January 4, 2013

Calling Bullshit On "Too Old To Work a Computer"

If there’s one assumption in the  help desk environment that’s as close to universally accepted as you can get, it’s that the younger a person is, the more adept they will be at picking up new technology.  I’ve worked with plenty of users who seem to fit the stereotype for their age group.  I’ve talked with young people who are fresh out of college, and all you have to do is tell them in IT lingo what they need to do and they’re on the fix like white on rice.  I’ve had older people who’s hearing aids are whistling feedback into the phone not understand a single word I’ve told them and had them hang up in frustration.  So yes, the stereotype exists because there are people that it applies to.  But, be careful to assume that it’s one size fits all.

I’ve talked to members of generation Y that I suspect their mother still cuts their meat for them at dinner.  Asking them to tell me whether they have a network cable plugged in to their laptop might as well be the same as requesting they wipe their ass with a belt sander.  I don’t know if it’s a matter of inability, or that they’re so used to having their hand held, their head patted, and told it’s ok that they have developed learned helplessness in the area of self sufficiency.  What I do know is this; the assumption that they take to technology like a greyhound to a rabbit isn’t 100% true.  

On the flip side, I’ve talked to more than one pensioner who probably could have moonlighted with the Geek Squad.  I could throw out terms that would have confused the majority us users and they could keep right up with me.  More often than not, when I get a person who didn’t grow up playing at least Oregon Trail on an Apple IIc, I have to use our remote control tools to complete a call.  Though, like I said, there have been the surprising few who’ve made my day by being willing and eager to do their own work.  And you know what?  I respect the hell out of that.  It’s easier to drop out of the race and let technology streak by you than it is to keep up.  Heck, I’ve been in the IT industry for the better part of the last 14 years and even I’m not current in everything.  There’s so much to choose from.  So, when I come away from a call with someone who might be a vietnam vet that knows what they’re doing with their computer, it makes me sit up and take notice.

My favorite had to be the call I had just a month or two ago.  I was talking with a lively man about trying to my company’s software downloaded and installed on his machine.  While we were working on the issue, we shot the shit a bit.  It isn’t uncommon to, during the course of a call, share some personal information, and this was no exception.  I learned that he was born in 1940, married when he was 18, still walked 3 miles a day, and affectionately called his wife his bride even all these years later.  Even if he had been having trouble with the technology, he was warm and engaging to talk to.  However, he flew through the steps where most people stumble, and impressed me with how easily he caught on to what I was telling him.  Though, I have to admit, I think what I remember most vividly was his complaining about how slowly his files were downloading.  If my memory serves, he exclaimed, “This thing is so slow!  It’s taking longer than it took me to make children!”.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to not burst into howling fits of laughter when you know your calls are recorded?  I think I might have bruised my funny bone with the effort to hold it in.  I also had to submit his comment to the list of “funniest things you’ve heard said on a support call”.

If I had my druthers, I’d want all my calls to be from people like him.  Besides giving me an on the job, laughter related injury, that guy cemented my belief that age isn’t a number.  It truly is how you feel.  If that’s the case, then I’m going to do my level best to be 25 till the day I lay down to take my dirt nap.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.