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Have you tried turning it off and on again?

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A quick peek at the origin of this tech support nugget of wisdom and some thoughts on making it less annoying to end users.

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It’s a question as old as computing itself. Timeless in nature, rebooting is the harried IT worker’s first line of defense against wasting time at a desk fiddling with log files and settings in order to address an issue which may or may not reappear again. And it makes us IT professionals sound like complete jerks.

The origin of the reboot to fix most issues

It all boils down to glitches, hardware and software, but mostly on the software programming side.

The everyday computer is teeming with zillions of lines of computer code written by countless different folks with varying skillsets. So it should come as no surprise that these programmers get things wrong from time to time, causing operations to cease working as expected, generating errors which we IT people like to refer to as “bugs”.

Despite what they may say to the contrary, programmers are only human. They laugh, they cry (alone in their cubicles), and they make mistakes, leading to tech support calls and the inevitable visit from your IT person, an experience that usually starts with the now infamous query: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

“Before you ask, I rebooted right before I called you” – End User

“No you didn’t. Stop insulting my intelligence and don’t make me pull your Event logs and prove you wrong, because I can and will.” Is what most IT people would like to say…but good etiquette and a desire for longevity in their chosen line of work dictate that they modify their approach or cease to have clients at all!

Now, I absolutely recognize that this question, coming from a support tech, is the bane of every end user and rightly so. With a handful of words, we’ve managed to communicate a total disdain for you and your problem, even going so far as to insinuate that you may be wasting our time at that very moment because you didn’t use some common sense before contacting us. Ouch. It’s misunderstandings like these which lead to end users despising their IT department, treating a support call akin to going to the dentist; you just keep putting it off and putting it off until the pain is so great you’re forced to make that call. And much like the dentist, it’s harder to do a full blown root canal than it is to drill a simple cavity. When end users wait to contact IT, they run the risk of damaging their system further, so we’d definitely like to discourage that!

What can IT workers do instead?

Well, you can’t stop rebooting systems, but it’s extremely important that IT professionals hold off on the reboot request for just a few moments at the start of troubleshooting. Spurn this advice and you’ll only dilute your user’s faith in the reboot and make yourself seem weak and lacking in knowledge, as if computers are so complicated that you don’t know where to start unless it is from the very beginning. That we need to reboot so as to have a baseline for troubleshooting is not appreciated by most end users. That the reboot is a test to see if we can reproduce their issue to see if it is a one-off or a permenant error may not register with them. That’s OK. It’s not their job to understand everything, but it IS our job to show good manners with our users and help them to not feel intimidated by technology.

Therefore, we need to be a little more tactful in how we lead up to the reboot request so that the user feels comfortable that this is just the first step in getting help, and not simply a brush-off. Once you’re ready to pop the question, you can use one of these lines:

The wise observation: “It appears this computer is overdue for a reboot!”

Trigger the uncertainty factor: “The last time you rebooted, did you notice any alerts on the screen? I see…let’s try a quick reboot first.”

So-and-so did such-and-such: “Joan over in accounting had a similar issue recently, but it cleared up with a reboot.”

However you do it, the point is to make them feel that you have utmost confidence in their diligence in rebooting up until this point and that if they do indeed need a reboot it’s only because of a simple oversight and a reboot would have been requested by you anyway, just as a matter of course when troubleshooting. If you’re successful in this effort, you’ll be rewarded with users who maintain faith in your abilities, and may even start trusting and using the ‘ol reboot for themselves.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please tune in weekly for more interesting articles about IT and adventures in the life of an IT guy.

 

Mitch

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