What Ever Happened to the HELP in Help-Desk?

Posted on Monday 17 November 2008

As you may, or may not, have noticed my website was down for a while. Just about a week actually….

The problem was, possibly, a “gremlin” which is my name for a random piece of computer activity that just decides to go off and do it’s own thing, with no relationship to anything that it was currently doing. They usually happen once and hardly ever repeat themselves. It is possible that it also may have been a bad piece of code, which I am currently working on trying to find ( one is never too sure of everything when it comes to computers! )

One of the reasons why the system (and all the others that are hosted from the same provider that I use ) was down was because a process owned by one of my websites was using all the resources on one of the servers that my service provider has.

They used a help-desk utility to log the problem which supposedly sent me an email notifying me of this problem AND then locked out all my websites and shut down all my processes until I responded that I would “fix” the problem…

The first main issue was that their help desk software is not very efficient at sending out emails to me – as a matter of fact, out of more than 10 emails sent through that system NONE got through! If their System Administrator sends me an email direct, then I get notified but if they assume I get a copy via the help desk software – forget it!

So after trying to use all the tools and accounts given me for my websites ( all of which did not work ) to see what was going on ( remember I never got the “shutdown” notice ) I then tried to log into the help desk tool and found that my password had been changed ( or perhaps I changed it and forgot what it was – the mind can hold only so many passwords… ) – and could not log in.

So I used their handy dandy little “forgot my password” facility built into the help desk  and waited and waited and waited ( remember the email issue with the help desk?? ) and never did receive an email from the “forgot my password” help desk tool!

From there I tried telephoning…. Which led to my big rant number one!

It is all well and good to make 800 numbers available for people to use within your country/area but please please PLEASE also post all your regular numbers as well!

The service provider I use is actually in Australia, and posts all sorts of numbers for users within Australia ( I am assuming it’s Australia ) but only post one number for all others outside the country – for all services! And guess what – NO ONE EVER ANSWERED THE PHONE! Sigh….

So here I was I could not log into anything anywhere, all my webpages were down AND I couldn’t do anything about it! So I went through my email archives and found every email ever received from that company and sent a VERY nasty email to all of them ranting about how I can’t log in, and altough everything is paid up-to-date, all my websites were down! Amazingly it worked!

I got one email back from the – SALES DEPARTMENT – who had submitted a ticket to the help desk saying I had a problem AND it included a password for me to log in and check all my “trouble tickets”. Suffice to say I logged in, in a flash.

I actually found several postings regarding the “nasty gram” that I had sent. But no notices anywhere about what may or may not have been a problem. As a matter of fact everything seemed to be fine… untill…

At the BOTTOM of the CLOSED TICKETS I found a notification telling me how I had a problem and I needed to fix it or I would get shut down ( which someone obviously “assumed” I would get a copy of. ) And I needed to send them an email telling them that I would review and fix whatever the problem was before they would allow any of the websites to operate again.

So I quickly replied to this closed ticket ( which again “opened” it as active ) ranting again that it was closed when it should have been open and again reminding them that they had an email forwarding problem with this particular piece of “Help Desk” software. I then committed to reviewing all websites and to track down the problem.

Unfortunately, I realized as I was replying, that it was Friday evening here, and that this service provider had a habit of having its “help desk” disappear over the weekend. And I waited until their Monday morning before I got a reply saying that all websites are now operational again and I needed to fix the problem – and oh by the way, this is probably what it is…

So I am now in the process of reviewing all my websites, changing passwords, adding more security, etc, etc, etc. And hoping that the problem will go away and bother someone else. And as I thought about this past experience, it lead me to my second rant and this one really hurts.

Where did the HELP in HELP DESK go – ’cause it is definitely GONE!

Not just for this one service provider, but for all the other technical services out there, be it for cell phones, computers, cameras, or any other piece of technology that you can think of!

What makes it really hurt, is that I spent years and years within my IT environment ensuring that the customer ALWAYS came first. When I was a manager, one of my teams was a brilliant help desk which always reacted to the users complaints within minutes and letting someone know that the problem would be looked at as soon as possible and they would ensure that the user knew that their call or email had been received AND answered!

They too had a Help Desk/Trouble Ticket program and those issues would remain OPEN until they were resolved and were not closed just because you answered their call. Closing tickets whenever a trouble ticket has been “answered” may be a great way to generate really good stats, but it is a statistical lie, and generates very unhappy clients!

When I had my own Internet Provider Service ( long before the Web even existed ) I always tackled problems head on, and addressed users concerns when they happened regardless of whether it was the weekend or not!

Lastly, be it my help desk staff, my systems administrators, or my own business. We always listened to what the user had to say, asked questions to clarify their issue, and then addressed the issue from there. I really, really hate the “support” I get these days from all the “new” or “off shore” help desk teams that work from a book of steps starting with #1 “Is it plugged in?”

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