noun \i-ˈnā-blər, -bəl-ər\
: one that enables another to achieve an end; especially : one who enables another to persist in self-destructive behavior (as substance abuse) by providing excuses or by making it possible to avoid the consequences of such behavior
I’ve come across a few enablers through the course of my lifetime, and I’ve been known to use the word a few times in reference to my wife. (Love you honey!) You see, many years ago, I developed a habit, or as I call it, an addiction, to smokeless tobacco. Yes, I’m acutely aware of the health risks involved and yes, I have quit. Many times. One such period of cessation lasted for over a year. (377 days to be exact). But on the 378th day, my then secretary marched into my office, slammed a fresh, unopened can of my favorite brand on my desk and exclaimed “Here, I’m sick of your s*#@!”. I’m told that when I do attempt to quit, my demeanor tends to deteriorate to depths even lower than my normally lousy demeanor. (So I’m told). So, I did what any perceptive human being would do. I opened the can, put in a chew and forever branded my secretary as an “enabler”.
It has taken over 6 years, but I’ve finally come to the realization that I am also an enabler. That light bulb snapped on recently when I received an email from a customer. She’s upset because she has “somehow lost” her homepage (not the first time for her) while downloading “something”, and can I “fix” it for her. Ordinarily, I would reach out to a request like this and either walk the customer through changing it back, or go into their machine via remote connection and fix the problem. In the past, I’ve never charged a customer for “quick fix” issues, but as my customer base exceeds 1500 these days, calls like this can and do take up a substantial amount of my time. I’ve always considered my customer base as an extended family and like to think that’s been an important factor in the success of my business. But where does one draw the line?
Last year, I finally instituted a “minimum service fee” for all walk-ins. That policy was the direct result (fault?) of one customer who, at least once a week, would pop in (without an appointment), with his laptop, and ask me to show him how to perform some very basic, simple task. (Cut & paste anyone?) Not surprisingly, once the policy was posted and he had to pay a nominal fee, he stopped showing up unannounced.
Now, I find myself contemplating the same for phone/remote connection support. My thinking is that, if I’ve helped you through a process once, it’s a good bet that you either did it yourself by following my instructions over the phone, or, you watched it happen on your screen as I applied the fix via remote connection, all the while explaining what I was doing. Certainly, I’m not talking about any technical issues here that require geek like skills. But, if the loss of your homepage so upsets you, perhaps you should be willing to type that problem into Google or Bing, and follow the whopping 2 steps required to reset it, because I’d like to think that my education, experience and skill sets are better served. (True story: During one such phone support session, I asked a customer to press his “Alt” key. When he couldn’t find it I explained that it was the key to the left and right of his “space bar”. Once he advised he didn’t know what or where his “space bar” was, the session ended when I told him to offer his computer on Craigslist for a reasonable price. There’s that demeanor thing rearing its ugly head again).
Perhaps I’ve been enabling some people for too long. I’m guessing (from the number of calls, emails, and visits) that a computer is an important device in your household. I’m also going to assume that you know how to operate your car, power tools, TVs and other electronic devices that you may own. It may be time to take ownership of that computer also. And for goodness sakes, if you’re using or are dependent upon that computer for your livelihood/business, and don’t know the difference between left and right mouse clicks…… seriously?
And just in case any of you were wondering how to accurately gauge my demeanor: Check the back, left side pocket of my jeans. If you see an empty, perfect impression of a circular can, then I’m currently on a “quit cycle” and may be a tad cranky(er).
But, as you can tell, I’m very happily writing this with can in back pocket and chew in place. You can all thank Mrs. Lawrence. She bought this round. Again.