, they remember old Larry in the corner over there is kinda a computer guru and so they call in their resident expert. If this expert knows less than nominal but advertises well, then big problems can result. Ages ago, fellow took his old Windows 95 laptop home. It broke, his resident expert, his son, tried to fix it using Windows 98. Oh that was a magnificent little mess. So it is the quasi-qualified that scare me. I'll gladly work with somebody who says 'I know nothing about computers' because then we are on an honest playing field and, frankly, they are very interested to know more and listen.

rogerwhitt1
rogerwhitt1

having a different number to call if you have a failure than if you simply want advice... hmm i would suggest that most users would not know the difference with out first being told by help desk ... at the user end they are only experiencing a wanting to do something they are not getting done ... next time a tech persons car will not start and they call the garage for help how would they respond if the garage said .. you dont need a mechanic ... you just have to hold the key differently than you have been ... that would go over ... Not ... so the bottom line ...it is great that techi who wrote this has a handle on how the department they are in charge of is used what they really need is a real live person answering incoming calls .. a person who is very savvy and can suss out the needs of the caller immediately ... then direct the caller to help or advice ...

ITCompGuy
ITCompGuy

When it comes down to it...non button pushers keep us in IT employed. I compare it to your auto machanic. If everyone could get down a repair an ABS braking system, then no one would pay someone hundreds of dollars at inspection time to do this. It is the same in every profession.

RFink
RFink

1. To forgive divine, just don't be too human come income tax time. 2. But to wear the eraser out before the pencil is overdoing it.

dcarper
dcarper

Definitely... almost all practical knowledge of computers comes from personal experience. I built my first comp when i was 13. I had a ton of problems and it was sheer luck that some of the parts matched up but in the end I had learned a TON. Do I have preobtained knowledge on every random error my friends and family come to me with? No. I google the error message and follow instructions. What seems less techie and more just common sense to me is magic to others. Whatever.

Tink!
Tink!

Hey that's how I got into IT in the first place. I wasn't afraid to press buttons to find out what did what, and explore - by reading manuals and by trial & error. With this attitude I learned far more than my co-workers about the software, hardware and technology in the companies I worked for, thereby making me the expert on such things. Armed with this knowledge via experience I was moved from simple Admin Asst. positions into more techie/IT positions. Which is where I am today, and what I am happy with. If more users wouldn't be so afraid to press a button and find out for themselves what would happen, tech support would have far less mundane calls.

GeneS
GeneS

I'm sure you already know this but, you are absolutely right!

Tink!
Tink!

to having a resident expert that really isn't much of an expert. Myself, I don't proclaim to know everything. If I did I would never have happened upon TR. I do all I can to find an answer/solution on my own first. If then I cannot fix the problem, I say so. And allow them to take it to professional. I've only had that happen a few times. I remember 2 were hardware problems which were under warranty, and 2 were hijacked computers - which I didn't have the tools or experience necessary to fix. I have no problem referring to a true IT pro if it's beyond my expertise. :D

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

press the wrong button is a position of semi-power and what your job evaporate.

Jessie
Jessie

but if more users weren't so afraid to press the buttons and find out for themselves... we'd be out of a job, so be grateful that they are the cowardly lion to our Tigger. I always tell people that I'm a button pusher... which is why I could never be president of the US cuz they may not have that nuclear holocaust button clearly marked... and I'd push it just to see what it does.

Tink!
Tink!

I agree with what many of you have said..it's not [i][b]just[/b][/i] about pushing buttons, but learning from what happens when you DO push the buttons. And having the ability to fix what happens after you push a button is what separates the categories of button pushers - [b]"the button-pushing users"[/b] and [b]"the button-pushing IT techs"[/b] We [b]button-pushing techs[/b] learn from the button pushing AND have the innate ability to use our learned knowledge to fix the problems that may arise from button pushing. (We also have the instinct to remember what buttons we just pushed) [b]Button pushing users[/b] just keep pushing buttons with their fingers crossed and hope that one fixes the problem. :D

Bee Jay
Bee Jay

You forgot my favorite one of all... User: "I see home and end, but where is any?" Tech: "just press any button" User: "I would if I could find it" Tech: "ok, just hit enter it's a substitute"

bfpower
bfpower

I learned most of what I knew when I got into IT by trial and error. HOWEVER... the users I support now sometimes use this method, and I have had a user go so far as to render her computer almost useless barring a wipe and reinstall of Windows (or paying for a lot more of my time than it would have been worth). She ended up with a new PC because she didn't want to lose the files she could still access. The important thing is to LEARN from it, and to know when you are in over your head. There comes a time to consult an expert, even for an IT pro. I think that the reason we Tech Republic people press a lot of buttons is that we have analytical thinking skills and a baseline level of knowledge that lets us make reasonably informed decisions. Users who can't think analytically and can't remember what they did long enough to tell a technician on the phone shouldn't be pressing buttons.

CEdwards478
CEdwards478

They can press all the buttons they want, but I'd prefer if they remember what buttons they pressed, and in what order. Caller: "I did something and now this is all messed up and I can't fix it" Me: "What did you do?" Caller: "I don't remember" Me: (wishing I could say) "Are you brain dead?"

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I'm a button pusher, or I wouldn't have ever become comfy with PC's. My half-dozen clients on the other hand, are my clients because they refuse to push buttons in fear of 'messing something up'. Then there is the other kind of button pusher, but that's off topic. ;)

Krys210
Krys210

I hear everyone talk about IT work in the office you should try it at an Elementary School level. Not only do I have 200 computers to keep running but teachers AND students to help. The students are more of the "no-fear" button pushers, while most teachers come screaming for help. Its an interesting scenario.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

"cuz they may not have that nuclear holocaust button clearly marked... and I'd push it just to see what it does. " Just to do it. Heck, I'd probably push it 20-30 times

sleepin'dawg
sleepin'dawg

President showing the new President around the White House. OP: "Here are two very important buttons that you'll have to be careful to remember their functions." NP: "They look just like ordinary buttons to me. What's so important about them?" OP: "The button on the left lights up the White House Christmas Tree; the one on the right is The Doomsday Button and launches a full scale unrecallable nuclear response." [b]Dawg[/b] ]:)

ProperName
ProperName

How many times have you heard Tech Support complain that their users "just click the button to make it go away" PowerMan, you said it best. [quote]I think that the reason we Tech Republic people press a lot of buttons is that we have analytical thinking skills and a baseline level of knowledge that lets us make reasonably informed decisions. Users who can't think analytically and can't remember what they did long enough to tell a technician on the phone shouldn't be pressing buttons.[/quote] This is why we are supporting the rest of the users.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

when trying to fix something strange. Often I have a few things queued in my head, and when it is fixed, I dont remember which I did :0

wsmith
wsmith

I strongly support pushing the button! Of course there are times NOT to push the button, but if you don't figure that out in your 1st year of IT support, then you're not meant to be in IT support. Take the time to correct any mistakes you make because that when you learn. Knowledge lasts a lifetime.

webgal318
webgal318

"I didn't do anything!" Many of my clients push buttons and try different things but will not admit it. That's OK though because the calls keep me going and growing. Sylvia PC Technical Support and Consultant.

The Scummy One
The Scummy One

making a small change at some time, early in the PC learning experience. Then spending 2-3 weeks trying to figure out how to fix the damage :)

Krys210
Krys210

It still surprises me that my little pre-k kids (4 year olds) seem to know so much about the computer these days. Often I am tempted to have them show a teacher what to do. LOL

Jessie
Jessie

I supported teachers and students on the middle and high school levels in urban school districts... the kids liked to rearrange the keys on the keyboard but I was always disappointed that they didn't actually get creative and SPELL anything. The teachers most of the time would call me with questions that they could easily figure out themselves if they would look around and read the prompts... but I guess they figured that's what they paid us for... and it was... so I was 'happy' to help.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

that do mess around a lot, and some of them are the people that shouldnt be allowed to...

santeewelding
santeewelding

I'll run around with pots and pans to collect it.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

that just sank in. Brains - leak - ears.

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

Bacon in the CD tray :0 What??? It isnt a small microwave???