Stupid Computer Users 2

From: Michael Travers <mt...@m...>
Subject: It's just this little chromium switch here
Date: Thu, 03 Mar 94 18:54:00 -0500

[ Forwardings Omitted ]

- ------- Begin -------

 From the Wall Street Journal, Tuesday, March 1, 1994.
 Reprinted without permission

BEFUDDLED PC USERS FLOOD HELP LINES, AND NO QUESTION SEEMS TO BE TOO BASIC

AUSTIN, Texas -  The exasperated help-line caller said she couldn't get
her new Dell computer to turn on.  Jay Ablinger, a Dell Computer Corp. 
technician, made sure the computer was plugged in and then asked the 
woman what happened when she pushed the power button.

"I've pushed and pushed on this foot pedal and nothing happens," the 
woman replied.  "Foot pedal?" the technician asked.  "Yes," the woman 
said, "this little white foot pedal with the on switch."  The "foot 
pedal," it turned out, was the computer's mouse, a hand-operated device 
that helps to control the computer's operations.

Personal-computer makers are discovering that it's still a low-tech 
world out there.  While they are finally having great success selling 
PCs to households, they now have to deal with people to whom monitors 
and disk drives are a foreign as another language.

"It is rather mystifying to get this nice, beautiful machine and not 
know anything about it," says Ed Shuler, a technician who helps field 
consumer calls at Dell's headquarters here.  "It's going into unfamiliar 
territory," adds Gus Kolias, vice president of customer service and 
training for Compaq Computer Corp.  "People are looking for a comfort level."

Only two years ago, most calls to PC help lines came from techies 
needing help on complex problems.  But now, with computer sales to homes 
exploding as new "multimedia" functions gain mass appeal, PC makers say 
that as many as 70% of their calls come from rank novices.  Partly 
because of the volume of calls, some computer companies have started 
charging help-line users.

The questions are often so basic that they could have been answered by 
opening the manual that comes with every machine.  One woman called Dell's 
toll-free line to ask how to install batteries in her laptop.  When 
told that the directions were on the first page of the manual, says Steve
Smith, Dell director of technical support, the woman replied angrily,
"I just paid $2,000 for this damn thing, and I'm not going to read a book."

Indeed, it seems that these buyers rarely refer to a manual when a phone 
is at hand.  "If there is a book and a phone and they're side by side, 
the phone wins time after time," says Craig McQuilkin, manager of 
service marketing for AST Research, Inc. in Irvine, Calif.  "It's a 
phenomenon of people wanting to talk to people."

And do they ever.  Compaq's help center in Houston, Texas, is inundated 
by some 8,000 consumer calls a day, with inquiries like this one related 
by technician John Wolf: "A frustrated customer called, who said her 
brand new Contura would not work.  She said she had unpacked the unit, 
plugged it in, opened it up and sat there for 20 minutes waiting for 
something to happen.  When asked what happened when she pressed the 
power switch, she asked, 'What power switch?'"

Seemingly simple computer features baffle some users.  So many people have
called to ask where the "any" key is when "Press Any Key" flashes on the
screen that Compaq is considering changing the command to "Press Return Key."

Some people can't figure out the mouse.  Tamra Eagle, an AST technical 
support supervisor, says one customer complained that her mouse was hard 
to control with the "dust cover" on.  The cover turned out to be the 
plastic bag the mouse was packaged in.  Dell technician Wayne Zieschang 
says one of his customers held the mouse and pointed it at the screen, 
all the while clicking madly.  The customer got no response because the 
mouse works only if it's moved over a flat surface.

Disk drives are another bugaboo.  Compaq technician Brent Sullivan says 
a customer was having trouble reading word-processing files from his 
old diskettes.  After troubleshooting for magnets and heat failed to 
diagnose the problem, Mr. Sullivan asked what else was being done with 
the diskette.  The customer's response: "I put a label on the diskette, 
roll it into the typewriter..."

At AST, another customer dutifully complied with a technician's request 
that she send in a copy of a defective floppy disk.  A letter from the 
customer arrived a few days later, along with a Xerox copy of the floppy.
And at Dell, a technician advised his customer to put his troubled floppy
back in the drive and "close the door." Asking the technician to "hold on,"
the customer put the phone down and was heard walking over to shut the
door to his room.  The technician meant the door to his floppy drive.

The software inside the computer can be equally befuddling.  A Dell 
customer called to say he couldn't get his computer to fax anything.  
After 40 minutes of troubleshooting, the technician discovered the man 
was trying to fax a piece of paper by holding it in front of the monitor 
screen and hitting the "send" key.

Another Dell customer needed help setting up a new program, so Dell
technician Gary Rock referred him to the local Egghead.  "Yeah, I got me 
a couple of friends," the customer replied.  When told Egghead was a 
software store, the man said, "Oh! I thought you meant for me to find a 
couple of geeks."

No realizing how fragile computers can be, some people end up damaging 
parts beyond repair.  A Dell customer called to complain that his 
keyboard no longer worked.  He had cleaned it, he said, filling up his 
tub with soap and water and soaking his keyboard for a day, and then 
removing all the keys and washing them individually.

Computers make some people paranoid.  A Dell technician, Morgan Vergara, 
says he once calmed a man who became enraged because "his computer had 
told him he was bad and an invalid."  Mr. Vergara patiently explained 
that the computer's "bad command" and "invalid" responses shouldn't be 
taken personally.

These days PC-help technicians increasingly find themselves taking on 
the role of amateur psychologists.  Mr. Shuler, the Dell technician, who 
once worked as a psychiatric nurse, says he defused a potential domestic 
fight by soothingly talking a man through a computer problem after the 
man had screamed threats at his wife and children in the background.

There are also the lonely hearts who seek out human contact, even if it 
happens to be a computer techie.  One man from New Hampshire calls Dell 
every time he experiences a life crisis.  He gets a technician to walk 
him through some contrived problem with his computer, apparently feeling 
uplifted by the process.

"A lot of people want reassurance," says Mr. Shuler.

- ------- End -------

------- End of Forwarded Message