The 5 users you meet in hell (and one you'll find in heaven)

Recognize any of these people -- the Know-It-All? The Finger-Pointer? The Whiz Kid? We thought so ...

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How to handle: Is it possible to simultaneously embrace Whiz Kids' enthusiasm while keeping a lid on their technological adventures? You should try, managers advise. However cute and capable they may appear, don't allow them to run amok on your network. Left unchecked, they could inadvertently expose the company jewels.

Whiz Kids can actually be a help to you; other users might be willing to ask their advice first before placing a call to the help desk. Farstad Oil's Olson says he relies on his technically savvy users to help remote people he can't physically reach. "But you have to be careful not to push them beyond their limits. They can make a mistake," he warns.

The Dream User

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To be sure, not all user archetypes are negative or troublesome. Today, help desk pros increasingly view their job as one of teaching, giving users confidence to solve their own problems, to experiment, and to try new things.

They don't simply fix a problem and walk away; they're giving users the knowledge to improve their productivity. Of course, the user has to be open and willing to embrace this teaching, which brings us to the Dream User.

You might think IT help desk pros would define their Dream User as the one they never hear from. But you'd be wrong. While our IT help desk experts may have slightly differing opinions on the more negative user archetypes they see, all were in agreement about the user of their dreams.

"If I never hear from someone, that probably means they're fighting through something that's ruining their productivity," says Olson. By contrast, one of his more experienced remote users called him after encountering an error message while replacing a video card. "She wanted to know why that happened. Her desire for knowledge really tickled me."

Lauderdale described his Dream User in similar terms. "It's someone who grows along with the help you give them. They take the knowledge you give them to solve one problem and are able to apply it to another problem."

"My favorite user is a proactive user," says the Denver help desk manager. "If people aren't calling, that probably means they're getting frustrated."

"My Dream User is someone who actually listens to what I say," says McCloud. "I don't mind if people call a lot. Ignorance is fine, but listen to what I'm telling you and follow through. Take notes if you have to, and don't be afraid. Be receptive and respectful as I've been to you."

There, it all comes down to human interaction. A productive help desk/user relationship is one in which technicians help users through problems not with technobabble but with patience and solid interpersonal skills. On the flip side, a user must be receptive to the help and willing to learn.

As McCloud says, a successful help desk technician actually likes helping people and doesn't mind getting his hands dirty.

Still, he couldn't resist throwing in one last jab. "My IT career improved a lot after I had kids. I listen to crying at both places."

Lisa DiCarlo is a freelance writer in Newton, Mass.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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