Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Who supports the support staff?

I’m sure you’ve all seen those witty “support” calls that wend their way around the net. The one where the punch line is either, “What do you mean it’s too dark to see if the cord’s plugged in?” And the answer is, “Our lights are out”. Or the one where the support person is talking “computer-ez” and it follows the Abbot and Costello routine about Windows, Offices and Word.

I wish I could say, “Yep, that’s what my life is like. Dealing with one stupid person after another that makes me feel superior because I understand so much.”

In reality there are 6 types of clients:

Those smarter than me – I look forward to these calls because I get to learn something

Those who want the program to function at its highest level – I enjoy meeting the challenges they present

Those needing to learn how to use a new/never used portion of the program

Those who have limited ability

Those who aren’t capable of doing the job

Those who have no desire to learn how to do their job – so basically the support staff does their work for them every day.

It’s the clients in the last two categories that wear me out. It’s also these clients that present some of the funniest (in retrospect) calls.

Here's one that comes to mind.

What language are you speaking?

When I worked in Arizona as a commodities broker I ended up speaking with the staff at many of my customer’s offices. Over time it became known that I could solve most software issues with a particular program. Frequently I’d be called to render support instead of the client calling the actual software company.

One day a fellow broker called me and asked if I could talk to his client in Texas. It seems she’d been sending him the same 30 bale lot of cotton for the last 6 days. He was really interested in receiving the next 150 bales of cotton. (Go figure) Because this guy was a frequent Scotch drinking buddy of mine I agreed to help him out.

In the course of speaking to the “Texas Lady” I asked her to do a simple command. “At this point do, “CTRL, Down Arrow”.

One of Moi’s rules is you never move beyond a step until you hear a positive affirmation. “Yep”, “Okay”, Uh-huh”, or “Next?”. Something that lets me know they’re ready for the next step. Up to this point, it had been painful clear this Texas Lady didn’t have a very good grasp of the program or basic computer functions. But we’d been making progress. However, there was no acknowledging sound from the user after I asked her to press “CTRL, Down Arrow”.

Moi: Did you do that?

TL: silence

Moi: Uh, Did you do that? Do you see the recap?

TL: No I just see the print/preview/file prompt.

Moi: You don't see the recap number we're looking for?

TL: Nope

Moi: Okay let's try this setup again, let's go back to the main menu and start over.

We went thru this scenario 3 times. Finally the Texas Lady says, "Ma'am, I'm just not getting what you're telling me to do."

Moi: "No kidding", under my breath.

Moi: Where are you getting stuck?

TL: I keep staring at my keyboard, but I just don't understand what you're telling me.

Moi: What are you looking for on the keyboard?

TL: Those keys you keep telling me to mash.

Moi: "Mash"? I don't want you to "mash anything". What do you mean "mash"?

TL: That key you keep talking about.

Moi: Oh, the "Control" key is down by the space bar. It says C-T-R-L on it.

TL: I know that one, it's the other one I can't find.

Moi: The other one? You mean the "Down Arrow" key?

TL: Yeah, that one. You know this is an English keyboard, right?

Moi: An "English" keyboard? What do you mean by that?

TL: Well, there's no "Denaro" key here, and the Dollar sign isn't doing anything!

Moi: Dollar sign, why are you pushing on the dollar sign?

TL: I told you, it's an "English" keyboard, I don't see a "Denaro" sign anywhere.

Moi: No, No, I'm not saying "Denaro", like Mexican money, I'm saying "Down Arrow".

TL: silent

Moi: Do you see it? The Down Arrow key?

TL: Ma'am?

Moi: Yes?

TL: I don't understand what you're saying.

Moi: (very slowly, enunciating clearly) Down arrow. You know like, “Left arrow”, “Right arrow”, “Up Arrow”, “Down Arrow”?

TL: I still don't understand what you're saying.

Moi: What don't you understand? Up, Down, Left, Right?

TL: No, that second word. I don't know what you're saying.

Moi: Arrow? You know those things that point in different directions?

TL: Ma'am?

Moi: A bow and "arrow"? You know A-R-R-O-W?

TL: Oh, "era" why didn't you say that in the first place? I know what an "era" is! You sure talk funny, don't you?

Moi: (Between gritted teeth), Noooo, I sound just like the people on TV, thank you very much.

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