Monday, November 22, 2010

OK, Tech Support Folks, One More Time…

Let's get this right and not have to review this again, ok?  MMmmmmkay?!

When a user (you know, those noobs we call "losers") call or email and offer up something really insightful like this…

"Uhhhh, my AutoCAD ain't working.  It just opens and crashes with some kinda error, or something."

Here's what you need to put back in their face in order to get something useful to begin troubleshooting:

  1. What was the EXACT error message?  Get (them to make) a screen capture if they're too stupid to write it down or can't type very well.
  2. When did this start happening? (try to get a specific day and time)
  3. Did the application work properly before this started happening? (you'd be surprised how many users say they've never launched the application before… ever)
  4. What has changed on the computer since the last time it worked? (this is the most painful question, because they ALWAYS… ALWAYS… ALWAYS swear, on the grave of their grandmothers, that nothing was changed.  But after a few minutes of prodding they finally fess up about the new mouse or new software they installed, or that it had a virus warning that same day, and so on)
  5. Have ANY other problems been going on with your computer? (this is usually overlooked, but sooooooooooo many times I find the problem isn't with the application, but something else - see my explanation below)

If the users have even a hint of a clue, you can leverage that to pull a few more teeth:

  1. Get them to check the Windows event logs

Nearly every time I have had a discussion with an IT "expert" (whatever the **** that is), if they start to bring up something about a strange application error, I ask "what do the event logs show?" - and every time (ok, 99 out of 100 times) they give me a blank look that says "oh, I didn't think to check there."  Yeah.  So much for those certification exams. (*smack!*)

Here's how I would often handle a support call:

  • "Hi, this is Dave from Tech Support and I have a ticket you submitted about you not being able to print your LOL Cats to the color laserjet printer in duplex collation stapling mode from a portrait page setup rotated 90 degrees but not landscape.  Can you tell me more about what's going on?"
  • (they talk and talk and talk, while I surf the web and doodle on a notepad.  Every so often I will respond with "uh huh… yeah. mmmkay…" and let them blabber some more. When they finally stop:
  • "So, when did this start to happen?"
  • (more blabbering)
  • "And, did this ever work correctly or has it always been a problem?"
  • (more blabbering and some explanation about LOL Cats and how her daughter loves them and she dressed up like one for Halloween)
  • "Ok, well, I'm going to need you to log off.  Mmmkay?… and now please put on your coat and get your car keys, and I'm going to suggest you drive home and go back to bed now, mmmkaaaay?  I think we can handle it from here.  We'll call you if anything comes up, like peace in the Middle East.  Buuh-bye now!"
  • Then I send the ticket back to Tier 1 with a note the says "user says Tier 1 folks rock her world and she really digs [insert name of the 90 year old tier 1 guy]"

Something like that.  Customer satisfaction is always job #1.  Ok, so I promised an example, and here it is:

Example Case

One issue that drove the Tier 1 folks absolutely insane at my previous job was a support request that described the following issue:

User says everytime they click "PRINT" or type "PLOT" in AutoCAD, it implodes" (yep, they wrote it just like that)

The Tier 1 guy would enter the ticket, and send it directly to Tier 2.  That qualified as "basic troubleshooting".  Tier 1 folks at that time were hired from one of those hospitals where they take care of vegetative patients.  They work for very cheap pay and never complain, but they also don't do a lot of preemptive diagnosis or troubleshooting.  Maybe it was all those tubes and wires hooked to their shaved heads?  They usually kicked all requests up to Tier 2, where I worked.  Tier 2 was where they hired geniuses, focused on solving the world's problems and offering compassion for the poor, displaced and brow-beaten users.  We listened to Bach and sipped tea from a fountain.  Ok, that was a bit much, I agree.

I remoted in, and sure enough, I could launch AutoCAD, do some drawing and fancy stuff (I've been known to do a little fancy stuff, at least a few times, ok, so…) then I typed "PLOT" and pressed Enter and KABOOM! the entire session vanished without any error message or warning.  Not much help.  I repeated the process a few more times and it was consistent.  But after digging around, I decided to blow away the user's custom AutoCAD profile and try it, and the PLOT command worked just fine.  Then the user went in and set their profile back up to suit their needs, from scratch (not importing it from a file), and the problem started again.

I immediately looked at the user's custom plot settings.  The profile pointed to a shared folder on the network.  So I looked in the PC3 and PMP files and found that they were pointing to a printer that was moved to a different print server, so the mapping was invalid.  AutoCAD tried to read the remote printer status and had a massive bowel movement.  Kind of like drinking four Starbucks Doppio Espresso's at once and then eating a big Mexican lunch.  Once we recreated the PC3 and PMP files to point to the correct printer everything was fine.  What caused this?

The print server folks (different department) decided to move the printers to a new server, but didn't get the word out to all the remote engineering department coordinators, who's job it was to keep their departmental PC3 files current and notify their users.  Note: a little communication goes a long way.

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So, back to the story (because I know you just can't wait): Don't let users run over you with stupid requests.  You have to push back a little and make them explain things better.  You don't tell your doctor "I hurt" and then stare at him, waiting for a diagnosis.  At least I hope you don't.  You try to provide as much detail as possible - because YOUR health is at stake.  Well, make sure your users (ok, ok, "losers") understand that their support requests put them at stake.  That's a little communication that needs to be repeated every now and then.

Mmmmkay?

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