Twitter is Killing The Helpdesk

OK- so it’s not just Twitter, and the Helpdesk isn’t quite dead. But you fell for the hook, so keep reading as social media is definitely reshaping the network support environment.

In a perfect world, a wireless network trouble ticket would minimally include:

– Client device MAC address
– User name, if an authenticated network is in play
– Where the trouble happened (room number, space description)
– When problem happened
– Details on what the issue “felt” like
– Whether trouble moves as the user device does
– Information on whether other users are feeling similar pain
– Device type
– Operating system and version

Obviously, in some environments this may be hard to gather. But you gotta have some meaningful data point to begin with for solving network issues. Depending on the answers to the above, many problems can be dealt with over the phone, without dispatching. Given that on a healthy network, the overwhelming percentage of issues are single-client problems, getting client information is important, as is making sure clients understand hours and methods of formal support.

We usually do well knowing that our important building blocks are down, if we have set up system management and monitoring properly. Most (but certainly not all) system issues that will impact multiple users should be identified through alarms. The individual cries for help are the ones we’re talking about here.

Enter Social Media.

What’s easier- filling out a form with all of the above information and then dealing with follow-up calls/email until someone can finally identify why your device is wierding out, or simply Tweeting that “the network sucks!”?

Tweeting (or grousing on Facebook) provides instant gratification. I complained! I stuck it to the man! I said nasty things about this crappy network! Woo Woo! And all behind a fake name!

But what was accomplished? And what is the expected response?

It’s a fact of life that “living room” wireless networks are exponentially more simple than business wireless networks. Where a single access point is in use, just a few client devices are on, and there is no enterprise-grade security in play things like client stickyness and driver issues are a lot less likely manifest themselves in ways that feel like problems. But in this BYOD world, those same devices that seemed just peachy at home can be problematic when taken to a dense multi-cell wireless network environment that services hundreds or thousands of clients and uses complex security protocols.

When trouble hits, most people in the WLAN support game WANT to help. We take pride in our networks, and know how important they are because we use them too. But we need more than “C’mon network, get your shit together. I hate you” from a funny Twitter handle at 3:17 AM when you are somewhere in a sea of buildings and amongst dozens, hundreds, or thousands of access points.

Please, wireless clients, pause for a minute before jumping right into Complain Gear. No client network device is perfect or flawless, and they all act up sooner or later. Think of any connection problem you’ve ever had, and Google it- you’ll find your are in good company with others that have also experienced the same, on networks small and big, all around the world.

Sometimes a driver update is needed. Or a setting like IPv6 needs to be tweaked. Or the software update you just got from the mothership hosed something in the wireless network settings.

And sometimes, it might actually be a network issue.

The unwritten Social Contract of Networking between clients and those who provide them with services says “bring me a problem, and I’ll solve it”. But solving your problem requires providing good helpdesk-level details- not just a rant on Twitter.

PS- yes I know, Social Media is becoming integrated with helpdesk functions in many environments. It’s a natural evolution. But if anyone thinks a short wise-ass comment via social media takes the place of giving real information, you’re just ripping yourself off.

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