Help desks that suck
I decided to publish an example of a help desk that sucks. This example is about the previous host of this website. Working as a developer in the IT industry, asymmetric information is a constant challenge when relating to coworkers, bosses, customers, external contributors etc. You don't know what the others know, and they don't know if you really know what you pretend to know.
This is especially painful when technical support is involved. When I'm on the customer side, I always feel that the other party is not giving me complete information and probably believes I'm sort of dumb and annoying. When I'm on the other side, I often fail to give complete information and sometimes I must confess that I'm tempted to think that the customer is either dumb or annoying - or both.
Let's face reality: technical support is a victim of the 95/0/5 rule.
OK, I fabricated this rule, nobody ever described it before, as far as I know. Therefore, I should explain what it means:
- 95% of the requests for technical support for anything are trivial and could be avoided just by checking the knowledge base available online or in the user's manuals; people who ask for support in these cases usually fail to provide essential information needed to reply and in several cases they are responsible for the problems they're complaining about;
- 0% of the requests are average requests, having an average difficulty level, that any average help-desk guy can effectively process; these requests would be the most fun to reply to for the technical support: not too challenging, not too easy, they really make you feel useful and smart if you're in the help desk, and happy and satisfied if you're the customer - but, unfortunately, they just don't exist;
- 5% of the requests are very complicated, exposing subtle flaws in the product or service, and also extremely difficult to understand; the customers who notice this sort of problems are usually more technologically conscious than the technical-support guys themselves, but for some reasons they are not recognised as such before the fourth or fifth reply in the thread and therefore a freshman, that can hardly turn a computer on, is assigned to their ticket; quite often, the issue is not solved and the ticket remains open forever.
If you want to improve a help desk, organise it on the basis of the 95/0/5 rule: you need a straightforward way to wipe out the trivial requests and some other way (don't ask me how) to address the sophisticated ones. Just forget about the average case: if you take 20 horse and 20 men, they have 3 legs in average, but none of them is three-legged.
Here comes the "funny" story:
Subject: Problem after POST only with Firefox (?)
Opening time: 2007-04-04 18:08:42
Some of my sites and the Control Panel itself seem to work only with Internet Explorer when something more than just browsing is done.
Example: on www.maurovanetti.info when I submit the content of a form, I receive no response and the browser waits forever for the end of the loading. If I use IE, no problem.
Other example: I can't even see the log page of the Control Panel if I use Firefox. If I use IE, no problem.
2007-04-04 18:28:15 by Technical Support to mauvan6
I've test www.maurovanetti.info in firefox and it works fine, probably this is a problem with your browser or some cache/proxy settings.
2007-04-04 19:48:14 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
Have you managed to post a form's content?
2007-04-04 20:05:41 by Technical Support to mauvan6
No, which form's content cause the problem , please give us a link.
2007-04-04 20:13:35 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
Each form gives a problem, that's why I think it's about POST.
For example you could try and add a comment here (add whatever you want, it will go in the moderation queue):
Also the search box in the upper right part of the site doesn't seem to work with Firefox. Since this problem appeared only recently, I thought it could have been caused by an upgrade you made or something like that but it's probably something related with my browser.
2007-04-04 20:31:49 by Technical Support to mauvan6
The form works fine on our side and we didn't receive any error. Please check the mailbox specified in the script for out test message.
2007-04-04 21:23:58 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
You didn't add any comment...!
2007-04-04 21:26:49 by Technical Support to mauvan6
The comment was TEST
2007-04-04 21:36:04 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
Therefore it's confirmed that something does not work, because that comment was never saved nor it appears in the log.
2007-04-04 22:01:23 by Technical Support to mauvan6
I've test it and it works fine. So, the SMTP/sendmail works. If your site has problem this may be only a script problem/setup.
2007-04-04 22:15:03 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
This does not prove much indeed... I never thought that SMTP/sendmail was not working because if it were the problem that would have been the same with IE.
I noticed that forms (having method="post") like this simple one (in the upper right corner, with "Cerca" written besides it) don't work:
<form action="?q=search" method="post">
<input class="form-text" type="text" size="15" value="" name="edit[keys]" alt="Inserisci i termini da cercare." />
<input class="form-submit" type="submit" value="Cerca" />
This happens just with Firefox and this has been happening just in the last few days. Couldn't it be a problem with the PHP server or anything like that? I will make a few experiments.
2007-04-04 22:28:45 by Technical Support to mauvan6
I'm not informed for a problem with the PHP and also I've test the for again using IE7 and it not post any message. I think this is a script problem and you need to ask the script vendor for support.
2007-04-05 15:40:55 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
The script is and old version of Drupal, it worked until a few days ago and I doubt the problem is there. However, I will find a way myself. Thank you.
2007-04-05 16:36:12 by Technical Support to mauvan6
If you didn't find a solution please give us a link, and also the source of the script and I'll forward this issue to our Administrators.
2007-04-05 17:21:00 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
I upgraded my site to Drupal 5.1 (one of the most important and used open source CMS - www.drupal.org) and the problem is still there. Let's put it in the simplest way: the search form does not work with Firefox and the same problem occurs with most forms. Thank you!
2007-04-05 17:27:16 by Technical Support to mauvan6
I'll forward this issue to our administrators and we will investigate this issue.
2007-04-06 00:19:49 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
I can add that the issue is very likely to be related with a change in the PHP configuration and in the way HTML headers (including cookies) are sent.
2007-04-06 00:22:02 by Technical Support to mauvan6
Thank you for the update, please wait for our administrators support.
2007-04-06 05:29:54 by Technical Support to mauvan6
We have investigated the problem that you have and there was no problem on our end. The tests were made using Firefox 126.96.36.199/Linux - Success in posting!
Inserito da NN (non verificato) il 5 Aprile, 2007 - 23:07
Please, try using a newer version of Firefox.
2007-04-06 07:47:40 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
I'm sorry but I have to contradict you another time. :-) "Anteprima" means "Preview" (yes, I know you couldn't know...! sorry, I can turn the site back into English if it's too weird in Italian), strangely it works, but if you try and submit the comment, it won't work. I'm using the latest version of Firefox (I downloaded it a few hours ago, 2.0) - and the latest version of Drupal.
Thank you once more for your help if you find a solution! Tomorrow I will try with some HTTP tracing test to understand the difference between the headers sent by this site and other sites I have with you that work perfectly.
2007-04-06 08:43:18 by Technical Support to mauvan6
I will let our administrators know that the problem still persists on your end! I hope that this time we will have a better solution!
P.S. If you are able to set your site in English temporary it will be really better for the tests.
2007-04-06 15:48:24 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
Another piece of information: if I put a HTTP monitor between Firefox and the site, it works. Could it be a time-out issue?
However, the site has been switched to English now. Thank you very much for your help! This issue is really quite complicated.
2007-04-06 16:08:57 by Technical Support to mauvan6
OK, this information will be also send to our administrators.
2007-04-07 12:12:55 by Technical Support to mauvan6
The problem seems to be a timeout in your script probably you can try to adjust this using the BrowserMatch directive in .htaccess
2007-04-09 00:15:29 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
If it's a question of raising the time out threshold, I don't need to use that directive, I could just raise it for all browsers, but I don't see how this could be done at server side. Could you explain more please? Thank you.
2007-04-09 00:35:37 by Technical Support to mauvan6
Unfortunately on the server side this may be done only via .htaccess file created in your account with us.
2007-10-10 14:42:19 by mauvan6 to Technical Support
I moved this website elsewhere therefore no more support is needed on this isssue.
Feedback: The problem was not solved and at a large extent not even understood.
Nevertheless, the workers of the technical support have always been very kind.
NB: Always give a positive feedback about the kindness of the workers! We don't want them to have any trouble, do we? Who's responsible for these shortcomings is the one who organises their work!!
By the way, has anybody understood what the problem possibly was?