Well, it's what you've all be waiting for. The results of the first Annual On-Site Support Horror Story Awards. Picking the winning horror stories wasn't easy because there were many worthy entries. The technician who guessed wrong in thinking the SCSI drive was hot swappable, the PC serviceman who decided those mysterious REM statements in the AUTOEXEC.BAT file must be the cause of system problems, and the Certified Novell Engineer who tried to fix a previously operational NetWare server by replacing the "too fast" SIMMs with slower memory were all just barely beaten for one of the prizes.
One of the runner-up awards goes to a user who was told that an on-site service technician would be contacting her within 48 hours to come and replace her faulty motherboard.
"After 48 hours, I got a postcard in the mail that said something like '__________ will call you on _________ to set up a time to fix your computer'," she recalls. " 'Call this number, __________, if you want quicker service.' None of the blanks was filled in!" She never got the on-site visit.
A common problem was being visited by the same incompetent technician time and time again. The award in the Best Repeat Performance category goes to the reader subjected to a major systems house's technician who had managed to install a device upside down in a connector that was specifically designed to prevent that error. A year or so later, the technician returned to do some preventive maintenance.
"He had finished and powered the system back up when someone noticed a bad smell coming from the tape unit he had just finished working on," this reader writes. We opened up the base cabinet and discovered a small fire, which started because he had monkeyed around and had reconnected things improperly again."
And then there's the maintenance technician for another big systems vendor who displayed quick hands one night while replacing a power supply that had failed during a backup operation.
"While waiting for the repaired system to boot, he noticed our 8mm backup jukebox," recalls the reader who dealt with him. "He said 'Oh, neat! What's this?' Then before we could interject, he popped open the jukebox door to take a look. After our shrieks of terror scared him half to death, we asked him as one would a child to keep his hands off technology he didn't know."
Although only minor damage was done, the backup didn't finish until midmorning the next day.
But the grand prize has to go to the system integrator who got an odd phone call one day from a client.
"There was a memory failure on this non-dedicated server, so the server vendor's tech came on-site and replaced the SIMMs," the system integrator says. "The end-user called us and asked if it was OK to format the drive. We asked why, and the vendor tech said he could not leave a site until he could get the machine to boot to a C: prompt. Since all he could get was a D: and F: prompt, he wanted to reformat the drive, get a C: prompt, and leave!"
Top 10 annoying Help Desk calls
I think we need to talk about our relationship. No, I don't mean the relationship between you the reader and me the writer. I'm thinking more of the relationship between you, the person responsible for supporting computer users, and me, the user who needs support.
I hope you're not so repressed as to refuse to admit that there is a problem with that relationship. You know there is. We've actually talked about it before, but we're way overdue to discuss it again. Something has to be done.
It's not an easy problem to describe, but a message I received recently from Rich Ellis, who is the LAN administrator for Aon Consulting, may help us get some perspective on it. Ellis sent me what he called The Top 10 annoying things users say when calling the Help Desk. It was, he said, a list he had been compiling from personal experience, and not just a little frustration, for some time.
These are shown in the above box, but Ellis also included two runner-ups that didn't quite make his Top 10:
"Well, the last guy told me to do it this way, and I'd rather believe him than you."
"My computer is broken, and if you don't replace it right away, I'm calling your boss and his boss and his boss."
Ellis confessed he had only been compiling his list on an intermittent basis, and he thought it would be a good idea if I could solicit ones from others.
I posted Ellis' message on the Net to see what other user questions could be found. Here's just a few of the better ones, or the better ones that were short:
"My blinky is stuck."
"Don't talk to me - just fix it! Just fix it!!"
"It was working fine yesterday, and I didn't drop it!"
"I'm getting an error message that says 'Network error, unable to connect to socket.' Does that mean my computer is unplugged?"
"Should I hit enter or return?"
"I need to know what bulb my monitor uses. It has burned out and my monitor no longer works."
"I've learned this command that keeps me from running out of disk space. When the disk is full, I just delete some files. If I ever need them again, I can always undelete them."
"It says to hit any key. My keyboard doesn't have an 'any' key."
Now if you all promise to lift your service game, in a future issue of ARN I'll give you the Top 10 dumb answers from the Help Desk.
The Top 10 annoying things users say when calling the Help Desk(10) "Can you get me a faster computer?"
(9) "It wasn't doing this yesterday. What did you do to me?"
(8) "I need you to fix this right now, it's been busted for three weeks. No, this is the first time I've called . . . " (7) "This computer is jinxed. I want another one."
(6) "I hate dealing with computer geeks - oops, um, of course I don't mean you."
(5) "You're saying it's user error? Well let's just see what your manager thinks about this."
(4) "What took you so long? This is the 15th time I've called you. No, I didn't leave any messages."
(3) "I want a new hard drive. This one's out of focus."
(2) "Oh, by the way, yesterday I swapped out the motherboard and the hard disk, installed Windows 95, and dropped the computer down the stairs. Do you think that has anything to do with my problem?"
(1) "I didn't change anything - I swear!"