September 2, 2014

Stories from the CRE Tech Support Staff

tech supportAlmost daily I get to see how a lot of agents use technology.  They’re really no different than any other group.  Just like anywhere else, some agents get it, some don’t and most know enough to get by.  So what do agents look like to the “support” staff?  Here’s an inside view.

Most Annoying Request
Hands down, the most frequent and annoying request is to attach a file to an email or save an email attachment they got.  Browsing for files, “save” vs “save as” – I get that it can be confusing. But after a few years, you’d think they’d be able to figure it out.

Biggest Duh! Moment
Agents who weren’t using the company webmail software were always complaining about not getting email on their cell phones.  Since the device and Outlook configurations were usually correct, we couldn’t figure out the problem until an agent pointed to an email in Outlook that he received a few minutes ago but wasn’t on his phone when he checked a few minutes later.

It never occurred to us that they had Outlook open all the time (including on weekends) fetching email every 5 minutes and taking it off the server…and then expect it to show up on their cell phone.  Solution: Set Outlook to leave mail on the server for a few days and/or close Outlook when you leave the office.

Technology That Most Agents Get (or get well enough…)
Before there was easy remote access, agents used to email files to their accounts and use their mailbox for remote document storage.  Since their Outlook data files were getting huge or mail boxes reaching their limits, we tried other solutions like VPN access but those were messy and confusing.  So when Dropbox came along we showed them how to use it.  It was love at first sight.

Most Creative Email Setup
POP email accounts work well enough on mobile devices, but you do have to configure things correctly in order not to lose emails – especially if you’re using something like Outlook.  That kind of confusion along with exposure to IMAP (where every place you get email is synched/contains the same messages) led to one agent setting up Gmail to get their office POP email but leave it on the company mail server.  Then, he set up his devices to use Gmail – which uses IMAP – so every device is in sync.  Outlook is used to clear out their POP account which has a storage limit.  And, he uses Gmail’s “bring your own SMTP server” option so that emails are sent from the company email server instead of Google’s.

One Thing That Agents Don’t Do but Should
Business related files are supposed to be saved on company file servers and email sent via the company mail server.  Those are backed up and archived.  But we all know that agents don’t always use the company resources.  Plus, agents with CRM apps or who use Outlook don’t realize that their data files are stored on their computer’s hard drive – not the company server.

We’ve tried all sorts of ways to help with backing up their drives while they’re in the office but there’s not much a company can do about work done on other devices or from out of the office locations.  Every agent should subscribe to a cloud backup service.  It’s cheap, simple, effective and saves you the embarrassment of having your colleagues see you cry when your hard drive crashes.  Just do it!

Photo by XKCD

Comments

  1. Great article. Credit to XKCD for the flow chart.

    • Chris Clark says:

      Whoa…changed that. So much for getting Creative Commons photos from Flickr. Thanks for the heads up.

  2. One thing I’ve observed from so many people of all age groups and careers is that just don’t understand file systems: where things are saved, how to find them, how to move them, how to properly label them, etc. Maybe you could write a post on proper organization of files, etc. for CRE people.

    On the email thoughts – I recently wrote up a blog post on how to set up Google Apps – Gmail for work accounts for those who are ready to toss out Outlook for good: http://www.chasepursley.com/cre-tech-tools-gmail-a-prologue

    P.S. +1 for cloud file backup. I have no sympathy for people who ‘lose’ their files in A.D. 2013.

    • Chris Clark says:

      Yeah – file systems are interesting…especially when you throw in tablets. I wrote something about iPad file management (ugh!!) but wouldn’t hurt to repeat it. Thanks for the idea.

      Nice post on Google Apps – but a word of caution to people who want to try it/get the advantages of an Apps account. You have to own the domain name. Some people try to set up their business email and they don’t own it – but once they start the process, Google will associate the domain with the user who first claimed it even if they don’t go through the whole set up. So if the company decides to use Google Apps, they can’t easily get their own domain to use!

  3. Oh the memories of managing a network and supporting all that goes with it! One of the more frustrating jobs in the world, I must say! One trick we used many years ago was to get as many folks on efax because nobody could figure out how to scan. Instead we told them to fax the documents to their email and voila, they had the document! Scanning is more common today, but when you have many remote sites (property managers) it is even harder to support or be there to support them.

    Today, the remote site workers would be so much easier with all of the awesome and free tools and screen share tools. We had a TS and a VPN and we had so many daily support issues, between crackberries and printers, even though, back then it was state of the art stuff. Now I would definitely get rid of all of the hardware and go to as much of a cloud based system, like Google Apps in a heartbeat. I would shed all of the servers and headaches and MS licenses and MS Exchange, I could possibly shed. I look at all of the stuff and say, wow, what I could do today compared to what we had to do back in the day and scary how some still use all of that stuff, it is quite amazing.

    As far as file systems and directories, we had systems for everyone and once we got on a VPN, if you stored anything on a machine, it was at your own risk.

    On people losing files, I would teach everyone that a computer box was identical to a metal filing cabinet. I would say, do you just throw your files on the office floor? They would say no. I would say then why do you throw your files in the C: drive? That is like filing on the floor. You open the drawer, open a pendaflex, open a manila folder and look inside. That is the same thing with your computer directory. Once I explained visually that the screen is identical to the office and the folders are the same as the paper folders, they would understand much more!!

    I have so many funny things I can share with you, it goes on and on. Thanks for the chuckle and walk down memory lane. So glad I am not in charge of IT as a part of my career any longer!

    Thanks,
    Linda

    • Chris Clark says:

      Oh yeah…scanning – especially from a MFP! I “love” it when I get GIANT attachments (scanning default set to 600 dpi…) named with a long string of numbers. But at least they did it…