Helpdesk Rants: Metaphors

As many of you may be aware, I’ve spent the past five years working as an IT Helpdesk Agent.  I’ve since gotten a promotion to Tier II Analyst, and with it has come a great deal of welcome changes (as well as a welcome raise).

I wanted to take a moment to reflect upon some of the ways I’ve had to explain problems in ways my users could understand.  Communication skills at the helpdesk are incredibly underrated; being able to give someone the technical gist and keep it within the realm of their experience is a trick you learn over time.  I’m not saying “end users” are dumb; I’m saying its not their job to know the same shit as you.  Their job is being interrupted by “broken computer” and it’s your job to “fix it”.  Letting them know you’re doing just that without talking down to them or talking over their head is an art form!

  • User is unable to access a particular website due to corporate firewall: 

“That website makes %company name% nervous.  It’s our policy to cross the street and walk on the other side when we see that site comin’.”

  • User is at 100% CPU with 76 windows open and doesn’t know why her computer ‘freezes up’

“Your machine comes with a set amount of memory, or basically, power to do several things at once.  Unfortunately, this maxes out at around eight things for the machines we issue.  At the moment, your machine is trying to juggle chainsaws and machetes, give a speech to 3rd graders about peer pressure, perform an interpretive dance, and clip its toenails.”

  • User’s machine is taking a little extra time to read files in a deep shared drives’ folder.

“Please understand, what your computer is doing is essentially reading War and Peace, from across the street, through a keyhole – and managing somehow to turn pages.”

  • User’s laptop was ‘accidentally dropped’

“You done borked it.” (not quite a metaphor, but I enjoyed saying it)

  • User wants to buy a new personal machine, but (at the time) had a choice between Vista and the newly released Windows 7.

“Get Windows 7.  It’s what Vista should have been.  Vista versus Windows 7 is sort of like deciding between Beavis and Butthead or Martin Luther King to be your keynote speaker.”


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