Tech & Work

How to go beyond the reboot to provide topnotch tech support

IT support should not just be a scripted and robotic role. As Ant Pruitt explains, there's a lot more to the job than rebooting.

Image by Ant Pruitt

Each week we learn more and more about amazing breakthroughs in fields such as augmented reality and robotics. Unfortunately, robotics doesn't always refer to innovative technology. Sometimes, it describes the way a tech support team responds to user issues—a trend that's more prevalent than it should be in the modern workplace. IT support has become the bane of existence for many enterprise customers. Why? Today's tech support increasingly offers a robotic solution, such as fixing a device issue by "turning it off and on again."

The personality of IT professionals may trend toward a binary way of life, but that's not always conducive to the world of tech support. Sure, a binary state of mind can sometimes help resolve problems. But understanding core technologies is what really makes supporting hardware and software possible. Gaining knowledge beyond the reboot in IT support can prove to be quite valuable.

Why should the fundamentals of tech be discussed in your enterprise?

Problems that arise regarding IT support vary in severity and root cause. Sometimes it's user error. Other times it's a flaw in software. Sometimes it's hardware at the end of its life. A fundamental understanding of the tech being supported will aid in pinpointing and resolving the problem efficiently. Allow me to give you a hypothetical scenario.

You head out to your vehicle to start your morning commute. You turn the key and the car doesn't start. What's the first thing you do? You grab a container of gasoline, right? No! Well not initially. You will more than likely take other steps to troubleshoot why your car doesn't start. You may check to see if the headlights can come on or turn the key to see if the vehicle's starter turns over. At any rate, your first step is not to put gasoline in the tank. Having a fair understanding of how vehicles operate aided you in your triage. Why not apply this to IT support?

When a user gets an error submitting an online form, restarting the browser won't resolve the issue. Analyzing the error message may open a door to a resolution. The user may have been entering text into a numeric field of the online form. Your IT support staff must be properly trained so they can apply strong critical thinking skills to help with issues such as this.

SEE: As IT job market tightens again, companies look to training rather than hiring to fill gaps

What are the training suggestions?

Training options can be broken down into two classifications: internal training conducted by your corporate colleagues and external training conducted by third-party subject matter experts (SMEs). Both classifications offer pros and cons for your staff's training needs.

Pros

Internal training. Your corporate colleagues may be able to facilitate training your staff. They not only know the product that's being supported, but they also understand your business processes and corporate values and culture. This understanding can prove useful when it comes to knowing which services and products work best for the company.

External training. Industry experts have a thorough understanding of the subject matter. They may be aware of tips and tricks that will help in understanding the products and services your staff supports.

Cons

Internal training. Limited knowledge on a product may be a pitfall for internal colleagues leading staff training. The trainers may know enough about the product but might miss out on tiny nuances of the product that a true SME knows.

External training. Knowing the products or services being supported by your staff is a valuable asset. But this knowledge could warrant substantial costs billed to your company. The likes of Red Hat have proven this tactic to be successful. We all know that the Linux operating system is chock full of powerful tools to run corporate information systems. We also know that the core technology behind Linux all can be daunting. Being a subject matter expert, Red Hat can charge a premium for supporting its particular flavor of Linux.

What do you do?

To provide effective daily IT support, don't let your staff become robotic. Implement the proper training through any of the channels previously mentioned. Honing the support team's critical thinking skills is a great idea. The team should know that it's not always "ID ten T" users needing assistance. Sometimes a true problem exists that requires a more knowledgeable, analytic approach than merely rebooting.

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Other suggestions?

What are your thoughts on properly training IT support teams on core technologies? Your comments are always welcomed.

About Ant Pruitt

Ant Pruitt is an IT Support Professional with a passion for showing the non-geek how great technology can be. He writes for a variety of tech publications and hosts his own podcast. Ant is also an avid photographer and weight lifter.

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