One of the most difficult things I have found in recent years, in the areas of customer service, mainly in the IT industry, is the idea of ownership. Who owns a problem? Who has to take responsibility for a problem?

In a recent case, I had problems with my laptop, and we are supposed to have full-service from the helpdesk for these laptops that were under a mandatory lease. They were Dell laptops, and when the problem could not be handled by our helpdesk, then they had to call upon Dell. The helpdesk was essentially an intermediary, but they were the ones we reported to and Dell could be called upon when the helpdesk was closed. However, the images and the day-to-day operation of those laptops were managed by the helpdesk.

I had difficulty with two of my devices: one of them being my digital recorder, the other being a specialised headset that that was of a high-end quality by Plantronics that was used for dictation, not just for chat and listening to music. It had a very low tolerance for noise interference and would have to do a sound and quality check every time it was plugged in. I found that the quality of dictation was better when I plugged it into the USB adapter, rather than the line in for the microphone and sound. Both would work in the lower of two USB ports, but not in the top one, which meant I had to continually interchange the two devices.

When I brought it into the helpdesk I describe my problem to the technician at the desk, and said that it was very odd that I could only use the headset in one of the USB ports, as well as the digital recorder. The devices would only work in only the bottom port it in neither worked in the top port. With the number of devices that I had been using lately, it had become very inconvenient to keep switching back and forth when I had a port that was available.

Now the actual technical intricacies of this are not as important as much as that when I brought this into the helpdesk and I explained my problem, the technician’s solution was to simply plug the device is in somewhere else or essentially to keep doing what I had been doing and switch the devices as needed. It had nothing to do with the fact the computer may or may not be working the way that it should, or that it may be an indication of a more serious problem. As far as he was concerned, it worked one way and that was okay. What I mean by ownership is that when he couldn’t figure out what the problem was, he just left it, hoping that I would go away. Instead of saying, “This may take some time to look into. Can you leave it with us? Can I open a ticket for you and you will get back to as soon as we can.” They just said: “Well, this is the way it is.” But no, the computer was not working properly and this is not the way that it should be. Ultimately, one of the supervisors was asked to take a look at, and his suggestion was that it might be the BIOS, which in fact it was. In the case of the digital recorder, it was actually the casing of the laptop that limited the connection of the USB device into the port itself. So in this case, it was a physical limitation in the design of the laptop casing. This cannot be changed and I was willing to work with that and understood why it could not work the way it was intended to be used. However in the case of the headset, the USB adapter would fit perfectly into both of the ports, but the device would not work in the top one where the digital recorder could not go, but would work in the bottom one. Every time the device need to be plugged in, and installation would occur with the particular software that I needed for the dictation. Ultimately the problem was fixed, but only after I stood there and insisted that it be fixed and gave the impression that I would not leave until it was fixed.

Having worked at one of my help desk positions, and with my manager, the CIO, I learned that you don’t close that ticket unless that person is satisfied that the problem has been resolved. There were other reasons for closing a ticket, granted, but the idea why is the person would not be left hanging. I have felt this abandonment in numerous cases, for example, by calling Dell myself, where the problem is just left in the hands of the client and no one says, “This is what you need to do,” or “this is who you need to speak to”, and in most cases, it bounces back and forth from one organisation to the other.

In my dealings with Dell, I had to use four hours of my personal time to retrieve an empty box to return a laptop to them for repair. I needed to pick it up at the courier and was not able to retrieve the empty box even though I have provided all the information at the time of placing the original call. They could not even facilitate a simple transaction, like picking up a box from a courier station.

What I am trying to instil is the idea of ownership. Take responsibility and take ownership. If this is what you are being paid to do, then do it. Don’t just say “oh, it’s not my problem.” There are going to be cases where it is certainly does not fall under your purview or job description. This is understandable, and these are not the cases to which I am referring. But if you are working on a helpdesk for a set of clients and this is your primary duty, don’t just say, “Well it works, this one way, so just work with that.” No! At the end of the day, the computer was not working the way it should. So fix it. If you don’t know, ask someone. If it’s going to take some time, take down the person’s information, open a ticket if you have to, and then investigate the problem as much as possible. Because I know that many of the people who were working at this particular helpdesk were not that busy, and they could afford the time to deal with the problem. If you can’t handle this, don’t work on a help desk. Remember, without these clients, internal or external, you wouldn’t have a job.