We'd tell you what it is, but then this would be blocked too

This small web software company does almost all its customer support through e-mail, reports a pilot fish there.

"For the first two years I was there, all support e-mail was handled via Outlook," fish says. "However, we started to grow and using Outlook became impractical; people started double-answering the same message.

"So we invested in a new support ticketing system that would allow us better tracking of tickets, so we'd know who was assigned to what."

The company's lead support tech tests the new system for several weeks, and everything appears to be working fine. The rest of the techs are trained. The system is announced to customers as a big step forward in support. The support people even create new signatures to attach to all our outgoing messages to customers.

Finally, the system goes live -- and it's a disaster. Fish and his cohorts receive messages from customers without trouble. But none of their replies are getting to the customers.

Lead tech digs into the problem, and quickly discovers that that the company's e-mail service provider is blocking those outgoing messages as spam.

But that can't be the source of the problem, tech figures. After all, they've been using the mail provider long before the new software rolled out, and there's never been a problem.

Lead tech reports the problem to the vendor that makes the trouble-ticketing system. There's testing and more testing. But there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with the software. So what can it be?

"The lead tech finally found the problem," says fish. "It was our new digital signatures. These contained not only our names, but also the company name and address and our job title. The tech finally discovered that the word 'Specialist' contains another word.

"Our new, revised signatures work much better now."

Sharky checks his spam filter every day just in case it catches a true tale of IT life. Send me yours at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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