Help desk "support" means more than answering calls

Sometimes, answering the request isn't enough. Make sure you're addressing the real problem.

One thing I really don't like about my job is being on call for AV presentations. As the only support pro for my office, there are a lot of things that I wish I could delegate, but being AV guy is at the top of the list.

The major annoyance I have with that role is that I'm always interrupting something much more important (to me) or interesting (again, to me) to set up a projector and a laptop, or a DVD player and display. I always find it hard to get back to the mindset I had before stepping away; I can feel my productivity dip.

The situation is my own fault, though. Totally.

It's my fault because I've been reactive rather than proactive. Instead of formalizing a sustainable procedure for AV management, I've been answering individual requests for help. Working the help desk, it's easy to look at requests for assistance as standalone tasks to be completed. Sometimes, though, your user requests are an indication of where the work flow, the culture, and—most importantly—the help desk response should change.

When I first started feeling like AV set up wasn't the best use of my time, I added a note to our resource reservation system that indicated each user who checked out AV resources were responsible for their own set up and take down. That way, hey, everyone knew they were on the hook, and it's all above board. Right?

Wrong. Turns out, a lot of people didn't use the system to reserve items. They'd have an assistant do it. Or they'd call me 30 minutes before their meeting, telling me what they needed. In spite of the policy change I made, I didn't make an effort to change the culture around the activity. The net result: nothing changed.

My colleagues aren't insensitive or unintelligent. Once shown how to set up the equipment, they have no problems or complaints when prepping their own AV when I can't be (or don't want to be) available. The real reason that not every individual in my office is self-sufficient on this issue is that the process is unclear and capricious. That's the issue my help desk needs to be treating.

An aside: For those of you thinking that I should grow a spine, I'm not enough of a hard case to say "no" when someone needs set up help at the last minute. As the sole support provider, I can't afford to alienate people that way. It may not be the best way to work, but it's mine.