A day in the life of the help desk: Chaos with a smile

June 18, 20165 Minute Read

Select article text below to share directly to Twitter!


Good morning! It’s 9 a.m. and your help desk is officially open for business. How many tickets do you have in the queue? How many voicemails are waiting for your team? And what has Joe in accounting done to break the workgroup printer this time?

This is a day in the life of the help desk. Sound familiar? If it does, you’re likely a help desk veteran with your own war stories to tell. I’ve got my own from back in the day when I was a help desk technician, like the time a user literally used CD-ROM drive on her computer as a beverage tray, or the time I got an urgent call to help a guy who loudly griped that his computer was running unbelievably slow, only to discover that he was viewing forbidden content that was generating pop-up ads all over the place. We’ve seen it all.

Here are some of the most common requests and complaints that help desks receive, along with some tips for handling them more efficiently.

My computer’s too slow

This one requires a few triage questions to properly diagnose. How many applications, windows, or tabs do they have open? Did they catch some malware along their internet travels? Or are they just jealous that Jen in sales got a new computer before they did?

Your ideal solution will vary depending on the underlying issue involved. If they have too many applications or tabs open, you might have to sit down and determine whether it’s tied to legitimate business requirements, which might involve installing more memory. Or their issue might stem from a Zappos habit gone out of control, in which case they need to take it down a notch. If it’s malware or something similar, you’ll want to review your existing systems for malware and antivirus protection, as well as your user training protocols. If they’ve got a case of computer envy, it’s likely a question of whether you’ve established a computer replacement cycle and made the process and schedule transparent throughout the company.

The internet / network’s too slow

This one requires a few diagnostic questions to troubleshoot. If they’re on Wi-Fi, you might have to determine whether their signal is strong enough or if they’re even connecting to the right network. If they’ve got a perfectly robust connection, then the culprit could be malware, spyware, or a virus.

There are times when you’ll want to consider the problem on a larger scale. Remote offices connecting to headquarters, for example, can suffer from connectivity issues if QoS settings are off, or if there’s a problem with the ISP not meeting its SLA. If you don’t have bandwidth controls properly configured, you might find that a few colleagues who claim to be working on big proposals are actually grinding your network to a halt with their incessant livestreaming.

I can’t log in / I forgot my password

This one’s a showstopper because it means your user can’t get any work done. Fortunately, the solution is usually straightforward. If they can’t log in, it’s likely there’s some user error involved, either a mistyped letter or number, or a caps lock inadvertently turned on. Or, the cleaning service could have accidentally knocked an ethernet cable loose during their evening sweep—I’ve seen that happen too.

If your panicked user has blanked out on their password, consider investing in a self-service password reset system that will empower them to fix this problem on their own. It’ll come in handy, especially for after-hours requests and staff working in remote offices or different time zones.

I can’t print

This might be the most dreaded help desk complaint of all time, but it doesn’t have to be. After checking for common causes, like the printer not being turned on or being disconnected from the network, it might be time to assess patterns in your print environment. If you find that printing issues crop up on a regular basis, you might want to look at tools for efficient printer fleet management that can help you centrally and securely manage all your printers from within a single console.

You can also take advantage of analytics that shed light on what printing behaviors and printing costs have the greatest impact on your team’s productivity and the company’s bottom line. Armed with that information, you can resolve the core issues in your print environment and make printing a stress-free experience for everyone.

I don’t know what happened. Technology just hates me.

Every office has its share of self-professed Luddites who claim to have suffered a hex when it comes to technology. It’s important to get a feel for their level of technical prowess before getting to solutions. According to Upwork, you can use your intuition and try to pick up certain cues during your conversation with your user to gauge their level of experience with technology: “For some customers, something that might seem like a simple fix could be a lot more complicated if they’re not technically inclined. Conversely, a customer with a greater level of technical know-how may interact more fluidly and get the solution they need from speaking with an agent that has more specialized expertise on the matter.”

It’s a good idea to provide these users with hands-on training (even personalized training) and cheat sheets to build their confidence in using technology. For your general user community, consider investing in a knowledge base to provide them greater autonomy in solving their own problems.

Although help desk life can sometimes feel chaotic, a sense of humor can go a long way toward easing the tension. Your team can field even the wackiest of requests with a smile and a positive attitude. What are the strangest help desk complaints you’ve received? Sound off in the comments to share your war stories with us.

  • Recommended for you
  • Recommended for You