When Is A Support Call An Actual Emergency

Christopher Lentz | December 13, 2013 02:47 PM

As a long time network administrator I have had my fair share of experiences with users who did not understand the meaning of a critical or emergency situation. We all think that our problem is critical and needs to be addressed right now, after all most of us live on instant gratification! Our society is built on it, we create devices and processes to make our lives easier and shorten the time to a result. That being said, it is no surprise that users do not have a clear understanding of what truly constitutes an emergency with their helpdesk support.

Fighting Fires of Different Intensity

In a larger small business, one with more than 25 users, it can be quite hectic to deal with the list of issues that build up from your users. Add to that their persistence that their issue takes priority over someone else's issue and you have a mess on your hands. Clearly defining to your users the severity level of common issues is one way to avoid mistaken classification of user submitted problems. This will hopefully keep your users aware of the true severity of issues and lessen your need to define it for them over and over.

I'm Not Crying Wolf, I Swear

There are many things that network administrators feel are emergency situations but these things don't fall under that umbrella.

  • "The printer is out of paper" or "The printer needs a new toner" - In most organizations, daily maintenance of the printers is the responsibility of the users. Changing toners, loading new paper, and removing minor paper jams can easily be handled by the average user. For more advanced printer issues, it might be wise to open a support ticket. However, that ticket is most likely not an emergency either.
  • "I need to install this XYZ software" - Software installations are quite low on the severity list. One of the few exceptions to this rule is when the software install is required to perform work that affects finances or work production.
  • "I've lost a file and I can't find it anywhere" - Losing a file is not usually a critical matter, especially in a busy workplace with lots of users. One exception might be the accountant losing the QuickBooks file.

The Real Deal: A True Emergency

So if most things are not critical, what actually constitutes a status deserving of the coveted Emergency label? Here are just a few, as your organization may have others depending on your business model and structure.

  • A department or group of users is affected - If more than one person is affected by the issue, it is likely causing a major degradation in work productivity. This can upset managers as well as workers and lead to a shame session with your superior.
  • Finances are involved - When money is involved it can get a lot of people pretty upset and possibly even fired. It's best to treat issues that are around money with the Emergency status just to be safe!
  • A manager or executive is affected - Executives and top-level managers don't like to wait to have their issues resolved, even if the issues are not truly an "emergency". Not getting on these immediately could mean the demise of your career. 

Since every business is different it is important to evaluate your own situation and determine what issues are critical and which ones can wait until the madness has subsided a bit. More importantly, conveying to end-users and clients the definitions of your severity levels can help reduce anger and frustration. As administrators, we all want to have happy users and that is why we do what we do but often it is a very thankless job. So the next time you see your tech support, let them know you appreciate their hard work. I bet you will get a smile and a thank you right back!

If you need help sorting out your support issues, why not pick up the phone and give us a call? After all, we have certified engineers to help reduce your headaches and increase your productivity. Call us now, 408-844-4808.


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