Friday, January 20, 2012

Death of the Computer Help Desk: How to Screw up Your Computer System in Three Phone Calls or Less

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2012 at 9:00 AM


Once upon time in a land as close as your nearest computer, you could call this thing called a help desk if you needed a fix with technical issues of one sort or another.

Each manufacturer had its own help desk service, each stocked with people familiar with its products and issues surrounding them.

A helpful-sounding someone would answer the phone, listen to your problem, and then offer a solution. If the first fix did not work, the person would keep trying until your issue was resolved, or at least as close to a resolution as you could come without ripping all the wires out and hurling your computer and related gadgets out the window.

Even if the help desk helper was unable to fix your problem, the call was usually worth your while. At least you knew you had been supported by someone who knew what you were talking about and what was going on.

All that has changed.

That thing called a help desk has instead morphed into more of a hell desk, where you no longer reach knowledgeable staff but random overseas workers who follow a written-out script regardless of your particular problem.

The script includes a number of steps that, in a recent particular case, served not to fix the problem but actually make it worse.

A wireless router that worked to network five out of six home devices ended up barely working for one after a week of lengthy hell desk calls. The “barely” working comes into play since the router only now functions if you unplug it systematically several times over the course of the day.

The amount of times you need to unplug the router is in direct ratio to the importance, intricacy and deadline of the work being performed online. Browsing the web for new shoes leaves the router connection intact for hours. Finishing up tedious research on a data-crammed government website for an article due in one hour has the router going down every five minutes.

The hell desk workers followed a script that included changing IP address, the password, removing the network from the system without setting up a new one, and an explanation from me what Roku was. Although the hell desk worker insisted setting up a new network to replace the old one would not solve the problem, I did so on the sly and got at least one computer working with wireless.

After a total of three hell desk phone calls over the course of the week, the only knowledge I was left with was that
the workers cannot vary from the same old script and still have no idea what Roku is.

It was time to turn to other channels for help, somewhere with a bit more expertise. So I randomly searched the internet with the phrase: “router doesn’t work.” Three ads for new routers and a random ad for losing belly fat came up, as did an “Ask the expert” option.

So I asked him. Unlike the nameless, faceless Jeeves that has since retired, asking this expert came with a little box containing his photo and credentials. Nothing says either were for real, but his picture did look geeky enough to make me think he would know what to do to fix a wireless fiasco.

After entering the issue, history of actions, make, model and age of every home device that was not working properly, I only had one more step to complete before this expert would grant me a solution.

I had to click a box that said I’d pay $28.95 for an answer. Yeah, right.

Back to the router reset, the frustration and the search for a brand new router — from a different manufacturer — which is scheduled to arrive within the next few days. Hopefully it has a manual included for free that answers many questions that arise, especially since the purchase took away more than the $30 I’d need to pay for an expert. And I’m in no mood to get intimate with yet another company’s hell desk.
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Ryn Gargulinski, aka Rynski, is a writer, artist, performer and poet. Her column runs in the “Tucson Weekly” print edition monthly and weekly on Friday on “The Range.” See more writing and art from RYNdustries at ryngargulinski.com and rynski.etsy.com.

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