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Knowing Your Audience When Troubleshooting User Issues

There are limitless scenarios and challenges that can present themselves to a systems analyst on a daily basis. The style of questions from users and problem solving approaches are almost as numerous. It can be beneficial to evaluate a few quick questions about the user you are assisting before springing into action.

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Here are some important factors to consider in your troubleshooting strategy. The questions below are not questions to ask the user (except for question 3 Location in some circumstances) but to take into your own consideration when faced with the challenge and determine your route to finding a solution.

1. How experienced is this with this application and other technologies?

It is important to determine the user’s familiarity not just with the application in question but technology overall. Is this person an expert with technology or a candidate for an “Intro to Computers” course? You can get a feel for their overall comfort level with technology when observing their answers to basic troubleshooting questions. Below is a simple example from a question that might arise in the course of troubleshooting.

Systems Analyst:“What operating system are you using?”
User 1: “Windows 10 64 bit”,
User 2: “Windows 10”
User 3: “I don’t know, where do I find that”
User 4: “I don’t know what an operating system is”

Although the above is a standard question for identifying the user configuration, individual users running identical operating system might come back with varying responses. Although some helpdesk professionals may roll their eyes at the response from user 4, it’s important to maintain patience and continue to deliver top-notch support. Some customers just require a little more guidance.

Understanding the audience’s technology proficiency level helps not only communication to the less experienced but also prevents from over explaining details to a seasoned systems user. One can save time by providing the level of detail necessary for the situation at hand. Systems analyst can also calibrate the language and abbreviation used based on the audience. The same word can have two different meanings in two departments so remember your bring the correct hat depending on who you are working with!

2. How frequently does this user call?

Some customers tend to have more application issues than others. If the user in contact is one of your frequent customers there’s a good possibility that the issue has already been addressed in a previous help session. This is where checking logs, a ticket system or history can be helpful. It is important l to maintain solid records as a system support staff whether by email or another source. Also if you can identify the call as a frequent issue, many times you can implement a fix going forward (even if the issue is result of a user error). An example of this would be a user that has trouble entering the parameters of a report month after month. You could create a saved template for the next time. A little time spent on a reusable fix or extra training now can save a bundle of time in the future.

3. Where is this user contacting you from?

This question refers not only to the physical location of the user but the also the location of the employee by department or business group. Figure out if this user is calling from your own building or a remote location. An external location with a different configuration may have an impact on variety of performance issues. Its also possible that the user may be configured a different way specific to their department. Many times, the quickest way to resolve an issue is to walk over the customer’s office. However there are many instances when this isn’t feasible and a remote connection is the best option.

If one can identify the department that the user belongs to knowledge of this department or other employees within it can be helpful to troubleshooting efforts. Many departments contain technical leads or power users that can provide additional insight. Additional technical experience and business knowledge provided from close to the user can provide a major advantage. People can be powerful resources when it comes to resolving system issues. Additionally you may find commonalities and issue patterns within departments because of similar training or division processes that need improvement.

Summing it Up

In a short time an insightful systems analyst can factor the above questions into their troubleshooting strategy. This kind of approach can prevent an analyst from getting entrenched in the wrong troubleshooting approach. Also remember that no matter who you are dealing with, don’t eliminate the easy fixes. Even very proficient computer users make simple mistakes that can be resolved with a simple restart of the computer.

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