That last minute caller! It’s been a long night shift; you are looking forward to going home, eating a meal and clearing your head of those dumb users.

With less than a minute to go your phone rings and your heart sinks. You go through that inner struggle, do you ignore it and go home or do you resign yourself to a dried up dinner and a happy customer? You won’t ever know unless you take that call. Hopefully it will be one of those quick easy questions, but you can never be sure. Murphy’s Law would tend to suggest that it won’t, with all your colleagues waiting to leave the building you feel pulled in three directions at once.

Your professional attitude wins over and you pick up the phone. The last time it happened to me the caller was a difficult one. He wanted to run through the entire installation and configuration of a fairly complex application. There was no particular fault; he just wanted a bit of hand holding as he made his way through an unfamiliar routine.

I compromised; I started him off and advised him to call back if he encountered any problems. “Just answer the questions as they come up, it shouldn’t take more then twenty minutes” was my angle and with that I prepared to close the call. That patently wasn’t going to work, he wanted a full install and a free training session, to last as long as he saw fit, and something that really isn’t in the remit of a helpdesk. So what do I do? Do I tell him where to get off and end the call or do I try to help an obviously nervous user who is covering his nerves with bluster and aggression? I struck a compromise, we went through the installation and I showed him how to get started then politely but firmly ended the call, offering him the chance to call back if there was any problem. I would have handed the call over to the next shift but there wasn’t one!  Te next day was a public holiday and the centre was to be closed. 

He protested, saying that, as a buyer of the product he should have unlimited support. I equally firmly stated that we were a helpdesk to assist with problems, not a free IT training service; many of the questions he was asking were not related to our product but were related to basic Windows PC operation. I advised him to try a good Windows “How to” book, being careful not to recommend the “For Dummies” series, in case he took it the wrong way.