“you must include the … type of … metadata you were submitting when the problem occurred.”

I had an interaction with a help desk this week that really brought to the fore some of the inanities of help desks.

Before I rant too much, I should preface it by saying I get a lot of good help from a lot of help desk people. This just happens to be the (usually more rare) example of help that wasn’t.

My role in the affair was helping someone else resolve their problem by contacting the help desk for them. I went through three separate phone calls, with three separate agents, all of whom were friendly and did good diagnosis, but whose solutions weren’t able to resolve the issue. The final one said the issue wasn’t with the user’s settings,  but the system itself and I needed to go to an online site and file a case request to get that fixed.

So I went to the website and filled out the drop-down boxes and blanks that were part of the application. I got a response back telling me that I didn’t fill out the “Bug Form” required for that type of bug by the SLA in force between her organization and my organization and I should have known better. I asked where the SLA was and where a link to the Bug Form was. She responded by sending me a Word attachment  that was the Bug Form and a screenshot of the website where I could pull the Bug Form.

When I opened the form I started reading what was required; the below line stopped me cold:

DESCRIPTION OF BUGYou must include the following:  Time and Date you experienced the problem, Any error messages, type of payment or metadata you were submitting when the problem occurred.

What sort of help desk form asks people to provide “metadata”? I  mean, I know what it is, at least in the context of my Master’s in Communications degree, but exactly what it means for a computer bug when you are trying to login to an online computer application? I’m not sure how many people filling out such a form would know what it meant in that context either. My guess is it means something different, but related, in the computer environment vs. my communications degree context.

That wasn’t the only inanity in the Bug Form, but it is the one I am most able to point out, the most glaring flaw. You need to design a form so the person filling it out can understand it, not just the person who will be using the data. If you don’t, you are going to get a lot of useless data, GIGO, as the saying goes.

And instead of telling me that I’d broken all sorts of SLA stipulations that I didn’t know, the agent could have simply asked me to fill out the form so she could complete the request, and mention that if I submitted the form with my request the next time, the issue would be resolved faster. Suggesting the other person is remiss and purposefully not following procedures is never a good way to be helpful.

So we will see if what I submitted resolves the issue, or if I continue to get harranged as part of the process of completing the request.

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