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I got a call from someone telling me their delete key on their new laptop was mapped wrong. Issue centered around pressing the delete key and getting periods in their word processor documents and email client email editor. The delete key would not delete files in Explorer, and it would not delete emails in the email client. Sounded like a broken delete key or a virus of some sort. Each time I tested out the laptop the delete key deleted characters or files or emails. Strange.

So this time around I had the user show me the problem because it was obvious to me I don’t have much luck with hardware. Sure enough when they hit the delete key it put periods into the word processor.

The difference between the two? I was pressing the dedicated delete key and the user was pressing the delete key on the numeric keyboard. Naturally the user was a bit embarrassed by this, but in reality the laptop is new and it is the first time they have a number pad on the base machine. Once I explained how the delete key on the numeric keypad works all is solved.

The lesson with this tech support call is to not dismiss the user’s observations and for the tech support person to watch the user reproduce the problem when the repro steps are not completely understood.


3 Responses to “Tech Support: Watch to reproduce problem”

  1. Dave Aring
    November 23rd, 2009 at 17:11 | #1


    You make an excellent point. I will use YOUR forum to extend that point. I want to encourage "techies" to cut the users some slack. Yes, I know that we all have dealt with extremely frustrating users, but I would suggest to do what I do when I encounter these people. Harken back to WHEN you had very little, if any, experience with computers and how uninformed you were. Put yourself in their place. Typically, they are in "pain" and want you to relieve that pain. They are just trying to do their job and (subconsciously or not) have only committed to learning JUST ENOUGH to get by.

    Your blog reminds me of two of my favorite "help desk" calls. The first one was a similar issue where it just wasn't the DELETE key, but the entire keyboard that wasn't working. After 10 minutes on the phone having them check the keyboard connection (which, of course, included trying to tell them WHICH cable went to the keyboard and WHERE it SHOULD be plugged into the computer), no solution was found. I was going to be in the area that afternoon and told them I could re-address the issue then. When I showed up, it took me less than five seconds to figure out the problem was once I observed what they were doing. The cause… They were looking at the monitor, but typing on the keyboard of the IBM Selectric sitting NEXT to the monitor. The second was when a user called to tell me about some sort of "Chinese writing" on the computer. My first guess was that they were looking at a bunch of ASCII characters, etc. Still, no solution could be found and, again, I said I could drop by later in the day, but in the meantime I told them they should take some screen shots so I could see what this application was doing when I got there. When I showed up, the user proudly pulled out his screen shots; four Polaroid pictures of his monitor with the "Chinese" writing. I laugh about those incidents to this day, but I would never "insult" the user with the stupidity of their issue. Sometimes, they ARE telling you EXACTLY what is happening.


  2. November 23rd, 2009 at 18:02 | #2

    I always have trouble justifying billing for all my time in situations like these (which may be why I'm struggling).

  3. November 23rd, 2009 at 18:13 | #3


    Billing for time is always on a case-by-case basis. There are a lot of factors that go into any decision, but if you are being helpful to someone and you job is technical support, than you probably should be billing help like this one. If you are doing something else for the customer like developing an application for them then getting some good will with help like this as "added-value" only enhances your customer relationship.

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