We’ve all heard at least one story about the persistent author who follows the agent into the restrooms at a conference and tries to hand their manuscript to the agent under the toilet door. Hopefully, most of us know this is outright not done, but I recently saw similar behaviour in my office when someone hassled one of our service-desk people and it struck me that a service-desk person is treated a lot like an agent when it comes to chance meetings.
So first, a bit of background for those who don’t know what I mean by service-desk, or who call it something different in their part of the world.
Businesses run on computers, and someone has to get those computers up and running, install software users want, manage computer security, protect us from our stupidity when we accidentally erase files, manage backups and so on. This is the service desk, otherwise known as support, IT support, help-desk or by a myriad of other names. I will call it the service desk.
In a small company, say 10 people or less, you can often get away with one knowledgeable computer person who does all of this as an adjunct to their own job. Or maybe pull in an external company to do the work. As the company grows, however, you need a dedicated person; and then another; and then another. Until finally, your company grows so big they outsource help-desk again, only this time it’s to a service desk in another country, and you can be stuck for days waiting for them to unlock your password or something else trivial.
In this blog I’m talking about in-house staff, where they still work inside the same building you do, so you know who they are.
Everyone wants to talk work
If you’re an agent or a publisher, as soon as someone knows you’re in the industry, what do they want to talk about? How can I get my book published?
Likewise, as soon as anyone knows you work in the service desk they want to talk about their computer problems.
Will you look at my work?
Leading on from that, the agent or publisher is often asked by friends and family—will you look at my book to see if you can publish/represent it?
Likewise, the first person friends and family turn to when their computer breaks down is the family member who works on the service-desk. (Failing that, it’s the family member who works in IT, any part of IT.)
Tell me what to write/buy
Many people ask agents and publishers about trends. What is the next big thing? (So they can write it.)
Service-desk people are expected to give advice on the best computer to buy, software to install, etc. They’re expected to be up with the latest hardware, and what’s coming.
There are the above-mentioned infamous toilet incidents, of course. But there are other places where the agent/service-desk staff member becomes a captive audience. The best place is the lift. You just can’t escape.
The response by both is the same. The beleaguered agent/service desk person smiles and listens, and says,
“Send in a query. The information on how to do that is on the website.”
“Put in a service-desk request. The form is on the intranet.”
and they make their escape as soon as the lift door opens.