How Not to Become Someone’s Favorite Support Tech

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We’ve all been here before. If not, here’s how it goes.

You’re a support tech (or anyone with a user-facing job). Somehow, for some reason, one user thinks that you’re their personal support tech — and it’s your fault. If you weren’t so good at your job, this person wouldn’t have clung to you.

Here’s how it happened. You were resolving an issue with the diligence, efficiency, and professionalism that makes you the great tech that you are. You resolved the issue, and moved on, but the person on the other end now has your direct extension, and they just think you’re the best ever.

Next thing you know, you start getting calls and emails from this person. Maybe they’re stopping you in the hallways or dropping by the office. They start with phrases that indicate that it’s just a small, quick fix.

“Do I really have to put in a ticket for x?” (Yes. Yes, you do.)

Here are a few tips on how to avoid becoming someone’s favorite support tech and what to do if you find yourself in this situation.

They Won’t Submit a Ticket

Ticket systems serve some pretty important purposes — triage, accountability, history, and, most importantly, metrics. As you well know, your performance evaluation is based on clearing your tickets. If you’re off being a hero, then you’re not clearing tickets. That’s a problem.

Don’t have a ticketing system? Well, that’s another problem entirely. Here’s some training to get you moving in the right direction.

To understand the problem, you must first understand the reason behind the problem. It’s not that they literally can’t make a ticket. “But, submitting a ticket would take longer than just telling you.” It’s not that they’re lazy (even though they might be).

It’s really a matter of efficiency on their part, and you being too good at your job. Let’s think of it in a different context.

You call the bank with an atypical question. Which would you do?

Option 1: Navigate the labyrinth of “Dial 1 for …” menus until you find the one that sorta fits your question.

Option 2: Jam down “0” as soon as you hear the lady robot voice with hopes that they haven’t disabled the operator button. Just give me a human.

If you picked Option 2, then you can begin to understand the psychology of your “new friend.” Take that understanding with you to the office. They want a simple, easy way to fix their problem. And whether you like it or not, you’re the solution.

It may initially be tempting to satisfy every request that’s delivered to you. As an IT pro, you’re a problem solver, but look at the other tickets. You are needed by many other people, so you’ll have to break up with your favorite user. You can either be blunt or take the long way.

You’ll have to take vacation eventually anyways, and then what will they do?

The Blunt Way: No Ticket = No Help

All too often, the blunt way turns into an “IT versus the company” situation. Yes. It’s frustrating to get requests for work in every other form other than a ticket, but keep your cool.

Don’t be rude. Kindly inform them that everyone else has to wait in line. Simply ask, “Did you submit a ticket?”

If your system is broken (meaning you aren’t allowed to enforce a “no ticket, no help” policy), then you’ll need to get help from management, or maybe even human resources.

Stating your case for the flagrant disregard of the ticket system is very similar to convincing your boss to pay for training. Stand together, show the higher-ups the chaos, back it up with data (or your lack of data), and set up a policy.

Be forewarned, it might take a while to fix the situation.

If you’re consistent, considerate, and your team follows the “no ticket, no help” policy, then the next time someone stops by your office they’ll know the first thing you’re going to ask, they’ll know the look on your face, and they’ll have already done it.

They’ll have submitted a ticket.

The Long Way: The Nice Way

The long way isn’t necessarily the easy way. It’s so much easier to just point to the sign hanging on your wall that says, “Submit a ticket,” but there are a few reasons you should (or might have to) take the high road.

  1. You’re a nice person.
  2. You don’t want to be a jerk (which is decidedly different from #1).
  3. You enjoy helping people, but it’s too much, too often, and not really your job.
  4. Your company’s support process is broken, and you aren’t allowed to enforce the “no ticket, no work” policy.

Your ultimate goal: Guide them toward submitting a ticket.

Refer back to the psychology section. Remember that this rogue user just wants a simple, easy fix to their myriad problems. With a light touch, you can guide them back to the queue by making it less simple and not as easy, and keeping your personal brand in tact.

Step 1: Screen those calls. It’s time to start screening your calls. You know the number. Don’t answer, but also don’t leave the call unanswered. Explain that you seriously can’t afford the time on the phone with them when you have tickets queued up. Get them to email you.

Step 2: Take longer to respond to emails. You’ve successfully moved the issues to email. Now, respond to them whenever you get a chance. You’re training this person to write out their problem, which is remarkably close to submitting a ticket. (So, close.) You’re either almost free, or you’ve created a new form of dependency. It depends on the person, and the system. You’re also covering yourself against management if they think emails are, in fact, tickets.

Step 3: Back in line. After a while, you can point out to them that their request would have been resolved days ago if they’d have submitted a ticket. Hopefully, that works because this is the last step. Remember there are legitimate reasons to leave your job, and many to stay. Weigh them carefully before doing something rash.

There are many ways to not become someone’s favorite support tech. These are just the most socially appropriate, and safe for work. Use your imagination.

Good luck with getting your users to just (for the love of all that’s good in this world) submit a ticket. If in the midst of your quest, you need inspiration, remember the words of Bruce Lee, “One should be in harmony with, not in opposition to, the strength and force of the opposition.”

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