How much is too much?

I’ve always been of the belief that whenever you’re dealing with end users, the more information you could give them and the more ways they could access knowledge, the better. A couple of things recently have me questioning that theory.

One was this whole DST mess. If there was one constant in all the things we did it was this. Every communication we sent to users in the hope of limiting some help desk calls by supplying information ahead of time, only resulted in more help desk calls. Instead of people reading the email, following the directions and going about their lives without the need to involve tech support folks, they called to ask questions about the email. Even people who didn’t actually need to do anything different from what they always have been, called to make sure they didn’t need to do anything. It seemed like the more we tried to educate people about the issue, and what to expect, the more it just confused them. A handful of people literally just took to ignoring any emails that came from the IS department, figuring we’d fix whatever needed to be fixed later for them.

Here was a case where our attempts at sharing information backfired completely. It illustrates to me that when it comes to technical information, there is a saturation point where users simply tune you out.

It was with this new illustration that I had in mind when I was spending some time looking over some helpdesk software. The front page of the software for an end user presented them with three options, submit a ticket, search the knowledge base, or post a question in the forums. My immediate thought was, for many people, this is one option too many, maybe even two options too many. Many of my users would never bother to post a forum question. Why would they when what they really want is someone in IT to fix something for them or show them how to do something? They already have the option to submit a question to IT where it will be assigned to someone to handle, why post it on a forum and wait for “someone” to answer? Perhaps other organizations would have a different expectation, but in terms of where I work, that’s probably just going to confuse people about how to submit a question, which will prompt them to call. *L*

It also got me to thinking about all the different tools we have now to train users. We do screencasts, webinars, podcasts, classroom training, one on one training, printed materials, etc. At what point do we offer a user looking for training information too many options? Isn’t there some point where a user goes to the training page on the intranet, is overwhelmed by the choices, and just says “nevermind”? I think there very well might be, but I also think that point is individual to each user, so how do you plan around it?

Tags: Training, TechSupport

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  1. Good point on the options Mike. One thing I’d note though is that the options you provide vary drastically based on who you’re supporting.

    For instance in support HepSpot having those 3 options works great because I have many customers who only use the forums and others who send tickets in.

    For an internal IT group like yours the forums would probably never get used. So it would be best to hide or disable the forum and just have requests and the KB or just the request form even.

    In truth your users would probably rarely even use the form and would mostly likely just be sending emails to helpdesk@.

  2. Ian, ahh you recognized yourself in that one huh? Actually, I didn’t name the software because of the fact that I know I could choose to not implement any of the options, so it wasn’t a criticism of the product, more something for someone to think about when choosing what tools they would implement.

  3. Heh, no problem. I didn’t take it at criticism at all, just wanted to point out that most help desk system (including mine!) can be configured to remove the options that are not appropriate.

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