DIY

Mastering the seven phases of a service call

Fixing the problem is only one part of the support visit. Jeff Dray outlines the seven phases of a service call. Following the same method for each ticket will help you tackle each task efficiently.

Some time ago I pondered the various phases of a support call and subsequently found myself on the other side of the fence, dealing with the resolution of the call in the field. It occurred to me that a similar procedure for dealing with the various stages of the call could be used. Here’s my take on it.

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In order to deal with all my calls in a fairly uniform manner I have divided the phases of a customer visit into distinct tasks.

1. Notification.

Obviously the first phase is getting the call notification. Whether this is by phone or by a logging system, this is when you find out what you will be dealing with today. The first thing to do is to take note of the details of the call and make sure that all the necessary details are there, that you are the right person to have the call, and that it was correctly passed to you.

2. Acknowledgment.

Once you have understood the call, acknowledge it. This means that you should contact the person or people involved so that you can check that your understanding of the problem is correct. I have wasted a lot of time working on the assumption that the fault, as detailed in the call log, is correct and have started researching the problem, only to arrive at the customer to find that the person who entered the text missed the point completely. A few minutes talking to the customer can save a lot of time.

3. Expectations.

Advise the customer when you expect to be with them; make it clear that any ETA quoted is subject to unavoidable delays, such as traffic and, in one recent case, a herd of cows roaming loose in the road after they had kicked down a fence. Be a bit conservative in your predictions; it is better to arrive earlier because you were a bit pessimistic on your estimate of travel time rather than be late, having promised that you will be there “right away"!

4. The journey.

With road fuel at £1.10 per liter in the UK, it is a good thing to plan your route carefully to avoid passing over the same ground twice. I often leave the town center calls until later in the morning as it is a lot easier to get into town once the early rush dies down. As with any plan, the route should be entirely flexible. I’m surprised how often a call comes in when I am in the area of the call. Today I had to stop as a large articulated truck was reversing into a factory gateway. While I was waiting, a call came in for the company whose truck it was! In this case I broke all my rules and went straight in, missing out phases 2, 3, and 4!

5. Arrival

The tone of the visit is set on arrival, so the way you appear at the customer’s premises is crucial. I’m not talking about wearing a good suit or having shiny shoes but introducing yourself, explaining why you are there, and checking that, among other things, you are in the right place and the call is booked on the right equipment. It has happened that I have been sent to a customer’s billing address, not the equipment site. I feel that my greeting can set the tone of the visit; if I can project a cheerful impression, it quite often rubs off on the customer.

6. The job itself.

Eventually you find yourself in front of the machine to be worked on. The first thing to do is assess the situation, confirm that the job is what you thought it was, and decide what needs to be done. Mentally prepare your action plan and tell the customer what it is. Do the job, then test the machine to make sure that the fix is a good one. I’ve seen it described this way: tell them what you are going to do, tell them what you are doing, then tell them what you have done.

7. Clearing up.

If you are anything like me, you have probably left a trail of jackets, glasses, screwdrivers, USB sticks, and important bits of paper all over your work territory. Getting into the habit of packing away carefully, putting your jacket back on, checking for car keys and glasses, and so on should be a part of the call process, not something that you do when you don’t forget. Wrap the call up with the customer, including, if necessary, obtaining a signature from them and giving any last bits of advice. Clear the call down on the system and leave.

For your next call, start again at the beginning and repeat either until there are no more jobs or until it gets dark and you have to go home. Handle all your calls to a set routine, and you will find that your day proceeds much more rationally with fewer things left to chance.

14 comments
mohammed.poonawalla
mohammed.poonawalla

While the above defined 7 phases are excellent for a one-person IT shop, it may not really be suited to a larger IT support organization. We are a Dubai based IT support company consisting of 10 support executives, a support coordinator and a technical manager. We have defined the below stages to handle a support ticket in a more manageable manner. Stage 1: Case logged (Client notified of ticket number) Stage 2: Case assigned and scheduled (support exec is notified) Stage 3: Case closed by support exec Stage 4: Case reviewed and closed by Support Manager after Quality Assurance followup with client Stage 5: Accounts Followup (for payments) Stage 6: Case Closed It helps in having a PSA system to streamline these stages. The important thing is that support requests do not slip through the cracks and support quality is maintained to some extent. Thanks. Mohammed http://www.burhanicomputers.com

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

Along with an eighth step of a follow-up contact to insure that the problem was indeed resolved, should be proper documentation of the steps and parts used in successful resolution. We record and cross reference resolutions to assist in the preparations for like calls. This helps others in making one stop calls by anticipating and having the right parts available on hand. This has also helped in tracking faulty parts from vendors and steering clients away from high failure configurations.

AKHandyman
AKHandyman

I am in the same kind of business, albeit, I own a computer repair business and I am the sole proprietor. I have to be conscious of what I say and how I approach ANY job. Because I live in a very remote area of Alaska, my customers have to know that they can trust me and call me again when there are other problems. I need my customers so I am always thorough with my service calls. In addition, having a friendly rapport with my customers always takes the tension out of a service call, especially when the customer's computer is on the fritz.

The Admiral
The Admiral

Ok - so how do you do this in the 10 minutes you are allotted by call?

the-it-guy
the-it-guy

As issues often intermittent, it is critical to add a step where you make follow-up call within 72HRs to check wheels have not fallen off. Also as no-one ever rings to say how great their IT Infrastructure is going today, it is nice toi hear most times that al is well. Helps get invoices paid on time too!

apietersen
apietersen

Hi Jeff, your 7 phase/steps sounds logical and solid. But what I realy miss - specialy from step 2 (acknowledgment)is using a form of remote access to the customer that has iniated the call/ticket. Exactly for the same reason you have mentioned - to understand in detail the problem without the "noise" of the knowledge (or lack of it) of the customer. I would like to add and name this as step 2a and could have a serious impact in driving around etc. First call resolution efforts can make live much easier for the customer and the engineer. Most calls are iniated because of user mistakes. But ofcourse hardware failures must be dealt on location but it is nice to know what you should bring in at forehand. Some figures from Bomgar tell in this respect: ? Improve 1st Call Resolution 35-45% ? Reduce Incident Handling 25-50% ? Eliminate On-Site Visits by 90% ? Reduce Call Escalation 10-30%

apietersen
apietersen

My thesis is: with a (professional) kind of remote support, documentation, reporting, auditability and accountabilty becomes much easier than a local visit of an engineer. If all services handling is automaticly logged and is available for review (even as a flashvideo), customers and engineers may have less discussions when problems arise. Further integration in a backoffice (ie helpdesk) appliaction makes it even more powerful

mike
mike

agrees 100%, I too am an independent. One thing I do is make sure to leave 2 business cards with my clients if I haven't already. 1 for them to have right at the monitor and one to give to a friend. Word of mouth referals are the best, helps break the ICE big time and can garner trust quickly. I have been giving the keys to a home of a client I have never seen before simply becuase I was referd by thier friend. sorry that was off topic but thought pertenant. As for check lists and procedures, they really do save us a lot of time and trouble. MIke

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But if you're only allotted 10 minutes per call, you're probably not an on-site tech.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Over the years I've been in my current job, I've found that at least 25% of my calls could have been closed if I was able to remote in, but many companies here in the States, particularly the larger ones, will not allow contract techs to remote in to their networks.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

to the sole proprietors and part timers looking for full time.

apietersen
apietersen

You could be right that there is a difference bewteen your region and here in Holland. The only customer I need to drive to every time, no matter what problem, is a govermental organization that has a very strict security poilicy. All my other customers are very happy for the quick remote service I can provide and they understand that I cannot fix everything remotely. But it is true, mentioned in an other reply, you may need to redefine the billing of your services. And true, some customers needs to be "educated" to see and pay for the advantages in quick response- end fixtime. Some type of customers may think they do not need quick responsetime but then there business-model may not based yet on an (online) 7x24 model. Most online 7x24 business-models can not afford to wait 24hrs or more for a fix without losing lot of money.

SmartAceW0LF
SmartAceW0LF

As a sole proprietor myself, I have found the following to be the general rule with regard to remote assistance. Having built a solid reputation within my community that carries onto each client, most of my clients know that onsite service is a far more expedient method of resolving their problems than having them lug the equipment into my shop. Clients become aware of this by the track record of my service to them. Before I have begun any work onsite, somewere along the way I have taken the time to explain to each the benefits (to them) of onsite service as well as the downside of it to my business. i.e. It takes me away from work at my shop, it effectively puts them at the front of the long list of clients waiting on my service, etc. That way each client understands that these advantages do not come without an attached premium. Now, with regard to remote assistance the above facts hold true to an even greater degree. While performing remote assistance for a client I am effectively isolated to a solitary unit until it is finished. I simply can NOT charge enough for this service to make it a desirable avenue of support from my own or the clients perspective. I do however use it for many clients-- usually free of charge-- to pick up details that may have been missed while onsite, or to perhaps resolve very simple problems, or even as a resource to get a clearer picture of what I will need upon arrival to the clients site in order to resolve the given issue. Anyone else have any thoughts on this or pointers I may be overlooking? Also, a bit off topic but, is anyone using a software package that they find acceptable which enables small shop owners to track clients, document their service records in detail and even perhaps be used to assist in billing? I am finding this to be a major pain by simply trying to do it within Word and Quick Books

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Any system that processes credit/debit cards has very strict remote access limitations to prevent the theft of card numbers. In addition, my two major customers ha\ve very tightly-controlled standard images for their PCs. I'm usually only called when their support has been unable to clear the problem remotely.

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