As an IT professional, you need to have a structured mind in order to think through all the possible problematic situations that can present themselves on a day to day basis. And after having worked in IT for a while, I’ve developed a certain methodology that can help you solve most problems quickly and effectively. The goal of this article is to help junior IT workers in the task of supporting users in a corporate environment. By following these ten steps, you can provide better, more effective IT support.
1. Answering the call
When users call for support, they usually feel helpless and may sound irritated over the phone. Always be polite towards them. After all, it’s because of them that you have a job. Yes, I know that some of them can be irritating to deal with, but explain that if they cannot be polite, you will not be able to help them to the best of your skills.
2. Asking the user to explain the problem
Ask the user to describe the problem to the best of their knowledge. What were they doing when the problem occurred? Did they change any settings recently? Did they install any new applications on their computer? I know that in a utopian world, no users should have administrative privileges to their computer, but the reality is that most companies give them this kind of access for reliability reasons, often resulting in users changing important settings or installing unauthorized applications on their systems.
3. Reproducing the error
Reproducing the error is an important part of the troubleshooting process as it helps you determine when and where the problem occurs. If it is possible, go to the user’s computer in person or via a remote management application to do it. If the location is inaccessible, ask the user to reproduce the problem himself to see if it is an isolated issue. Often, a simple reboot will fix most computer problems.
4. Identifying the problem
Using the gathered information from step 2 and 3, establish the cause of the problem. Is it hardware or software related? Try to think about a couple of possibilities. It is important to keep an open mind when dealing with computer problems. With all the hardware and software installed on a PC, the possibility for conflict between all the components is pretty high.
5. Gathering technical information
Gather as many technical details as possible about the issue and the user’s environment. What are the versions of their applications? Is the operating system using all the latest drivers, patches, and service packs?
6. Determine possible solutions
Establish a few possible solutions using the knowledge you’ve gained in the previous steps and your personal experience. If you can’t think of anything, the Internet is there to help you. Here are 2 resources that saved my life a couple of times. Don’t leave home without them!
7. Fixing the problem
If the problem is related to mission critical data, never forget to do a backup before applying your fix. If you are uncertain about the problem and you came up with several possible solutions, always implement them one at a time, so that if something goes wrong, you’ll be able to undo your changes easily.
8. Test and test again
Did I say test? Test again! Sometimes, a problem may seem to be resolved, but it is not. The solution may also have broken other part of the user’s system, so you need to test everything extensively to ensure everything is in working order.
9. Documenting the issue
Always write down what you did to resolve an issue. Who knows when it might happen again? I’ve made the mistake of neglecting to document some of my resolutions, then later wasted time searching for the same solutions all over again.
10. Pat yourself in the back for a job well done.
Yes, you’ve earned it after all!
After having worked in an IT support related job for a few years, you’ll eventually realize that you won’t even have to think about doing these steps anymore; they’ll come to you naturally. Sometimes, you may even skip some of them–but keep in mind that if you do, you may end up coming back to the one you forgot later in the troubleshooting process, anyway.