Your users’ weirdest IT help desk questions, answered

It’s entirely too easy to make fun of what people ask the IT help desk, but that doesn’t stop Robert Half from making them all feel a little more dense.

The company released a survey of CIOs that asked them to offer up the strangest requests they received, and there’s no question a few of them were a little out there. “I’d like wireless computer access in my motor home” and, “Where can I get software to track UFOs?” were my personal favourites, but I don’t believe anyone (apart from a CEO perhaps) expected the help desk to jump on them.

There were a number of other questions, however, that might be too easily dismissed. In their rush to solve problems and move on to more strategic activities, IT departments may be missing out on opportunities for user education when an offbeat query comes their way. That’s why, just for a moment, I’m going to take a few of the items on Robert Half’s list completely seriously. To wit:

My computer is telling me to press any key to continue. Where is the ‘any’ key?”
Right next to the quotation mark key. Yes, it’s “enter,” and that will get users to think about the difference between “action” keys that perform a function as opposed to those that simply create text.

Can you reset the Internet for me?
This is most likely a sign that a Web page has stopped loading, which can be a good way to teach users about the kind of sites that won’t impair their surfing experience and those that will simply make them unproductive and frustrated.

Can you rearrange the keyboard alphabetically?
Here’s the funny thing: A lot of people aren’t going to typing class anymore. It’s assumed that everyone is growing up digital, which means they come into the classroom already able to do more than hunt and peck for the right letters. This could do much to explain why it takes some users more time to complete tasks, especially inputting information.

My laptop was run over by a truck. What should I do?
Anyone who asks this is panicking that they will lose their job, if not their data. What they may also be asking is whether there is any hope for retrieving data, and depending on where the device was broken, it may not be impossible. They might also fail to understand how much of their data is in the cloud, and therefore not tied to a specific device.

How can I block e-mail from my manager?
Senior executives are still grappling with federal privacy laws, but everyday employees are often still confused about standard corporate usage policies, and the extent to which personal electronic communications are (or aren’t) monitored. If there’s an easy way to begin reducing your risk exposure, this is it.

I’d like to stop receiving e-mail on Fridays.
Some users are quick to complain about information overload, and part of the problem may be that they don’t understand how to effectively set up folders and filters for non-critical communication. How many enterprises, for instance, offer training on Outlook?

The implication from Robert Half’s data is that not every help desk request really deserves an answer. If that’s true, the IT industry really needs to redefine what “help” actually means.

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