Over the last week I participated in the Student Computer Consultant (SCC) training with more than 16 other students at the University of Waterloo. The training was in-depth and amazing; over the course of 5 days we had covered topics ranging from troubleshooting common networking issues, to customer service techniques, and learned about the comprehensive systems that power Waterloo’s extensive network and software.
The training was a totally new experience. Upon arriving at Waterloo, there was an immediate sense of confidence and welcoming in the air. Everyone was very friendly and knowledgeable. The campus is huge: imagine every building on campus was just a single room in high school. And of course, there might be hundreds of rooms and lecture halls in each building. The cool thing was that many buildings were all connected. One could travel through several buildings without ever getting rained on!
We had pizza for dinner that first night and we made our first (of several) introductions. It was then did I realize the diversity. Many had drove from Toronto, but there were others from British Colombia and Quebec (their first time dealing with Collector/Express lanes).
What stuck out to me the most was the seemingly unlimited access to resources and help. Ten feet Ethernet cable too short? Here’s a twenty-five. Re-installing Windows? Would you like Windows 7, 8, or XP? All of these resources are available not because we are in a special position, but because we are here to help hundreds if not thousands of students who will need assistance during move-in week and the rest of the school year.
Not only does it equip us with the right tools and devices to provide the best support we can, it also encourages us to take the extra step when helping out students. We know that Waterloo will look out for us, and this really enables us to do the same with our clients. As long as we have a reasonable idea of how to fix a problem, even a hunch, we should still attempt the solution because one will never know unless they try.
Our role - We received a brief history of our positions. It was once called Residence Computing Consultant (RCC) and consisted of over a hundred RCC’s. That was when computers used modems and dial-up Internet. Students often had trouble connecting online because they mistook phone jacks with Ethernet ports, and vice-versa. RCC’s were required to visit each room to help students set-up their computers. Thus, the requirement of such a large staff. Nowadays students understand more about technology, and with the accessibility of wireless Internet, Waterloo is able to implement a help desk model where students come to us for help.
Technical - The technical part of our training had two main sections. One was using the systems at Waterloo to diagnose and fix problems. Some types of problems include: students who are unable to connect to wired/wireless Internet, or students who are unable to login to online Waterloo student resources (eg. Quest). And then of course we provide software support such as (re)installing OS’s and software, removing viruses, and setting up email clients. Did I mention we loan out Ethernet cables, install disc’s, and lots of other hardware (for free :) ?
Customer service - On our last day of training, we received a special workshop from Waterloo’s Organizational & Human Development (OHD). It was a jammed-packed afternoon where we learned about how to be excellent at customer service. One difficulty of customer service in general is the lack of a standard. People don’t know what to expect because companies may vary in their quality of service. There are companies who do a poor job, while others excel at it. This is why many customers often hesitate when faced with issues. The truth that many companies don’t realize is that customer service is a crucial part of their overall business. Retaining satisfied customers can be easier and more rewarding than attracting new, discontent customers who feel like they are not important enough to have their opinions heard.
This was why there was an emphasis on our customer training. We had several activities that demonstrated how diffuclt it can to provide customer support. One was a card game where we were split up into groups of 5. Each group (unknown to us at first) were given a set of different instructions. The only identical instruction we all received was that we had to remain silent; we were only able to use hand gestures. We would play for 5 minutes and the players who won/lost would move up/down a table. Since each table had their own distinct and contradicting rules, some people were confused. This got worse as people starting moving tables, where there could be up to 5 different sets of rules at the same table by the time the 3rd round starts.
In brief, there are many aspects to our help desk job. The most basic role we have is supporting students and staff (and anyone else) with their technical (or general) problems. We must always be courteous and respectful of our clients’ devices, and provide help to the best of our abilities. Our goal is to make it easier for others to get back to their job in the shortest amount of time possible.
As with everything in life, there will always be the unexpected, and with electronics it is even more prone to unforeseen malfunctions. I know that this job may be a challenging one at times (multitasking between different technical problems). However it is from the experience that one can learn, improve, and develop new skills. I know that I will be able to gain expertise and accumulate wisdom by serving clients and learning from others. Here’s to an engaging and interesting work term!