Bearing the brunt of IT problems


IT problems are causing workers to miss out on a their social life and swear at their PCs. But those who bear the brunt of the frustrations are the IT service desk people.

IT is supposed to make work easier, but technical faults can drive even the most mild-mannered of us to swear, throw things and miss out on seeing family and friends.

In the survey of 1,000 adults by Touchpaper, a company which provides technology for IT service management, a third of those who had experienced IT problems at work said that they had missed family and social commitments after bugs and glitchs had kept them at their desks late.

Two thirds admitted to swearing, over half to missing deadlines and more than four out of 10 to being put in a bad mood all day. One in six have even resorted to throwing things.

The survey which is part of a comprehensive study into the modern IT service department, finds that often it is the poor old IT service desk worker who gets the brunt of people's frustrations when technology goes wrong.

Eight out of 10 service desk workers surveyed admitted they or a colleague had been verbally abused by disgruntled callers, and almost a quarter had been tempted to resign their job on-the-spot after a particularly difficult call.

According to the research, service desk workers voted male callers as more difficult than females. Senior staff and over 30s were also thought to be worse than younger, junior workers.

When end users were asked how service desks could be improved, they listed a number of areas, including reducing the use of automated voice response systems, improving support workers' understanding of users' jobs and systems and giving the support staff more technology to solve their own problems remotely.

And reflecting the trend towards outsourcing IT service and support to less expensive off-shore centres, seven out of 10 end users also called for service desk agents to have a better command of English as well as better training in dealing with people and – worryingly - more technical training.

"Our research shows how emotive people can get when they have an IT problem," said Graham Ridgway, CEO of Touchpaper, which provides software for managing IT service departments.

But given the growing importance of IT in so many organisations - when it breaks down, many people simply cannot do their job - we feel service desk teams should be given more help to manage the increasing workload.

"For example we are finding that end users can actually solve a lot of simpler IT problems themselves if they are provided with the right self-service software tools and access to knowledge based systems that learn from previous service incidents and provide advice and guidance on potential solutions. Much more productive than throwing something at the computer!"