‘A Lizard Crawled Into My Server’

“How do I get my computer’s coffee-cup holder to come out again?”

That may sound like a baffling request, but for seasoned help desk professionals, it’s not out of the ordinary. In a new survey, CIOs identified the most unusual requests they or their support staff have fielded. The survey shows that it takes more than technical expertise to interact with end users, especially those who confuse CD-ROM drives with coffee trays.

CIOs were asked, “What is the strangest or most unusual request you or a member of your help desk or technical support team has ever received?” Their responses included:

n “Why isn’t my wireless mouse connected to the computer?”

n “My laptop was run over by a truck. What should I do?”

n “Can you rearrange the keyboard alphabetically?”

n “How do I read my e-mail?”

n “My computer is telling me to press any key to continue. Where is the
‘any’ key?”

n “Can you reset the Internet for me?”

n “There are animal crackers in my CD-ROM drive.”

n “Can you build me a robot?”

Some end users even called to report problems with mice (not the electronic kind) and other pests. To wit:

n “Can you get the mice out of the ceiling?”

n “A server went down, and I found a lizard had crawled into it and

n died.”

n “A skunk ate my cable.”

Other requests signal more trouble than just a technical glitch. Here are some examples:

n “How can I block e-mail from my manager?”

n “Can I open the bank safe using my computer?”

n “Can you install cable TV on my PC?”

n “Can you order joysticks so that we can play video games?”

n “I’d like to stop receiving e-mail on Fridays.”

Help desk professionals are known for lending a hand, but these end users took the concept too far:

n “Can you come and install my car stereo?”

n “Where can I locate dry ice?”

n “I’d like wireless computer access in my motor home.”

n “Can you fix my typewriter?”

n “How long does it take to bake a potato in a microwave?”

n “My daughter is locked in the bathroom, can you pick the lock?”

n “Can you tell me the weather forecast for next year?”

n “The elevator is broken.”

n “How do I wire a robotic turkey?”

n “Where can I get software to track UFOs?”

n “Can you repair my motorbike?”

Beyond the comic relief these out-of-the-blue requests can provide, they also serve as a test of essential help desk and technical support skills, said to Katherine Spencer Lee, executive director of Robert Half Technology in a statement. “These unusual requests highlight the need for technical support personnel to also demonstrate patience, empathy and a sense of humor.”

About the Survey

The national survey was developed by Robert Half Technology, a provider of information technology professionals on a project and full-time basis, and conducted by an independent research firm. The survey is based on more than 1,400 telephone interviews with CIOs from a random sample of U.S. companies with 100 or more employees.