When you’re in IT, you see it all. Complicated issues, like that one Windows update that just won’t install, and quick fixes that you could do in your sleep. And of course, there’s also those repeat requests. I can’t get any email. The printer’s broken. My internet doesn’t work. What’s my password again?

As someone that used to work at a help desk but now walks over to our IT guy for help with questions I can’t answer (or simply don’t have permission to solve), I can see it from both sides. Sure, there are those end users that can’t seem to get enough of IT. When they ask you why the printer isn’t working three times in one week, it’s frustrating. But based on my experience, most employees would much rather be doing their usual work instead of going to IT for help with a problem. By the time they submit their ticket, pick up the phone, or just walk up to your desk, they’re already frustrated.

Next time one of those how-many-times-have-we-covered-this requests comes in, take a deep breath and follow these simple steps.

1. Check their ticket history

Lightning might not strike the same place twice, but technology issues definitely do. Odds are this end user has faced a similar problem before. Whether that means there’s an issue with their machine or it’s just an instance of user error, looking through their past issues can give you a good idea of why they keep running into this particular problem.

Note: If “checking their ticket history” means searching for old emails from this user, you might want to invest in a better ticketing system.

2. Look for a permanent fix

When you face a frustrating request, your knee-jerk reaction might be to try and solve the issue as fast as possible so you can move on to more pleasant or interesting tasks. You should try to stifle that instinct for a second and really focus on a long-term solution to the problem at hand.

Can you foolproof their mobile device so they can’t modify certain settings, or maybe disable a certain notification or pop-up on their computer that always causes problems? After all, a lot of end users approach the IT department because they’re just confused or concerned about something, not because anything is actually broken.

It might take more time to dig deep into your IT memory palace and come up with a permanent solution, but imagine if that user didn’t have to come ask you that same question next week. Nice, right?

3. Investigate training opportunities

As soon as you get a new request, it’s pretty easy to tell how tech-savvy a user is. For those end users that are less technically inclined, it’s worth looking into outside training resources. Unless your job description explicitly mentions training employees on the technology they have to use for work, you can try to offload user training. There are a couple of routes for that:

  • If an employee is having trouble using software that’s specific to their department, advocate for having a coworker in that department give them an overview of that product.
  • Got a lifelong PC user that has suddenly found themselves struggling to use a Mac, or vice versa? They might find the marketing videos for their new device surprisingly helpful. Marketing videos and other product advertisements explain what a feature does on a high level and introduce the end user to proper terminology so they can better explain problems in the future. Coupled with upbeat music and slick graphics, it won’t even feel like real training.
  • End user adverse to online training? See if your city offers basic technology or computer classes as a part of their recreation program, and check if your company would let the user attend a class (or two).

4. Evaluate your company’s equipment and software

If you’ve tried over and over again to teach end users how to use a certain system, technology could be the problem, not the people trying to use it. What’s your email client’s UI like? Is your particular model of printer prone to certain issues, or just plain hard to use?

Take a look at the overall end-user experience from a different perspective. Even if you’re using cutting-edge equipment or software, confusing terminology or a system that works drastically different from whatever employees have used in the past might be part of the reason for these repeat requests. You can even use remote desktop sharing to see in real time where end users are running into problems.

5. Delegate via self-service

It might seem counterintuitive, but give your end users more responsibility. If they’re always forgetting their password, a self-service password management solution might be just what you need. IT management vendors get what you’re going through, so they’ve designed self-service tools to be easy for end users—and secure to boot.

Know of any fixes that I didn’t mention? Leave a comment.

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