Over the past few weeks I've been considering different approaches to technical support, most specifically in relation to end-user support where the end-user may not be as versed in the area they are requesting support. I've had some experience with various methods of support and started tailoring my own approach to support over the years I've been in IT support positions.
In the rest of this post, I will refer to the persons providing support as the supporter and the persons receiving the support as the supportee.
Methods that I think of when talking about support are:
- Looking Down
In the scripted approach to support, the supporter has, or appears to have, a script that they must follow to provide support. This approach can be very frustrating to the supportee that does have knowledge with what they are requesting support, but there are many good reasons for this approach initially.
In an appropriate application of the scripted support method, the supporter uses the script as a guideline and not something the must be followed exactly. This is very beneficial to the company that implements this method for legal reasons. If the script is followed, it provides a check list that the supporter can check off as troubleshooting is completed that they can use to prevent the supportee from taking legal action against the supporter.
The method I like to refer to as the "looking down" method, in my opinion, should never be used, but unfortunately can be very easy to fall into. In this method the supporter talks to the supportee as if the user has no knowledge whatsoever and can often be very demeaning to the supportee.
From the experiences that I have had with this method, it is often due to a supporter that is very proud of their work and can not fathom why the supportee does not understand the point they need support. On the flip side, I have seen this occur when the supporter gets frustrated with the supportee because they do not follow the instructions they are given.
The refusal method of support, like the looking down method, can be caused by either the supporter or the supportee. In these cases the supporter refuses to process the request of the supportee, or the supportee can refuse to follow through on instructions given to them by the supporter.
As an example: I often run into situations where the supportee will not follow through on instructions given to them because they believe that it will not make any difference. In most of these situations, the request is simply because we need more information on the situation in order to find the root cause or determine the appropriate solution.
On the other side of the coin, the supporter may refuse to support the supportee because it is not their area of expertise or they may have no idea how to handle the situation. If this situation is handled properly, the supporter should let the supportee know that they will do everything they can to resolve the request or pass the request to someone else that would be able to better support them.
As you read the heading you may be wonder, "Why does Grandma need help in this blog?" This is what I like to think of as my own developed method of supporting end-users. While this is what I try to do, I definitely do find myself falling into the categories listed above periodically.
In this method, I like to think as most of the supportees as my Grandma. If I take this approach, I find it much easier to ensure that the way I talk to the supportee is at a level that they can clearly understand and hopefully would be able to learn something from the situation.
My goals with this method are to walk away from the situation with the supportee having more knowledge and possibly even able to resolve the problem on their own going forward. While my goals may not always be met, I find that this method is the most effective for situations that I have dealt with.
I really hope that this has been helpful to those that read it and are in positions of support or if you ever request support. If you are requesting support, always try to be as courteous as possible to the supporter. You never know, they may be having a bad day and simply following direction they give could cheer them up.
These are just the support methods that I think of when the subject of support comes up. Feel free to comment with methods that you think of when talking about support.