There are certain times in my work life when I feel like I am beating my head against a wall in frustration. This is the story of one such time.
Many times, in the IT Support arena, you get to see products used in ways that defy logic. In ways that make you want to find the sales droid involved in making the sale and shake his hand for the barefaced audacity they have shown in getting that sale over the line. In ways that make you want to find the architect and slap them sideways for being ridiculous.
To be fair, I understand that sometimes these deployments are “thin edge of wedge” deployments – just get the product in the door, get it used in production, and then Sales can go back and sell more product, or expand the use of the product’s existing feature set. I get that.
But there are certain types of customers that make me want to (in no particular order of preference:
gnaw my arms off in frustration
poke rusty, sharp objects in my eyes – I’m guessing that this has to happen BEFORE the item above.
listen to Taylor Swift on repeat on Spotify
book myself in for a dental examination
get a tattoo on the inside of my mouth
Customer X has been using this product since early 2013. Suddenly, without any notice, the product stops performing as well as it had been previously. Customer X logs a case and wants to know what has changed, and what the cause is. And it’s my job to work out what the problem is, fix it, and then send the customer on his merry way. Normally, the workflow looks like:
Get the customer to send the troubleshooting files in
Analyse the troubleshooting files
Make recommendations or suggestions to fix
If needed, perform a screen sharing session and apply recommendations
Did it fix it? No – go to 1. Yes then go to 6
Write up analysis, document in internal systems to help the next poor schmuck
However, this customer doesn’t want to play the game this way. No.. they’re going to go all “King Nebuchadnezzar” on me..
1 In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.
2 So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers[a] to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king,3 he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.[b]”
4 Then the astrologers answered the king,[c] “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
5 The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble.6 But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”
For the past two weeks or so, I’ve been begging, pleading, cajoling the customer to “Please send me the troubleshooting files” or “Please let me do a screen sharing session with you?” and each time get a stalwart “No. But please tell us what the cause of our problem is”. I thought I might get a little cunning and devious, and send them the commands I want them to run and have them e-mail back with the output of those commands. But no, the customer runs different commands, and sends that useful useless information back along with “Here’s the output you requested. Please tell us what the cause of our problem is”.
I’m a pretty good engineer.. in fact, just last week I got a commendation from a customer saying that Stephen “is one of the finest support engineers I have ever worked with.”. Fortunately for me, my magic wand had some fresh AAA batteries in it that week.. and my crystal balls were hanging in the just the right phase to correlate to the parallax of the moons convergence. That customer, however, willingly and promptly provided the troubleshooting information as and when required. See, Provide Correct Information == Solve Problem Quickly == Happy Customer.
So, if you’re in the neighbourhood, and you come looking for me at work.. I’ll be the one under my desk, curled up in the foetal position, dribbling, and gibbering softly.