My History Of Tech Support
I've worked in technology for 16 years, and every job I've had has involved support for users of the products or services that are offered by my company. I enjoy helping people fix problems and figure out what's wrong. To me, it's like a puzzle I can solve. That said, it helps to have as much information as possible to solve the problem, but sometimes it's hard to get the information.
In talking to friends who are on the other side of these support tickets, the biggest roadblock is that the users aren't sure what information to provide. I understand that if you aren't working with the technology or support issues on a daily basis that this can be daunting. The support technician can then ask for what information they need, but this causes some back-and-forth that extends the delay in ticket resolution, causing frustration for both sides.
What Information You Should Provide
Each piece of software or hardware has unique features and potential issues, so making specific statements about what information to provide is challenging. However, I've found that there is some common ground between most technology that helps kickstart the support process and make things go smoother. Here are some things that you should think about including when initially opening a support request, ticket, or chat.
1. What You're Trying To Do
Sometimes, when you've been banging your head against a problem for a while, you end up with a very specific thing that is not working the way you want. When you first open a support request, make sure to include what your original goal was. This provides context for the specific problem you're having. It also can help the technician provide an alternative or possible solution that you weren't aware of.
2. What's Not Working
You'd be surprised how often a support ticket gets opened in a state of haste and frustration, which leads to forgetting to put what the actual problem is. You should be as specific as you can, as "It didn't work" isn't nearly as helpful as "I thought clicking this button should have opened a new window but nothing happened when I clicked it this morning". I understand that it may not be obvious what is broken, as you may not know or it may not be showing you, but any specifics will help.
3. The Scope
Sometimes, I am dealing with customers who have thousands of virtual machines across hundreds of cloud accounts. In cases like this, any information about the scope of the problem can help lead to a quicker resolution. For example, if "lots of servers won't turn on", try to think about what is common about the ones that are working and the ones that are not. Even just being able to be a little more specific about the number, such as "one", "some", "many", or "all" can be helpful. For a personal computer, saying "the letters A and Q on my keyboard are double-typing" is better than "some keys get stuck".
4. What You've Already Tried
If you've been attempting to fix something for a while, you may have already tried some things, but the support person doesn't know this. If you can say "I've tried rebooting twice", that might help prevent a suggestion to reboot, which would just frustrate you. If you haven't tried anything yet, that's perfectly fine, but that is also important information to provide.
5. What Has Changed
Very few problems occur with no changes to surrounding software or hardware. You may not know what changes have occurred, but if you do, you should mention those. Even if you aren't sure that it's relevant, it doesn't hurt to mention it. "My laptop got wet a week ago, but has been fine since" might seem innocent, but that could have created a problem that is just now showing up. If the change is something you did, it can be hard to admit it, but I want to assure you that the support technician is not trying to get you in trouble! They just want to help solve the problem, so admitting what you did can actually help you instead of get you in trouble.
6. Any Details
Details are important. I understand that you aren't sure what's relevant, but here's some details you might have that can help:
- Screenshots of error messages or problems
- Logs and errors that might have been generated or saved
- Timestamps, or at least rough time frames of when things happened
- Changes from the initial problem, if things are different than before
Manage Your Expectations
Getting support can be frustrating, and providing support to users can be frustrating. Often, you want your problem solved quickly and easily, but it isn't always possible. If you can provide some of the details and statements listed above, it can help expedite the fix. Instead of waiting for a questino about details, providing more details up-front can make for less back-and-forth. I, as a support person, am much happier to receive too much information (that I can figure out what I need) rather than not getting enough information and having to ask for more.