Getting the most out of Tech Support

I found an interesting article over on The Cranking Widgets Blog (via LifeHacker)today and found it very pertinent to my daily life, being a technician with multiple users (about 400+). The article included 11 Tips for Better Tech Support and I thought I would re-post some of that here and expand my thoughts into the issue. We spend a lot of time at my company supporting our users. However, our main priority is not those users we support. Our primary concern is our servers and the applications we stream off of them. Without that part of the puzzle there would be nothing for our personnel to do there job. That is not to say that our users are not important. Without them, nothing would get done and I don’t have any clue as to how to enter in patient information! I don’t think there is any tech out there that wouldn’t tell everyone the same thing but the most important thing you can do to fix your computer is to restart it. It is simply amazing!

This fact is extremely important in corporate environments where everyone is connected on a network and critical in an environment where your software applications are virtualized. A quick reboot will refresh not only the computer you are working on but the information the server has about your system will often times update. It also gives time for the server to update itself after loosing it’s connection with your terminal.

Something that is not mentioned in the article is to always click log out or sign out whenever possible! The reason, from an IT standpoint, is this will clear you out of whatever server you are logged in to. There are many other reasons for logging out (such as legal reasons, avoiding pranks, and reducing overall server loads) but by logging out you are sending a signal to the server requesting that it lets you off of the server in a nice manner to the server. I know the little “X” in the corner is tempting and you never have to do that at home, but it is critical at work.

The article is spot on when he reviews recreating the error for tech support. It is critical for you to be able to communicate to the person helping you to fix your computer what is happening. A lot of the help desk is guess work and, honestly, we don’t always fix things, we just make them stop giving you that error message. I have been luck enough to be able to remotely log in and view what is going on to the afflicted computer when something is going terribly wrong using VNC (Virtual Network Computing) software. This ability is worth it’s weight in gold to the technician. The technician can view the problem and in most cases, fix it on the spot. There are even solutions for home users. If you need help from that geeky friend/family member (which is me or my Dad in my family) there are many free services which let you do this from your home PC, including just using VNC. And (if you can excuse the selfless plug) you can contact BrainCase to log in to your computer and fix it from where you sit.

My only point of contention with the piece was that he suggested fixing the problem yourself. I am all for creative thinkers and do-it-yourselfers out there in the world but there are a lot of people who don’t know when to quit! Often times the issue in a corporate environment can not be fixed by the average user. Most of the time you have to have our higher level of access to address the issues going on or check something on the server and I fully do not expect your average individual to fix those things. But this is a quick check list of things that you can do (other than reboot as listed above) that will make your tech support experience better. Do not take offense by these. I am not trying to berate anyone but we actually get calls about these things.

  1. Check ALL connections! This includes the power cord, network cord, mouse/keyboard connections, and the monitor cable. I get too many calls of people not checking the basic things like this. All computers need power to be on and a network cable to communicate with the outside world (i.e. your corporate network, the Internet, etc.).
  2. Make sure there is paper in the printer, it does not have any status lights/error messages, and it has toner/ink. At least one call a month is on this subject.
  3. Ask the nearest tech savvy person in the office or the closest young person. I am not ageist but there is a trend with older people (40+) to have no clue as to how the box on there desk works. Grab that young person who’s checking out YouTube video’s and Twittering his friends about what he is up to and find out what is up with your computer.
  4. Finally, the best thing you can do in a network situation is to simply do nothing. Go grab a coffee refill or a snack and see if the problem goes away when you are back. Often times the issue was not your computer but the slow network connection or those crazy techs working on the system.

I hope that my generalizations didn’t offend anyone to much but I notice these trends in my day to day life and understand that they are not a universal constant. If I did offend you, let me make it up to you by providing you with a way to circumnavigate those pesky proxy blocks on your network and let you check that blocked website from work. If nothing else read it and click on the link to download the free software that can help you fix your own computer at home or work and turn you into a power user. Good luck and enjoy your work day.


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