Talking Shop: Help a support tech deal with disingenuous laptop users

Find out the best way to deal with sneaky users

In this “What would you do?” column, we present a variation on a scenario that may be familiar to many technical support pros: users reporting nonexistent computer problems. In this particular case, the support tech strongly suspects several of his remote users of reporting nonexistent computer problems to increase their priority in a new computer roll-out. Please read the support tech’s account and take some time to offer some much needed advice.

I want my new laptop now!
We have over 100 salespeople at 25+ locations across the East Coast. Each salesperson has a laptop supplied by corporate (my team). These laptops are pretty old and the warranties are beginning to run out. In fact, the salespeople have complained for several years that the machines are too slow. In addition, we need to roll out new versions of some software and would like to take advantage of new security options in Windows XP. We finally got budget approval and ordered new laptops. And after completing our testing and nailing down our setup procedures, we are proceeding with a staged rollout.

We're rolling out the machines location-by-location, starting with the ones closest to our corporate headquarters—just in case there are problems. Also, if an old laptop comes in for repair, we're sending the user a new one, since there's no sense in sending the old one back only to replace it again in a few months. We've rolled out/replaced new laptops to 15 people so far.

Suddenly, we are being inundated by suspicious "my laptop broke" calls from sales reps at other locations. By suspicious, I mean users are reporting the same exact problem that the last two callers had, reporting multiple issues or reporting oversimplified issues such as "it just won't turn on."

We are already overworked trying to complete the roll-out without everyone hoping to get new laptops all at once by "breaking" their old ones. We have a few ideas for dealing with this situation, but were wondering what other IT teams would do in such a circumstance. Do you refuse to be tricked into sending new laptops, or do you let the salespeople dictate who gets new laptops on a "first-complaint, first-served" basis? How do you deal with users when you know they are faking an issue just to get a new laptop? Any help you could offer would be most appreciated.

We want to hear what you have to say!
If you have experience in dealing with similar situations please feel free to share your thoughts. You can submit your ideas either by e-mail or by posting a discussion item at the end of this column. A week after the publication of a scenario, we'll pull together the most interesting solutions and common themes from the discussion. We will later present them with the situation's actual outcome in a follow-up article. You may continue to add discussion items after the week has elapsed, but to be eligible for inclusion in the follow-up article, your suggestions must be received within a week of the scenario's publication.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox