Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3…

For my first story, I’d like to share something that happened to a buddy of mine. He worked the help desk for a computer manufacturer and was quite used to getting “stupid”/”strange” calls from end users.
One particular day, he had a call escalated to him. The customer was complaining that his “screen shrunk.”
Being the professional he is, he started by asking clarifying questions: “Do you mean the icons on the screen?” (No, they’re correct) “Do you mean the monitor is too small?” (No, the monitor’s size is just fine) and so on.
They rebooted the monitor and the computer several times but couldn’t resolve the issue of the “shrinkage.” They eventually decided to send the customer a replacement monitor. When the original monitor returned to the factory, it was tested and no problem could be found with it. After this had happened several times, they decided it was important to send a tech to the man’s office to see the problem first hand. They found that the customer was correct, periodically the image on the screen “shrunk” amid a flurry of pixelation and static. They were puzzled for a moment.
I’ll tell you in a minute what the problem was, but I’ll give you this hint for now: moving the monitor and the desk it was sitting on to a different location 3 feet away solved the problem.
So what have we learned from this?
1) The customer is the customer. They might not be right but they are experiencing something with our product.
2) Ask questions to understand what the customer is saying. They may not have the vocabulary to explain what they see or may misunderstand what they are seeing. Doesn’t mean they aren’t seeing it.
3) Follow up. Ask the customer if the resolution is working. If not, escalate the problem so that the customer knows you aren’t just blowing him off.
4) Test the product but know you’ll never account for everything that could happen to it. If the user finds a novel use for your product, either embrace it or don’t but know that the customer thought of your product to try to do what they needed done. That should mean something!

OK, the problem was that the monitor and computer were set against the wall of the office. And the other side of the wall was the elevator shaft where the huge iron counter-weights to the elevator zoomed past periodically. The counter-weights generated a magnetic field over time and degaussed the monitor every time they flew by. Moving the monitor away from the stray magnetic field fixed the problem.