It ain't what you do; it's the way you do it

Yet again, support pro Jeff Dray finds that he needs to fix the customer as well as the technology to completely resolve an issue.

The main purpose of my weekly ramblings, apart from the ability to vent my frustrations about life in general, is to allow me to challenge preconceptions and try to take a different look at the way in which people work.


Most support issues aren't about the technology; we know what that does and what causes it to malfunction. It gets interesting only when people get involved, and thankfully for the weekly blog writer, whenever you think you have seen or heard it all, the wonderful body of people that is the user community will surprise you with a new outlook on a well-known problem.

It has been said before that equipment is fairly easy to deal with; sometimes the customer is harder to fix. Some equipment failures can lead to a loss of confidence, which, although illogical, is quite understandable.

I was on site looking at one of our production machines recently; it was showing real signs of excessive wear and tear. I was surprised, because they have two identical systems that are designed to share the load. The other machine was in perfect working order, but the customer seemed reluctant to shift the work onto it in order to free up the worn machine for some overdue TLC.

This seemed a bit strange, so I asked the operator why this was. It turned out that there had been some previous problems with the machine, and the operators had lost confidence in it, preferring to stick to the one that had always worked well. We had sorted out the problems, and the machine was fine — it was the customer who needed fixing. I asked if there was any more work to run, just so that I could stress-test the machines.

As luck would have it, they had a mountain of work to process, so I set up both machines and ran them together. After an hour's solid run, the pile of work was substantially smaller and I was able to show that the untrusted machine worked as well as, if not better than, the favorite. It took a couple more visits to convince them that both machines were sound and ready for use, since which time things have calmed down with that customer.

I can see when a motor or a belt is worn out and needs to be replaced. It is sometimes harder to recognize when the problem has its roots in the human side of the equation. It is very satisfying to identify such cases and get all the issues resolved, not just the technological ones.

Do you sometimes feel that you have to be part technologist and part psychologist while on the job?

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