End User Support: Excuses From The Userland


No matter where you worked in IT support – enterprise, remote, online, consultant, friend, whatever – you have heard many excuses from the end users. When you thought that you heard them all, they begin to be the same over and over again. Only the person who says it differs.

Let’s work the list together.

I didn’t do anything (same as “it was like this when it started”). “Yes, you didn’t do anything. When you were sleeping we came to work, booted up your computer, did all these fouls and shut it down so that we will have a support call in the morning.” is what you want to say, but is it always the truth? After working as a system support engineer, I cannot say that it is always the user’s fault in all of the cases. There are many cases when the computer is improperly installed (using the same image for every different brand/model, anyone?), drivers not installed, computer not configured for the intended use (user’s application(s) not installed?) and in case of rebuilds, backups are not properly restored. The list can go on and on, but you get the point. It is not always the user’s fault.

What/where is the start button? (same as “what is a web browser?”). It is obvious that we are dealing with a user that is at the bottom of the computer literacy scale. The user may be thinking that clicking a shortcut and doing his work in this specific application is all about using a computer. They may have made their way to their desk (they said they know how to use computers in their job application, didn’t they) but this does not change the fact that there is also a responsibility on the corporate side. The IT training should cover everything from the basics – from the start menu to the web browser, and there should be a shortcut in every desktop that launches the support tool/the support site with a click.

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This started after I received my computer from you (same as “this was not happening before” or “it wasn’t happening before”). I have to admit that I reach Nirvana when I could not kill the user who said that. I have spent hours on that PC, did your best to get it smoothly working  and now I am blamed. And this is one of the times I hate working in support. After all the emotional burst, sometimes I realize that it may be my fault as well. Did I test the computer thoroughly? Is there anything I missed? Did I have the user to test everything? The last question is the tricky part. Have the user make all the tests and confirm everything is OK explicitly, so that you can cover your back later.

I know my way around (same as “I am good with computers”). Imminent danger. This is where the issue is 100% with the user. End users who claim to know their way around are most difficult types of people, can be divided into two species: “I know IT too” user, which I discussed in my previous article and the “mad clicker.” Mad clickers usually click on many buttons in a hurry to show that they really know what they are doing (when they lose control, they perform 10 clicks per second to show that “it’s not working.”) They do not understand how support works, why the support has to understand everything at the first place to analyze things and so on.

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I have antivirus installed. There are a couple of sides to that. First, check if the antivirus is a legit copy. I have seen many people that installed counterfeit versions of malware protection suites. Second, tell them that using a computer bears a risk of malware, one kind or another and having an antivirus is not the ticket to do whatever they want. I can say that this is a gray area, where users are not fully aware of the security landscape in today’s computing environment, especially with the drive-by downloads and the tricky questions to lure the user to the back streets of the Internet. IT can address this issue in the trainings.

I don’t do many things on the computer (same as “I don’t visit many websites”, often together with “I have antivirus installed”). It is not a matter of quantity but quality. The user may not be visiting “many” websites but if he is only visiting the dark back streets of the Internet, naively accepting everything he is asked, installing toolbars and Facebook goodies, he has already done his best to accept malware. End users have no idea about what these are and what troubles these bring. Before blaming the user, the IT has to train the users about safe browsing and possibly install a proxy server to block certain websites that are suspected to distribute malware.

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Why is it always happening to me (same as “it is not happening to anyone else”). This is one other excuse that users present without having any clue about what they are talking. First, they do not have an issue tracking system to know whether or not many users are having the same issue. Maybe it is a common problem affecting many users. Second, the other users may not be making the same mistake. Third, the other users may not know how to use the technology to that extent. Again, as support people we have to find a way to deal with this, otherwise the next second it goes fully personal and out of control.

This is your job (same as “I pay you for this”). Yes, you do. It is my job to keep things working smoothly, considering that you will be breaking things again and again. However, it is your responsibility to tell the truth on your job application, where you state that you know operating computers and using certain applications. I also understand that you may have done something wrong and it is my job to correct it. Rather than being toxic and rude, try to be calm and kind.

Probably you have heard much more than this. If not, you will be hearing soon. Don’t be 100% sure of yourself all the time, sometimes maybe you have some part of the blame.


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