How to play tech support bingo

Some time ago, a new and subversive game emerged to help people while away those interminable corporate meetings: Buzzword Bingo. The game is simple. On a piece of paper, you and a select group of other attendees list words and phrases that typify the jargon of your business.

For example, a Buzzword Bingo list might include such gems as “bottom line,” “empower/ed/ing” (variants are always considered equivalent), “give us traction” (omitted if you work for John Deere), “give us runway” (likewise excluded if you work for United Airlines or another carrier) and “leverage.”

The object of the game is to listen to the speaker (a novel idea in its own right) and tick off the terms he or she uses. The first player to check off all the words on the list wins and jumps to his/her feet and shouts “Bingo!” – at least if he or she is foolhardy enough.

Bravery is crucial here. For example, if you are the assistant to the assistant operations supervisor and the speaker is the CEO, you might feel a little hesitant to declare your win, but a win is a win. In more competitive circles I hear a win is worth a minimum of 10 points and your points are multiplied based on how many levels of hierarchy exist between the winner and the speaker (junior salesman to CEO would be perhaps five levels, so the score would be 50 points).

It struck me that a similar game can be played in a company’s technical support department. Just think how it will lighten the workday when you can scream “Bingo!” in the middle of some employee’s endless droning. To make it more interesting, the goal is to be the first to collect 100 points, with each word/phrase being worth one or more points, depending on context.

Here are some potential entries for your game:

“My PC isn’t working.” This must be included on everyone’s list as a starter to get things going, along with “Is this support?,” “Have I called the right number?” (but only when used as the first thing the user says) and, “Can you help me?”

“Can you fix my printer? It’s out of ink.” This counts for five points if the user is more than 20 minutes away from you, could get a cartridge from the supply cupboard nearby and has made you change the cartridge at least once before (if you get there and the printer isn’t switched on, score two extra points).

“I haven’t changed anything.” Score double for this one. Double again if you can ferret the truth out within 10 minutes.

“My file just vanished/disappeared/deleted itself.” – If you can get the user to run up the File Manager, use the Find service, find the file and move it to wherever it belongs within five minutes, score two points. One point if it takes more than 5 minutes, and you lose a point if you have to go to the machine and do it yourself.

“My print job didn’t come out.” Score double if your organization has more than 10 shared printers and you find the output by lunchtime. If the output is in another city, double your points again.

“Why can I see some Web sites but not others?” Worth one point. You can double that if you can get the caller to confess he/she was trying to check out If the confessor is the CEO or some other bigwig, take 10 points.

“I spilled coffee/tea/cola on my keyboard.” This gets nothing unless you can persuade the caller to take the keyboard to the washroom, soap and rinse it, hold it under the hot air drier, and then plug it back in. If all of this is achieved, and it works, score five points.

Finally, score five points if you read “Backspin” each issue. Happy tech support Bingo playing!

Gibbs is a contributing editor at Network World (US). He is at