Eight to Late

Sensemaking and Analytics for Organizations

An ABSERD incident – a service desk satire

with 4 comments

The expenses application crashed just as Tina had finished entering the last line. She wasn’t duly alarmed; this had happened to her a couple of times before, but Nathan in IT was able to sort it out without her having to reenter her expenses.

She dialled his number, he answered in a couple of rings. After a brief exchange of pleasantries, she described the problem.

To her surprise, he replied, “I’m sorry Tina, I can’t help you. You will have to call the service desk.”

“The service desk?”  She asked, “What’s that?”

“We have streamlined our IT service procedures to comply with the ABSERD standard –  which stands for  Absolutely Brilliant SERvice Desks. It is an ABSERD requirement that all service calls must be routed through a centralised service desk.”  explained Nate. “The procedures and the numbers you need to call were in the email that was sent out to everyone last week.”

“Yes, I read it, but I didn’t think the ABSERD procedures applied to something like the expenses app.,” said Tina, somewhat bemused.

“I’m afraid it applies to all services that IT offers,” said Nate.

“But isn’t the service desk located elsewhere? Will they even know what the expenses app is let alone how to fix it?”

“Ummm…they’ll fix it if they can and escalate it to the next level if they can’t,” replied Nate. “The ABSERD processes are detailed in the email,” he explained again helpfully.

“You know what the problem is.  Tell me honestly: do you think they’ll be able to fix it?”

“Probably not,” admitted Nate.

“So they’ll escalate it. How long will that take?”

“The ABSERD service level agreement specifies that all non-critical issues will be responded to within   48 hours. I’m afraid the expenses app is classified as non-critical.”

“So that’s 48 hours to fix an issue that you could sort out in minutes,” stated Tina in a matter of fact tone.

“Ummm…no, it’s 48 hours to respond.  That’s the time frame in which they will fix the issue if they can or escalate it if they can’t fix it. As I mentioned, in this case they’ll probably have to escalate” clarified Nate.

“You mean they’ll take 48 hours to figure out they can’t do it. Now, that is truly absurd!”   Tina was seriously annoyed now.

“Well, the service desk deals with calls from the entire organisation. They have to prioritise them somehow and this is the fairest way to do it,” said Nate defensively. “Moreover, the service level agreement specifies 48 hours, but there’s a good chance you’ll get a response within a day,” he added in an attempt to placate her.

“And who will they escalate the call to after 48 (or 24) hours if they can’t fix it?” asked Tina exasperatedly.

“Ummm….that would be me,” said Nate sheepishly.

“I’m sorry, but I’m totally lost now. By your own admission, you’ll probably be the one to fix this problem. So why can’t you just do it for me?”

“I’d love to, Tina” said Nate, “but I can’t.  Jim will have my hide if he knows that I have bypassed the ABSERD process. I’m sorry, you’re just going to have to call or email the service desk. I can’t do anything about it”

“Why are we suddenly following this ABSERD process anyway? What’s the aim of it all?” asked Tina.

“Well, our aim is to improve the quality of our service. The ABSERD standard is a best practice for IT service providers…,” he trailed off, realising that he sounded like a commercial for ABSERDity.

“You do agree that it actually increases the service time for me. You could have fixed the issue for me in the time we’ve had this conversation but I’m going to have to wait at least 24 hours. I fail to see what has “improved” here.”

“Look, this is the new process. I’m sorry can’t do anything about it,” said Nate lamely.

“OK, I’ll log the call.” she said resignedly.

“I’m sorry, Tina. I really am.”

“It’s not your fault,” she said in a gentler tone, “but I’m probably going to miss the deadline for getting my expenses in this month.”

“Tell you what,” said Nate, as the obvious solution dawned on him, “I’ll fix the problem now… but please log the call just in case someone checks.”

“Are you sure you can do that?” asked Tina. “It would be nice to get reimbursed this month, but I do not want you to get into trouble.”

“It shouldn’t be a problem as long as you don’t tell anyone about it…I wouldn’t want to make it known that I bypass the ABSERD procedures as a matter of course.”

“My lips are sealed,” said Tina. “Thanks Nate, I really appreciate your help with this.”

“No worries Tina. I’ll call you when it’s done,” he said as he ended the call.

Written by K

October 17, 2013 at 8:06 pm

4 Responses

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  1. […] Kailash Awati shares a satirical parable of ABSERD customer service. […]


    • I’m a bit behind on my reading list 😦

      This is such an ABSRD reflection of reality we all face on a daily basis.

      Well done mate.


      Shim Marom

      October 24, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      • Hi Shim,

        Thanks for reading and commenting!





        October 24, 2013 at 9:53 pm

  2. […] example of a system that can be standardized. Although users may initially complain about having to log a ticket instead of calling Nathan directly, in time they get used to it, and may even start to see the benefits…particularly when Nathan […]


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