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Technical Support Done Right


05/11/2009

I often joke that, unlike in college, I face problems where the answer is not in the back of the bookTechnical Support Done Right, as described below, focuses on how I  find a way to solving a problem through 


- Subject Matter Knowledge
- Ownership and 
- Tenacity.



Tech Support, as it is generally defined, implies giving information to a customer so they can resolve the problem. But that is not how I look at it. That definition lacks a certain quality that is critical to my own definition of Technical Support, the ability to 
solve problems. When you look at it from the perspective of solving problems, the definition takes on an enhanced meaning. Problem Solving means activeparticipation in the problem until it is fixed. A minor difference? Not at all. In my mind, a Problem Solver needs to have a spirit of can-do in every case. This spirit is not just wishful thinking, but it is based on my multiple successful experiences making things work in a variety of environments.



Subject Matter Knowledge


So, as a Problem Solver I see a problem or "challenge" and I think "
I have fixed many similar to this one before" and "I can certainly fix this one, too!". This makes me as a Problem Solver an optimist, not in the sense of blind optimism, but in the sense that my experience and training, combined with an attitude of "can-do" provides the tenacity to try different solutions until a successful outcome is achieved.



Ownership


Problem Solver also means 
taking ownership of a problem. The word "ownership" is abused via overuse, and is usually just lip service. However, for those who actually practice ownership, it is truly empowering. "I am assisting a customer" generally does not create ownership. Thinking that this is my problem to solve moves me towards action. This is an element often ignored in Tech Support organizations. 

Lack of ownership manifests itself as passing the buck. I have been copied on too many tech support emails requesting my help with a support problem which are really just a form of passing the buck to me under the guise of "he is more knowledgeable". If a company had a rule that said "if you have to ask others for help, then you don't belong here", there would be a lot less people dumping their problems on others. Oftentimes the problems are hard and cause people to do hard work, which most people avoid. Work is hard, especially problem solving.  If work was easy, they would call it "tennis".



Tenacity


So what does Problem Solving look like in practice? My own experience is that 
total immersion in a problem is not only required, it is the only way to be sure of success. I become very creative and, because I feel ownership, I start finding resources that help to resolve the problem. It is up to me as the Tech Support person to find the resources even if it is not immediately apparently what those resources are.

I often find that the biggest problem can be finding the information to help solve the problem! That is where
 tenacity is vital. Tech support must be tenacious in searching and researching solutions, finding others who are knowledgeable for information or blogs or other internetresources that have solved similar problems. My experience is that you make your own luck. When I dig and dig, I get lucky and find relevant information. You really don't need to know where to dig. It is the digging that is critical to finding an answer.


So, when I am solving some problem, my strategy looks a lot like this: 

      • I have Google open in multiple windows to search for clues
      • The customer computer systems is visible in another window (Sametime, WebEx or GoTo Meeting, for example)
      • My own personal test computer system in a third window (every problem solver should have a dedicated system for testing ideas)
      • Additionally, I have any email or KnowledgeBase information open
      • One or more IM chat windows with other staffers who have similar experience.


So, think of it like "Who wants to be a millionaire". We chase the solution with the 
tenacity of a contestant close to the ultimate prize, we use 50/50 split to eliminate options, we "shout out" to a friend, and use all of our collected knowledge.

So, the elements of problem solving are:
      • Subject Matter Knowledge 
      • Ownership of the Problem
      • Attitude of "Can-Do"
      • Tenacity when dealing with obstacles
      • Tapping into others who have similar experiences and knowledge
      • Never Quitting until there is a Solution


In my way, the job of "Tech Support" is not a dreary road, but actually a game show played by one. The prize isn't one million dollars, but I sure feel like a million dollars once I have figured it out!


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