back to article IT support bod? Whatever you earn, it's not enough

It might amuse you to read that one of the senior IT support managers at one of my client workplaces confessed this week that his experience of IT support 'from the other side' was disappointing. By 'from the other side', of course, I mean as a user: my colleague is not a spectral secret shopper from beyond the grave. Laurel …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have to remind myself everyday "I am PAID SPECIFLY NOT TO BE DICK"

    1. Phil W

      Are you sure?

      Are you sure that's what you're paid for? check your job spec.

      Mine has things like "maintain relations with departments and external suppliers", it doesn't specify how I should maintain them or whether they should be good relations.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You'll go far, it's amazing how many people don't bother yet still wonder when their promotion off the helpdesk/2nd line is...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too true

    As an IT Support person, not only are you expect to know a user's login for them but also know every nuance of every piece of software the user is using, despite the fact that they have had the training on it and you haven't. Not to mention being able to give a sensible answer about what the codes on a blue-screen mean, how the coffee machine works, what to do with their home PC, the justification behind every design choice made by Microsoft/Apple etc, have a cupboard full of spare equipment just in case someone does something stupid etc etc.

    IT Support is underpaid and under appreciated by most organisations who will willingly hand over huge sums to sales people simply for order processing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too true

      I'm a developer and work in house. When it's just the development team around, we still get asked questions about all the IT support side of things, changing passwords, obscure questions about blackberrys and what not. I have fortunately now got a desk where I can slouch down so far you can't actually see if I am at my desk or not, apparently the "I don't have the access to do that, but..." doesn't filter into the average users brain. Yes, it's got so bad that basically I now hide.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Too true

        I'm also a dev. Working in an big-ish IT company it's understood that there's proper people (read: we've outsourced our IT support to some incompetent arseholes because it's cheaper) to hound over IT problems. The one that does my tits in is if you're in a pub and someone asks you what you do, which usually results in a 20 minute conversation involving some half-cut arsehole quizzing you on some banal computer problem with badly paraphrased error messages.

        I've started lying about my profession.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Too true

          Mmm I wonder if saying I was a bra installation technician would get similar requests for assistance

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Too true

            > bra installation technician

            Far too many men now need to wear a bra to risk this approach

        2. I think so I am?

          Re: Too true

          "I've started lying about my profession"

          When I tell people I work in IT security they think I'm a security guard who watches CCTV and has a florescent yellow coat. Having to explain that I'm not a security guard and I do data governance, risk, control and threat mitigation is a long and strenuous conversation that normally end with "Ah, that sounds interesting"

          It’s got to the point now that when asked I just say "I work with computers" but as soon as you say that you get the never ending friends of family and Joe from the hair dressers asking will you have a look at my PC, Laptop, WIFI router, mobile..........

          IT has to be the only professions where people think you can help them out for free!

          You wouldn't ask your builder friend to build you a wall for free or your sister's accountant husband to do your books for free. It just royally pisses me off to the point that all I say now is “You do know my daily rate is £500, right?"

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Too true

            It's not just IT. Back in the days when I did hardware design, I used to fix all sorts of stuff for people. TVs, VCRs, toasters, you name it.

            When I moaned about it, my boss at the time said he used to tell people he was a mathematician, on account of the fact that no one at a party ever had any tricky differential equations that needed solving. Worked a treat for him.

          2. John Brookes

            Re: Too true

            It isn't.

            I know doctors, lawyers, builders, etc. and they all report the same.

            Working in a certain profession means that you *will* (or, at least, *should*) know more than the general milieu about the subject. The problem is that most people (in whatever profession, or none) underestimate the diversity and complexity of other people's professions. People ask eg criminal lawyers for advice about their ongoing dispute with their neighbour over property boundaries (it happened to a friend: he told him to punch his neighbour in the face. "How will that help?" "It won't, but then I'll be able to tell you how you stand legally.")

            There's even a joke about it:

            A doctor and a lawyer are at a party. The doctor asks the lawyer, "People are always bothering me with questions about their health; should I bill them?"

            "Absolutely!" replies the lawyer, "They're asking you for services, based on years of training and your standing as a medical professional. Of course they should be prepared to pay for your insight!"

            Two days later, the doctor received an invoice from the lawyer.

          3. AdamWill

            Re: Too true

            "You wouldn't ask your builder friend to build you a wall for free or your sister's accountant husband to do your books for free. It just royally pisses me off to the point that all I say now is “You do know my daily rate is £500, right?""

            Um, people do that _all the time_. I keep my sister-in-law's computers more or less working for free, she does my glasses for free. It's the barter system, it's only several fecking millennia old.

            If anything I'm amazed how many 'IT people' think their skills are something rare and special that should on no account be gifted or traded to friends or family. I repeat, contrary to the above bizarre assertion, all sorts of people do this all the time.

          4. Tony Green

            Re: Too true

            This is one of many advantages of being a Linux/Unix specialist. 99% of these situations give me an easy "sorry, I don't know anything about Windows" out. And a bloody good reason never to learn anything about Windows!

          5. Ian Case

            Re: Too true

            "I've started lying about my profession"

            When I tell people I work in IT security they think I'm a security guard who watches CCTV and has a florescent yellow coat. Having to explain that I'm not a security guard and I do data governance, risk, control and threat mitigation is a long and strenuous conversation that normally end with "Ah, that sounds interesting"

            Sounds familiar. I was registering as 'looking for work' one time and actually got asked whether I had my own dog!

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Too true

          You could try using my response, 'You're asking me for a consultation then ? You do understand that it's £60 per hour, payable upfront ?'

      2. Doug Glass

        Re: Too true

        Yeah, yeah. We're all overworked and underfucked ... get over it. If you don't like what your paid to do then get a different job. If you're going to take their money then keep your mouth shut.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Too true

          "Yeah, yeah. We're all overworked and underfucked ... get over it. If you don't like what your paid to do then get a different job. If you're going to take their money then keep your mouth shut."

          Is that a thumb print on your forehead Doug?

        2. Marshalltown

          Re: Too true

          >Yeah, yeah. We're all overworked and underfucked ... get over it. If you don't like what your paid to do then get a >different job. If you're going to take their money then keep your mouth shut.

          I did. It didn't help. There are no jobs that do not have "clients" or "users" or [insert word with same meaning] and they all persistently refuse to know even a modicum of what they should know given their jobs and educational level, or even apply what they putatively learned in order to graduate.

    2. John Sanders

      Re: Too true

      I want to cry reading this, it is all true.

      Credit where credit is due:

      Management may be the brains of the company, but IT is the blood circulation system of most companies today, and for some reason all of those MBA's keep thinking of IT like if it was the janitors or the electricians, people who should be outsourced and shouldn't be in the office.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Too true

      You want to do what in a Word document? See that lady over there, yes I know she's a typist and gets paid half of what I do, but she uses Word all day and every day, and can do wizard things withit.

      Is that possible in Excel? I don't know, but that person over there in the accounts department can do stuff in Excel I never dreamed of, and if it can be done, she'll know how.

      My database server isn't feeding your Excel spreadsheet the right numbers? Are you sure? You are? I'm your man: have a seat and tell me all about it!

      1. David Schmidt
        Thumb Up

        Re: Too true

        Excellent application of delegation!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    After 40+ years in computing I can only agree with you. Customer Support (Helpdesk?, call it whatever you want) can be hell at times and is surely appreciated nowhere near as much as it should be. Glad I'm out of it now.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm not first line support, so the real mundane stuff is never meant to get to me. But if I get the filtered, important stuff, I feel really sorry for the person dealing with the rest.

    This is also related to the general consensus that computers should magically do all the work. Making someone's job easier is no longer an option, it's all or nothing :(

  5. mark 63 Silver badge

    had this one yesterday

    Please make this website avalable to all users

    whats the URL?

    whats a URL?

    The internet address

    the what?

    the www thing

    I dont know

    <bangs head on desk>

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: had this one yesterday

      I did first line years ago. I once got a really shouty email from an (office-based) manager about some printer not working on an oil rig for over a fortnight and it being completely unacceptable in taking so much time etc.

      Had it been previously reported? had it bollocks. Was he even at the site for me to help him? was he bollocks. Had it already been sorted by someone on the rig with capable of rubbing their braincells together? course it had.

    2. Arrrggghh-otron

      Re: had this one yesterday

      I occasionally get asked if I can install web apps on users computers...

      No amount of explaining that they are web sites that live on the internet, and if they can't remember the web addresses (which is usually the name of the thing they want access to) then the shortcuts will be in their favourites (thanks to the magic of group policy*), will stop them coming back next time.

      I envy those of you who have demarcation in your jobs (i.e. 1st line, 3rd line, architect etc). I am the sole in-house** IT guy for a medium sized enterprise and small business and I carry the can for all of it.

      *I don't really mention group policy to users. That would be pointless.

      **A rarity these days it would seem.

      1. DavidRa

        Re: had this one yesterday

        The magic is in learning how to answer, not what the answer is. Users do not listen to explanations, because the computer is smart and should just know that they mean "go to" when they randomly mash the keyboard with their fists.

        In your case, the appropriate answer is that the application is already installed on all computers in the company, and the shortcut is under Favourites. If you wanted to get even more fancy about it, get something like WiX and create a little MSI that creates shortcuts to the web sites under Programs, and users won't even know the difference.

        But the answer to "Please install web application X" for your users should always be "It's already installed", which solves the problem and makes you look like a genius for anticipating their problem.

      2. bristolmoose

        Re: had this one yesterday

        Demarcation isn't all it's cracked up to be.

        Luckily I now work like you so I can follow a call from start to conclusion.

        With demarcation you get the following problems.

        User gets some crappy error in Excel when pressing a button. You investigate and discover the button runs some in house macro written by some long dead employee, you spend half an hour picking apart said macro and discover that it needs access to a file, which is on x server or y folder which further investigation reveals user hasn't got permission to access. At this point you have to pass the call on to either the server or security team to add the permission, and after ticking a box, they check with the user, they close the call and another stat is added to their monthly figures, Yay! Go Server Team!


        After scrabbling around on the floor, amongst the cobwebs and toenail clippings, you discover that nothing is wrong with the user's PC, network cable or floorport, so you pass it to the Network team who pop the cable back into the switch where it had fallen out because the silly little clip on the plug had been broken. Call closed, Yay! Go Network Team.

        Meanwhile you get a b0ll0cking for not closing any calls!

      3. Peter Mc Aulay

        Installing web apps on users' computers

        Not helped by the advent of the iPad, which requires you to do exactly that if you want it to work properly (ok, technically you install an app rather than a web site, but still).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: had this one yesterday

      If we're coming out with some classic Support stories how about this one...

      Hi, I would like to know why the marketing emails we are sending out are getting caught up in spam filters. We could be missing out on business here!"

      Let me see....why is his spam emails getting caught in spam filters....and why is it my fault....

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank you again, Alastair

    I will now award you the highest honour I bestow on any journalist - I will set up an alarm for your posts.

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Thank you again, Alastair

      Trying to work out if this is flattery or an insult, or possibly some kind of reflexive irony.

  7. Paul Naylor
    Thumb Up

    Got out of support a long time ago

    So I do feel for tech support guys and, if I ever have a problem, I try to be nice to be nice.

    I'm in design and development now but share an office with our IT manager (it's only a small company and so he's the one and only IT guy). However, because I use computers for more than just banging in numbers and printing stuff out, I'm also expected to answer IT problems whenever I pick up our IT guy's phone and know instantly what the problem is. As I'm not really qualified to answer IT-related support questions I generally just ask them to call back, and usually get a bit of attitude in response.

    Best internal support call I got was "Is there a problem with the network? My keyboard has stopped working!" She had kicked it out the back of the PC. Yes flower, we plug all keyboards into the company server now...

  8. mark 63 Silver badge

    helpdesk staff

    I'm sure many 1st line staff are great, and do a wonderful job,

    and i know this article is a bitch about users but check this out for an example of how incredibly little work my 1st line does before passing 99% of jobs on to us 2nd and up

    Job comes in - "User x cant load a file"

    no other details

    me to helpdesk " Could you find out the name and location of the file?"

    helpdesk " not my job "


    when a customer rings the RAC and the dispatcher informs the van man .... DOES HE HAVE TO GUESS WHERE THE FUCKING BREAKDOWN IS????

    I could literally write a vb script that could do that guys job better than him.

    1. geekclick

      Re: helpdesk staff

      That is a specific 1st Line function, anyone not doing that should be marched, anyone who doesnt think to ask that should be sacked on the spot, ridiculed and subjected to a stoning in the office carpark.

      Thing is its hardly surprising he has a cob on when you are stuck dealing with things such as this on a daily basis:

      User: "My PC wont come back on when i wriggle the mouse"

      IT "Is the Screen on?"

      User: "Yes the light flashing"

      IT "Ok is the PC on?"

      User "Yes"

      IT "Are you sure?"

      User "Yes i never shut it down"

      IT *through gritted teeth* "Ok well humour me and check"

      Line goes dead...............


    2. chr0m4t1c

      Re: helpdesk staff

      Does your helpdesk do what ours does on a regular basis and get no contact details whatsoever for the person logging the call? That's always useful.

      Mind you, I'd like to soundly thump whoever made the design decision to allow a call to be raised with no contact details in it in the first place...

      1. geekclick

        Re: helpdesk staff

        See thats the other thing, our Helpdesk system is tied to AD so that when the user calls the Analyst takes their name and it auto populates; Email, Mobile, Desk Phone and PA if appropriate into the ticket along with all the asset numbers for equipment they have been issued. This should be basic stuff for a hell desk system yet no one seems to bother!

        Having served time on helldesks and further up the chain the issue is generally the "gamification" (what a shit word) competing with an Us vs Them approach. No one whats to work as cohesive unit learning off the other etc.. Internal IT politics can be blamed for this but generally because the managers employed to run these teams couldnt know Command Prompt from Powershell! The reason the non techies are running a techie department? Generally the beancounters who dont want to pay for someone who knows what they are doing or other management types setting up job for their management type mates!

    3. Stoneshop

      Re: helpdesk staff

      @Mark 63:

      I encountered a few of those over the years. By far the worst of that lot I described to my teamlead as "trying to use my brain to do her thinking", and mere hours after that she walked the plankwas walked out the door

      1. DF118

        Re: helpdesk staff

        Our first line contractor changes so frequently that I find myself guiding them through our call-logging process.

        "ok is that everything, is there anything else I can help you with?"

        "hang on, we're not done yet. You might want to take a note of..."

    4. Helldesk Dogsbody

      Re: helpdesk staff

      It might be worth you bouncing the ticket back with a request for details specifying what and where the issue is with screen shots where applicable. Rinse and repeat until they get the message or provide you with enough evidence to back you up when you point out to your head of department that they aren't pulling their weight and/or highlighting a training issue as it may be that they simply don't know what's required. The focus is generally put too much on customer service training rather than technical know how or analysis when they're hired (it certainly was where I work) and some people just seem to be incapable of learning that there's a bit more to diagnosing a fault than simply noting down what the user says (we've had two of those, got rid of both of them as they simply weren't suitable for the job). Fortunately this is not the case for most. Some may never progress beyond analyst but they can improve on that score (I thought I'd have to beat this into a colleague with a 14 lb sledge hammer at one point, they started learning before physical "encouragement" became necessary).

      I was probably as bad when I first started out until people took the time to explain to me what they needed to know to stand a chance. I still receive the same sorts of calls from users as I did originally stating "x is broken" but know enough to go back and explain (using small, simple words) that without defining "broken" a touch more precisely citing specific examples and providing screen shots then the odds of it being resolved (or me actually giving a shit) are slender to non-existent.

      If you help and teach the ones worth saving you'll be amazed at how much crap will get stopped without you even seeing it. It's also worth letting them know when you've got a drop everything priority ongoing as they'll field those calls for you rather than pass them down the line. A good 1st line team will back you up and help decrease your blood pressure rather than raising it, they'll get the "who, what, when, where?" so you can concentrate on the "how and why?", they may just need some pointers in the right direction.

      Beer 'cos it sounds like you both need and deserve one!

    5. TheTallGuy

      Re: helpdesk staff

      Working for a company with 150,000 employees, got a support ticket at my 3rd line job, "User has requested an application and it hasn't arrived." OK no user name, no machine ID, phone number, country, department, application name or whether it was a standard application, needs to be ordered, installed over the network or by actual visit, yet, it went through 1st and 2nd line without a neuron flickering somewhere along the line.

      Having said that 1st line really do have to deal with some real muppets and 2nd line spend all their time deflecting the crud the article talks about and I salute most of them.

      Beer cos it's driving me even more to drink.

  9. Anonymous Coward 101

    Can we have another article...

    ...this time about the stupid fucking bullshit IT sometimes subjects their colleagues to?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Can we have another article...

      Especially developer colleagues. You make me spend time getting round your silly policies. It's what we do.

      1. John Sanders

        Re: Can we have another article...

        In my support experience Developers are the worst.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Can we have another article...

          "In my support experience Developers are the worst."

          Yes. They know just enough to think they know something. My favorite recent interaction with a "senior developer" was explaining in excruciatingly basic detail how Unix filesystem permissions worked and why they were not the same as Windows file permissions. This, mind you, was after he explained that he was *more* familiar with Unix permissions!

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Can we have another article...

      Well, I write about precisely this every week already. I simply gave it a rest this week.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank goodness - some insight to our job and frustrations from the other side of the desk. And yes - I do NOT get paid to handle abuse, and shouldn't have to because the user is being a starfish.

    I believe that a LOT of issues can be solved if we have a rotation of users to assist IT only ONE week - doing the BASIC stuff that I expect anybody should have to use their primary business tool - that computer thing on their desks. I will decide what I want them to help the other users with - things like unplugged cables etc - nothing technical, just the basic stuff that anybody with half a braincell will do for any other gadget they have at home. I won't leave anything TECHNICAL for them to do, just a few basics. And let them see how we get treated.

    In the 21st Century, that computer is your Primary Business Tool. Learn to use it. I don't expect you to fix it, just know how to use it properly. Imagine a golfer that doesn't know how to use his putter. Or an accountant who cannot read a balance sheet. Or a truck driver who cannot drive his truck. Or a DJ not knowing how to use his mixing station. Or a surgeon that doesn't know how to use that set of scalpels. Etc, etc, etc. Why is there a DIFFERENT set of rules for your computer? If I take that away, you can't do your work. Learn to USE it and all the basics around it, like what a logon is, and how to save something, and how to NOW and then actually READ the messages that pop-up - don't blame ME for your computer restarting when YOU didn't read the box asking you if you were sure you wanted to do it, and lose all unsaved data.... Using computers is for everybody, FIXING it is for geeks. If you are still of the school who thinks to be able to use that wizard box properly is a geeks job, go back to your cave.

    I can carry on for a week about this. I am also not a basic 1st line techie. I am an IT Consultant with more than 20 yrs experience. And IT personnel in general do NOT get paid what they are worth to the company, nevermind having to take the abuse...

  11. kyza

    It doesn't matter how easy you try and make things for them either...

    About 18 months the support team I work for ran a massive user consultation process involving HR-mandated surveys, an IT skills test and a load of workshops based around the idea of how we could make things easier for the users, both in terms of improved training & awareness (basic stuff like 'If your keyboard doesn't work, here's how to look behind your PC and see if it's still plugged in') as well as accessing the servcedesk itself.

    The main thing that came out was users were unsure where to go to get their queries answered by the most appropriate servicedesk staff. To this end we changed the telemessages & call options to three main issues - 'windows login error, hardware such as your PC or printer' and 'software, such as excel or clinical software', with sub-choices within those (e.g. select '3 for software, then 1 for Excel, Word and 2 for Emis Web, RiO or other clinical software'.

    So this went in, was approved by the usergroup steering committee, and now we get complaints that 'it's too complex, I don't know what piece of software I'm having a problem with.' or 'I don't know which login I've got the problem with.'

    We don't, however, tend to get unplugged keyboard calls anymore, so at least that bit worked.

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: It doesn't matter how easy you try and make things for them either...

      "The main thing that came out was users were unsure where to go to get their queries answered by the most appropriate servicedesk staff. To this end we changed the telemessages & call options to three main issues - 'windows login error, hardware such as your PC or printer' and 'software, such as excel or clinical software', with sub-choices within those (e.g. select '3 for software, then 1 for Excel, Word and 2 for Emis Web, RiO or other clinical software'."

      This was an obvious fail.

      Have you never been in a situation yourself where you just don't know what is wrong with something, all you know is "the stupid thing is playing silly buggers"? Or you know what the problem is but there is nothing in the menu system to deal with it? Good customer support deals with these eventualities in a sensible manner. I'm afraid you were subjecting a large number of people in your organisation to a shitty multi-tiered menu system that caused frustration and wasted time.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In my humble experience...

    ...1st line are a lot of the problem. I've worked in 2nd and 1st line (neither anymore) and I was humble and conscientious as a 1st line guy. I was in the minority. In 2nd level I can't count the number of times users would aquire my name and direct number / email address / physical location and bitch at me about 1st line. Irony is they were probably crap because they were bitter about being stuck in 1st line.

    Single point of contact? Ownership? More like single point of faliure. Anyway, that's my experience. Am I alone? Unlikely.

    Anything positive to say, hm? I came across some really good 2nd line people.

    1. Tony Green

      Re: In my humble experience...

      Very true. I have horrible memories of when I had a BT Internet dialup account with a website as part of the deal. Uploading files by FTP, I'd see 10% of them fail with error messages identifying the IP address where the problem was occurring and showing clearly that it was in the BT network. (I worked for BT myself at the time). But it was obvious from the start that the 1st line people were mainly interested in rejecting as many faults as they could - as soon as they found out I was working from a Linux machine, the response was "We don't support Linux". Then when I showed the same problem from a (work) Windows laptop, "Oh, there was a transient problem on the network".

      1st line have a lot of crap to put up with, but when they try to bullshit someone who actually knows more than they do, they don't make any friends.

      1. TheTallGuy

        Re: In my humble experience...

        So you drank in the Fat Cat, cycled a lot and promoted Linux all the time (Mandrake).

        It was terrible/unusable by the way but this was 2001 - couldn't cope with the bog standard VGA and locked up hard if I tried to log on as root, but other than that it was perfect Tony.

        Is the Cat still any good been away for a few years?

    2. Captain Save-a-ho

      Re: In my humble experience...

      AC, the root of the problem is that too many people in IT think that the most important aspect of the job is knowing lots of cool, secret techie things so they can move up from Tier1 as quickly as possible. IMHO, the number one aspect should be customer service, because that's the purpose of the job. I actually worked at Walmart for a year as a 20-something before I got my first IT job and the lessons I learned there about how to deal with customers still serve me well on a daily basis, 16 years later.

      Being a front-line IT guy sucks ass, but you have to start at the bottom and demonstrate you're worth a damn first. If you take care of your customers, you'll have opportunities to move up. There's no doubt in my mind that those who remain in Tier1 for a long time deserve everything they're getting, though they're customers clearly don't deserve such poor service. Some of my clients now require Tier1 engineers to be promoted within 2 years, so they get sacked. Boffo, in my book!

  13. Anonymous Coward

    At least you weren't asked to write up a ticket for each of these shoulder taps.

    The IT management at my current site are obsessed with ticket numbers, the higher the better. No attempt to weigh them for time/ difficulty has been made either, so a cherry like an unplugged peripheral is valued as much as recovering user data from a failed W7 laptop.

    In theory it should balance out but some folk always seem to end up with the Sybase re-installs at 6PM on a Friday and they never seem to to be the permies....

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: No, wait, really...let me stop laughing.

      Correct, I was not IT support. Just like I wrote in the article, in fact.

    2. Miek

      Re: No, wait, really...let me stop laughing.

      "You'd last twenty seconds on a Helldesk where you have to know any and all applications, hardware, firmware, licensing agreements, MFDs, mobile devices, operating systems, preferred type of bread for sandwiches and how to perform carpentry to stand ANY chance of success."

      Chance of ANY successful Help Desks? 1:100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000 and falling

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No, wait, really...let me stop laughing.

      >"being an expert in Adobe?

      That's only one application, mate"

      Really? And here was me thinking that Adobe was a company who made a range of applications, assets and plug-ins.

    4. Helldesk Dogsbody

      Re: No, wait, really...let me stop laughing.

      With that attitude you'd probably last about 30 seconds in a proper Help Desk/Service Desk environment before getting fired as well as helping to perpetrate the myth that all 1st line support are jobsworths, megalomaniacs and/or script monkeys.

      You don't have to know the specifics of any particular system, just the generalities and commonly reported issues with simple fixes that can be done by the user as well as what sort of degree of detail is required to diagnose the issue. If you choose to learn more then that's up to you but you aren't expected to be an expert on every system - that would be the job of technicians and engineers who get paid more than we do for that reason. If something's out of your scope or ability it's better to say so and escalate the call or refer them to the correct person than to be a dick about it.

      You're the cut out between users and 2nd line to make sure that they have enough information to start working on a fix rather than having to go back and forwards to get it. You're also effectively the public persona of the IT department as a whole and what you say or do reflects on everyone else, in either a good or bad way.

      People who do actually know the applications inside and out are resources to be valued, whatever part of the company they happen to be in. I have an unofficial agreement with several that if I can direct application related questions their way then I'll "expedite" matters should they have an issue that falls in my area. It seems to work well for all concerned.

      I'm not saying that there isn't the odd starfish in the company that I'd be glad to educate using applied high voltage but they're surprisingly few.

  15. Phoenix50
    Thumb Up

    My Two Rules

    1. If it runs on electricity, it's IT's responsiblity to maintain and fix - this applies to toasters in the Kitchen, light fittings and Air-conditioning (a personal favourite).

    2. When IT goes wrong; it's the worst thing in the world and YOU are to blame. When IT goes one is sure you've done any work at all.

    1. Miek

      Re: My Two Rules

      If you don't want to fix something, try one of these two approaches:

      1. Claim that it might take a while to fix as you are quite busy at the moment and give them a rough estimate of a month.

      2. Suggest that you have no idea what's wrong with it and that it should be replaced.

      You could also get creative and mix it up by starting with 1. and then progress to 2.

  16. haloburn

    I worked in support in a Newspaper two classics will stay with me forever. First there was the old dear that would write a daily poem for the Obits page who called complaining that “she would be typing aND LOOK UP TO FIND EVERYTHING IN CAPS HALFWAY THROUGH A SENTENCE”. Anyway sever visits by my colleagues and two replacement keyboards later the call got passed to me. After five minutes watching I notices that her extremely long pinky finger nail was hitting the caps lock on the way past, when I told her she said (no word of a lie) “Is there anything you can do to fix that?”

    Second was the late night call from an irate journalist screaming down the phone about missing stories that were urgently needed for the next day’s edition. When I got to the desk he was at I noticed a monitor unplugged and sitting on the floor next to the desk. When I asked why the monitor was on the floor I got a rant about the files being on that screen when it was over there (over there being another desk now minus a monitor).

    1. kyza

      Ah yes, the physical location failure. Always a good one.

      'I've moved PCs and now it won't let me log on to it, but I can do it at the one next to me.'

      'Have you got your CAPSLOCK key on?'

      'What's that?'

      'See the little green lights above the F12 key? Is the middle one glowing.'

      'Where's F12?'

      and so on

    2. Anonymous Coward 101

      "After five minutes watching I notices that her extremely long pinky finger nail was hitting the caps lock on the way past, when I told her she said (no word of a lie) “Is there anything you can do to fix that?”

      You could have ripped the caps lock key off the keyboard?

      1. Irongut

        I'd have produced a large pair of scissors but it wouldn't be the caps lock key I'd be applying them to.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        When I was on first line the amount of people (including my other half) that use the caps lock instead of the shift key always amazed me.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I was thinking that.

        Screwdriver to the caps lock key

        And whoever said

        " 'See the little green lights above the F12 key? Is the middle one glowing.' "

        When I press CAPS LOCK I get a little green light above the * on the numpad....

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Screwdriver to CapsLock

          I've done it to the [Insert] key on a PC that was only used for generating and printing shipping labels, before sellotaping it to the top of the keyboard, in case anyone should ever decide they wanted it.

          For a key that is not used as often as the [Shift] key, [CapsLock] is rather big. If I designed a keyboard, I would place Caps-Lock where its indicator light normally lives- to the right of [F12].

    3. keithpeter Silver badge

      “Is there anything you can do to fix that?”

      Remap CapsLock to Delete?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Caps lock sucks

      Seriously, how often would anyone miss the caps lock key? Serves virtually no useful function except for Trolls who like to write in all caps. Should be banished from all keyboards...

    5. AdamWill

      "After five minutes watching I notices that her extremely long pinky finger nail was hitting the caps lock on the way past, when I told her she said (no word of a lie) “Is there anything you can do to fix that?”"

      Playing devil's advocate: what's wrong with that, from a certain perspective? You gave her a tool to do something. It doesn't really work perfectly for her. It's got this booby trap on it: a button that does something dumb she never wants to do, which is placed very close to all these other buttons that do things she wants to do a lot. Isn't that a design flaw? Why wouldn't there be something you could do about it? If your car had a pedal directly between the gas and the brake which caused all the wheels to fall off, would you reckon that was your problem, or complain to the person responsible for the car?

      There probably was something you could do for her: lever the caps lock keycap off, or re-assign the key somehow.

  17. Big_Ted

    Oh dear

    I work on maintaining data on a system and due to the way the company is set up report to a manager in assets who report to the same director as IT.

    Obviously then I am in IT and can be approached with all sorts of problems.

    I have learned the trick though, I can't even begin to have an idea on how to fix your laptop, desktop, monitor or whatever unless you bring it to me, oh and I am not allowed to fix any company kit as that is the instruction I have had as it can't be logged on the system.

    Now I just get the odd person struggle in with a desktop or whatever asking me to take a look, as I have the kit there it usually take a couple of minutes to work out what is wrong, more than half the time its some bad code gotten on so I show them how to roll back to a previous version and never see them again.

    Now if I could only do the same with family, a visit to my sister means carrying manuals, a toolkit, various spare cables and adaptors plus copious amounts of calm pills.......

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Oh dear

      "Now if I could only do the same with family, a visit to my sister means carrying manuals, a toolkit, various spare cables and adaptors plus copious amounts of calm pills......."


      I'm serious. As an end user at work, I often log in on a thin client with Citrix. The clients get hammered. Techies just replace the bits that drop off. Boots fine. I'm into the idea for most average pc use.

  18. Doug Glass

    "We, the willing, ...

    ... led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”

    ― Mother Teresa

    But it does take time.

    1. Havin_it

      Re: "We, the willing, ...

      "[It is] the most beautiful gift for a person that he can participate in the sufferings of Christ."

      --Also Mother Teresa. Seems equally germane to the topic of discussion.

  19. Lone Gunman

    Won't somebody think of the users ?

    I dread calling our helldesk and will only do so if the problem is urgent (otherwise I use the chat function on our intranet). We do have some very good 1st line people, the problem is finding them. They rest can't cope with a user that has at least half a clue what the issue is and are determined to stick to the script to the point of insanity. A lot of them don't listen to what the user is telling them either which isn't great for diagnosis and fault fixing.

    Oh and AC 11:19 yes I do expect IT to keep spares of some things - you know power supplies, mice, keyboards, headsets and not make me go through hoops to get them. If I'm asking for one it normally means that someone has nicked the basic setup off a hotdesk and I have user that needs it.

    1. teapot9999

      Re: Won't somebody think of the users ?

      Spares - that depends how your company works. In mine the user's cost centre owns their equipment - if they want another mouse then go buy one, IT does not have budget to your their needs.

    2. Miek

      Re: Won't somebody think of the users ?

      @Lone Gunman

      Are you going to pay for the spares to sit and rot on a shelf or do we get footed with that bill? Will that be on our shelf or yours?

    3. Helldesk Dogsbody
      Thumb Up

      Re: Won't somebody think of the users ?

      That would be why we ditched scripts other than announcing ourselves and asking who we're speaking to. Everything after that is ad libbed and depends on the circumstances. Those that report issues clearly and concisely are valued as it saves time for everyone involved and we try to understand which systems are most critical for them so we can focus on those appropriately.

      Where spares are concerned we keep all of those (except headsets as they're the responsibility of each department that uses them) and are quite happy to replace. Extras need a PO and it doesn't come out of our budget but once it's signed off we purchase and put them in ASAP.

      As far as our 1st line team goes, a couple of us have occasional lapses but in general it always starts pleasantly and stays that way for those who provide a clear, concise descriptions of what the issue is. The middle manglement that simply WILL NOT pass on the information required, despite the fact that the end user is providing the details in every instance, are the ones we reserve the scorn for. Oh, and those that have this strange idea that all issues can be resolved instantly if they shout loud enough (particularly when they caused it in the first place) - the depths of hel are too good for that sort! We can't simply wave a magic wand to fix things and if we could it almost certainly wouldn't be used to resolve user errors...

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "one of the senior IT support managers at one of my client workplaces confessed this week that his experience of IT support 'from the other side' was disappointing"

    I provde support AND I'm a customer of the support service. Not rocket science.

  21. John Sanders

    Last week

    I was told by one of the account managers in my company (ISP):

    The customer is not technical, and his developer is not technical either.

    My response was: We shoot non-technical developers in the head on sight.

    1. YouStupidBoy

      Re: Last week

      We have a client like that.

      Our sysadmin/developer is the most laid back guy I've ever known. Seriously, he'd make Bob Marley appear rather high-strung. Or rather, was, until this week when he had to spend most of his time working with his counterpart at one of our newer clients to setup and test a webservice that exchanges information between our two systems.

      Something that he's done a dozen times before with various customers and has taken a couple of hours and an exchange of a half dozen emails each time.

      We're still not entirely sure what happened, as he starts rocking back and forth in his chair when asked about it, but after two days worth of email exchanges and 4 hours in the conference room watching her bumble about on her terminal via go2mypc, there came this banshee wail and the sound of something breaking. I'd hazard a guess it was his spirit, but the broken glass suggests otherwise.

      It took four of our wallets to calm him down somewhat at the local bar afterwards. Perhaps the biggest clue should have been the email from their previous vendor when they switched to using our services with a subject line of "LOL" and no message body.

  22. ukgnome

    I actual work as a deskside technician

    And constantly have to be the middle man between lunacy and common sense.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You forgot to mention...

    ... when people call the helpdesk they develop selective deafness.

    No matter what the helpdesk say, the actual solution will be ignored, the ticket escalated, complaints will pile in and then a totally stressed engineer who has far better things to do with their time will be parachuted in to resolve the problem by doing the first thing that was suggested!

  24. Anonymous Coward

    Call Closure

    Computer User - Non Technical

    Says it all, 15 years in IT and wondering how the bloody hell I got here.

    Treat the other person like an idiot or just f'ing lazy (especially sales) and 99% of the time you'll be right.

    Seriously I get calls like, can I do X, can I do Y.

    Here's a radical idea, bear with me on this.


    If it says you do not have permission, then then no you don't. If it lets you. Then yes you do.

  25. Mad yakker

    This is so true.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is so true.....


      People know I work in IT. I currently work as a QA. The software I have dealt with is fairly specialised (isn't it all?) for the telecoms industry.

      Given this, people will still ask me "I have a <insert random make you've never heard of> laptop and it wont turn on" or "I keep seeing these messages but I just click ok, and then all these adverts are there. How do I make it go away?" without seeing the machine in question and any questions I ask to cold diagnose are met with no answer.

      Or the ones who ask silly questions about their facebook layout. I don't know. You set the layout and the apps. And I tend to avoid it or use the mobile site if a relative insists that they must add me.

      A bit like the person who tests that the electrics for a Quarry truck manufacturer, knows a bit about vehicle electrics but doesn't necessarily know why your Kia Rio is stalling (at least without seeing the thing) or why your car stereo keeps retuning itself.

  26. RandomRoy


    We get blamed for anything that fails too.

    I didn't break the bloody thing but I am here to fix it so unless you drop the attitude I'm going to walk away and leave it with you broken.


    These people are at our mercy.

  27. Combat Wombat

    I just tell women...

    I deal drugs to school children.

    I get a better reaction.

    Tell them you work in IT support, they either run away, or ask you to fix things.

    When I make the leap to Project management, I am just going to tell them.

    I solve problems, like Mr Wolf in Pulp Fiction.

  28. James Gosling

    Get back over that line...

    Take that shiny bit of paper Adobe gave you and back up buddy, right back over that line! You ain't qualified to answer questions on logins me old china, get back into the arty farty world of arty farty art and leave the much more complicated world of IT support behind you. You'll need a lot more shiny bits of paper before you'll be qualified for IT Support!

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: Get back over that line...

      Or, alternatively, try reading the whole article before you comment....

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Outsourced :D

    Except no smilie face, everyone still expects support from us but we lost our PFY's!!!


    Yeah I should stop moaning now have a nice weekend all.

  30. Frank Haney

    There was the woman who made a habit of calling me with obscure problems that I couldn't fix over the phone. "O.K. I'll come and see you" 30 seconds later I arrive at her desk and she's nowhere in sight. The first time I wasted about 10 minutes looking for her. The second time I left a message for her to call me when she got back. The third time I told her I'd be right there and stayed at my desk until she phoned again.

    Then there are the people who are too busy to show you what the problem is, they just want you to fix it as soon as you can but "don't get in my way".

    And a tip: if Windows is set to remember the last used userid some users don't bother to remember that their userid is (e.g.) their initial and their surname. If I had to use an administrator logon I used to make a note of the last userid and change it back in the registry before logging off. It saved a few stupid helpdesk calls.

  31. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    and remember folks

    if you end up in a small business somewhere infested by non-tech types, even if you're employed as a shelf stacker, never ever let on you know about any IT stuff.

    In that instant you will become the IT helldesk for the company and completely to blame when the boss cant find the power switch/his e.mail/ the network failure and the only way out is suicide...... or resigning.. or just pretending to be deaf.................. amongst the ways out are.......

    Me? I'm off down the pub

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IT Support is an art

    If the user is still employed/sane/alive at the end of the call, you're doing it wrong.


    Never answer a call with "Support desk".

    "Thai Silk Massage Parlour", "Salmonella's Deli" or "Funerals While-U-Wait" are all good alternatives.

    Also, a support call is a great chance to perfect your skills at mimicking colleagues' voices, so (obviously) never give your own name.


    User - My [PC; monitor; spreadsheet; whatever…] won't do [whatever…]

    You - Sounds like you need a new pucklefloober. We've got some on order from China. Be here in 6 weeks.


    User - My computer won't come on.

    You - You need to reset the power socket on the wall. Do you have a screwdriver or other metal object handy?


    User - I'm working from home and I can't get onto my WiFi

    You - Hmmm. Google Maps says there's a strong signal in the middle of the main road near your house


    User - I'm thinking of buying a [Mac, PC, whatever…]. What should I ask for?

    You - Get down to PC World quick. You won't see them on display so you'll need to ask an assistant for a Crisco Xtreme 80 with Uzbee and Fiery-Wiry


    User - The little green light on my keyboard is on.

    You - Now, please, whatever you do, stay calm. Are you near a fire extinguisher?

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I sort of work in IT support, I don't deal with normal users, I support the infrastructure that the techies use.

    For some strange reason, the experience is exactly the same... I get people, developers, coming to me saying "I can't connect to system X" you wouldn't believe the number of times I have to go back and say, no you wouldn't be able to, it's not running, try starting it. Or i get reports of file system errors that are a full disk. These are the people who write the code my company runs on, and they fall over the most basic things.

  34. stu 4
    Thumb Up

    your role as IT support

    Working in IT (albeit as an architect) I am 1st line support for family, friends, and friends of friends of family.

    It does annoy me that if I asked one of those folk who happened to be a joiner/electrician/etc to do summit for me, the best I could expect is a discount.

    And yet I'd regularly spend 5 hours backing up their crappy laptop, formatting, installing new OS, apps, putting back their data, etc... I mean what's the option ?

    Ok, PCs (well macs now for me mainly) are a hobby... but I can't claim it's a coincidence - I got into IT because I liked IT and computers - if you didn't - F^^ck off back to accountancy.

    It surprises me is the number of people in IT (as developers, designers or architects) who don't know one end of a PC/ac/linux box from the other.

    You may well moan and say 'why should I, I 'architect' systems'... but I'd say - curiosity is one of the defining characteristics of man - and essential for a good engineer. If you can work in front of something 8 hours a day and have not been curious enough about it to become an expert, you sir, are not an engineer - you are an Eloy.

    I've been down voted before for this sort of comment, but surely it's not that contravential ?

    Anyway, my solution appeared when I started to move all my computers at home to osx and mac (the last hackintosh has gone now ! all apple). Now I give them the line that 'I don't have windows kit anymore so can't support them - but if they get a mac I'll be happy to help'.


    1. YouStupidBoy

      Re: your role as IT support

      What's the option?

      Family - pretty much none, you're screwed. Just hope that you don't have the type of person in your family that'll hover like an irritating mayfly asking every 10 minutes "d'you think it's done yet". If they drop it off one weekend and come back the next it's not so bad - one operation a night after work and you barely even notice it.

      Friends - Agree to do it but hold their machine hostage until they show up with compensatory beer

      Friends of Friends - see Friends but replace beer with cash.

      1. Hayden Clark Silver badge

        Re: your role as IT support


        I insisted the family members that want help from me have a customised router from me that runs a VPN. This means that I can fix most problems with their PCs from the comfort of my lair at home!

  35. Jim Carter

    Oh boy...

    I work in 1st line, and the stories I could tell. Thankfully we've got to the point where most of the users know how to look up their IP address so I can remote in and see exactly what the problem is.

    Luckily my users are mostly a nice bunch and a laugh to boot, especially when I ask the question "What on Earth have you done here?" which seems to get the biggest laugh of all.

  36. DF118

    Surprised nobody's posted this one yet;

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I have to agree the temptation to lose your rag is all too often in IT Support, but I find the pay OK, I am 24 and earn 34k a tear managing a helpdesk, I also run an online hosting business using my "skills" in IT, not many sectors offer the opportunities you get working in IT.

  38. Gordon 16

    We are the experts! ;)

    Oh yes, IT support. On such occasions I always like to add one of my favourites. It's true and happened to me a few years back.

    We had a little shuffe in in the office and peope started to make themselves comfortable at their new desks and started filling up their desks with the usual bits, when suddenly a young woman from the marketing department came running to me with a panicky look in her eyes and not quite at my desk yet she started "My computer is beeping! Can you have a look, please" Well, I wondered what that might be while following her to her desk, when I came closer I could already hear the familiar beeping sound. Once I reacheded her desk I took the book from the space bar and the beeping stopped. "Fixed!" I said and went back to my coffee :)

  39. fourThirty


    Shall I bring my CPU in, or the telly bit?

    My C drive wont turn on...

    I can't download the internet...

    "OK, right click on 'My Computer'"

    "How do I right click on your computer?"

    etc, etc....

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