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Chapter 6: Solving and Preventing Problems

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Use proven techniques to methodically solve problems ... Even bad news is better than no news ... Have the problem solved in a timely fashion ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Chapter 6: Solving and Preventing Problems


1
Chapter 6 Solving and Preventing Problems
  • A Guide to Customer Service Skills for the Help
    Desk Professional
  • Second Edition

2
Objectives
  • Use proven techniques to methodically solve
    problems
  • Learn how to take ownership of ongoing problems
    and keep customers and management informed about
    the status of problem resolution activities
  • Learn ways to manage your workload and maintain a
    positive working relationship with other support
    groups
  • Understand the importance of focusing on problem
    prevention

3
How to Solve Problems Methodically
  • A high percentage of problems are recurring
  • Plenty of information is available for finding
    solutions to problems
  • As a help desk analyst, you can
  • Draw from your experience
  • Access available knowledge bases
  • Use tools
  • Engage other analysts or level two service
    providers

4
Solving and Preventing Problems
  • Problem - An event that disrupts service or
    prevents access to products
  • Common problems include a broken device, an error
    message, a system outage
  • Solving problems efficiently and effectively
    requires a methodical approach, or process
  • Problem solving is a skill that you can improve
    with practice

5
The Problem Management Process
  • Process - A collection of interrelated work
    activities - or tasks - that take a set of
    specific inputs and produce a set of specific
    outputs
  • Procedure - A step-by-step, detailed set of
    instructions that describes how to perform the
    tasks in a process
  • Flow chart - A diagram that shows the sequence of
    tasks that occur in a process

6
The Problem Management Process (continued)
7
The Problem Management Process (continued)
  • Problem management - The process of tracking and
    resolving problems
  • Symptom - A sign or indication that a problem has
    occurred
  • Probable source - The system, network, or product
    that is most likely causing the problem
  • Root cause - The most basic reason for an
    undesirable condition or problem, which, if
    eliminated or corrected, would prevent the
    problem from existing or occurring

8
The Problem Management Process (continued)
9
The Problem Management Process (continued)
  • Problem management (also called incident
    management) includes answering questions and
    inquiries
  • Problems, questions, and inquiries represent
    varying degrees of impact and speak differently
    to product and company performance
  • Distinguishing between them enables companies to
  • Determine which types of contacts are most common
  • Put in place processes and technologies for
    resolving each type of contact in the most
    efficient, cost-effective way possible

10
The Problem Management Process (continued)
  • Request - A customer order to obtain a new
    product or service, or an enhancement to an
    existing product or service
  • Trend analysis - A methodical way of determining
    and, when possible, forecasting, service trends
  • Root cause analysis - A methodical way of
    determining the root cause of problems

11
The Problem Management Process (continued)
  • The problem management process describes the
    overall approach to be used when handling
    problems within a company
  • Analysts need problem-solving skills to handle
    each problem
  • Basic step to follow when solving problems
  • 1. Gather all available data and create
    information
  • 2. Diagnose the problem
  • 3. Develop a course of action

12
Step 1 Gather All Data Needed to Create
Information
  • Data must be logged accurately and completely
  • Data is used by managers, other help desk
    analysts, level two service providers, and
    customers
  • Data is used to
  • Create the information needed to justify
    resources
  • Increase customer satisfaction
  • Enhance productivity
  • Improve the quality of products and services
  • Deliver services more efficiently and effectively
  • Create new products and services

13
Step 1 Gather All Data Needed to Create
Information (continued)
  • Customer data - Identifying details about a
    customer, including name, telephone number,
    department or company name, address or location,
    customer number, and employee number or user ID
  • Customer record - All of the data and text fields
    that describe a single customer
  • Record - A collection of related fields
  • Problem data - The details of a single problem
  • Problem record - All of the fields that describe
    a single problem

14
Step 1 Gather All Data Needed to Create
Information (continued)
  • Customer records are linked to problem records by
    a unique key field, such as customer name
  • Many help desks capture two types of problem
    descriptions
  • Short problem description A succinct
    description of the actual results a customer is
    experiencing (sometimes called a problem
    statement)
  • Detailed problem description A comprehensive
    accounting of the problem and the circumstances
    surrounding its occurrence

15
Step 1 Gather All Data Needed to Create
Information (continued)
  • The detail problem description includes
  • The result the customer expects
  • The actual result the customer is experiencing
  • Steps the customer took to get the results
  • The history or pattern of the problem
  • Does the problem occur every time the customer
    performs this step?
  • Does the problem only occur in certain
    circumstances? What are those circumstances?
  • Does the problem only occur intermittently?
    Under what conditions?
  • Whether the problem is part of a larger problem

16
Step 2 Diagnose the Problem
  • When diagnosing a problem, you are trying to
    determine
  • The probable source of the problem
  • Ultimately, its root cause
  • Determining the probable source can be difficult
    when dealing with complex technology

17
Step 2 Diagnose the Problem (continued)
18
Asking Questions
  • Techniques that are used to diagnose problems
    include
  • Asking questions
  • Simulating the customers actions
  • Using diagnostic tools
  • When asking questions
  • Listen actively
  • Make sure your questions are appropriate to the
    customers communication style

19
Asking Questions (continued)
  • Condition your mind to run through
    problem-solving questions as the customer is
    relaying information
  • Basic questions can help you isolate the probable
    source

20
Asking Questions (continued)
  • Problem-solving checklists may provide questions
    more specific to the actual problem
  • Simple questions often reap the most information

21
Simulating the Customers Actions
  • Some help desks
  • Provide analysts access to the systems or
    software packages that customers are using
  • Have lab areas where analysts can access systems
    that match customers hardware and software
    configurations
  • Analysts use these systems to simulate a
    customers actions
  • The usefulness of this technique depends on
  • The access that analysts have
  • The policies of the company

22
Simulating the Customers Actions (continued)
  • Some companies have strict standards that
    determine what technologies customers use
  • The help desk is often involved in developing
    technology standards
  • Without standards, customers may install
    equipment or software without the help desks
    knowledge
  • As a result, the help desk cannot simulate
    problems
  • When technology standards exist, whether and how
    strictly those standards are enforced will vary
    from one company to the next

23
Simulating the Customers Actions (continued)
  • Benefits of establishing standards include
  • A less complex environment
  • Improved ability to share data and exchange
    information
  • Effective training programs can be developed
  • Proactive support can be provided
  • Costs are controlled
  • The company is positioned to take advantage of
    state-of-the-art technology

24
Using Diagnostic Tools
  • Remote control system - A technology that enables
    an analyst to take over a customers keyboard,
    screen, mouse, or other connected device in order
    to troubleshoot problems
  • Newer hardware and software systems have built-in
    diagnostic tools
  • Using these tools may not always be an option
  • Take the time needed to fully diagnose the
    problem and identify the correct probable source
  • When an incorrect probable source is identified,
    you can waste time developing a course of action
    that will not permanently solve the problem

25
Step 3 Develop a Course of Action
  • To develop a course of action
  • Consult printed resources, online resources,
    coworkers, subject matter experts, or the team
    leader
  • Determine if a workaround is available
  • Escalate the problem to the correct level two
    service provider or subject matter expert
  • Search a knowledge base
  • Search the incident tracking or problem
    management system
  • Use personal knowledge
  • Use tools

26
Step 3 Develop a Course of Action (continued)
  • Review the course of action with the customer
  • Ensure the customer understands it and the time
    frame within which it will be executed
  • Let the customer know if the course of action or
    the time frame is dictated by an SLA
  • If the customer is dissatisfied, determine the
    customers preference and, if possible,
    accommodate that preference
  • Or, determine if there is an alternate course of
    action that will satisfy the customers immediate
    need
  • Record the customers preference in the ticket
    and when necessary, bring the problem to
    managements attention

27
Knowing When to Engage Additional Resources
  • Most help desks strive to solve as many problems
    as possible at level one
  • First, use resources such as online help, product
    and procedure manuals, or a knowledge base
  • If unsuccessful, turn to a coworker or level two
    service provider for help
  • Target escalation time - A time constraint placed
    on each level that ensures problem resolution
    activities are proceeding at an appropriate pace

28
Knowing When to Engage Additional Resources
(continued)
  • Consider the following as the target escalation
    time approaches
  • Do I have sufficient information to clearly state
    the problem?
  • Have I determined the probable source of the
    problem?
  • Have I gathered the information that is required
    by level two?
  • What is the problem severity?

29
Taking Ownership
  • When a problem cannot be solved immediately,
    customers expect someone to take responsibility
    for ensuring it is resolved in the time frame
    promised
  • Problem owner - An employee of the support
    organization who acts as a customer advocate and
    ensures a problem is resolved to the customers
    satisfaction
  • The customer shouldnt have to initiate another
    call
  • In many companies, the person who initially logs
    the problem is the owner

30
Taking Ownership (continued)
31
Problem Owner Responsibilities
  • Tracks the current status of the problem
  • Proactively provides the customer regular and
    timely status updates
  • When possible, identifies related problems
  • Ensures that problems are assigned correctly
  • Ensures that appropriate notification activities
    occur
  • Ensures that all problem-solving activities are
    documented and the customer is satisfied with
    resolution
  • Closes the problem ticket

32
Problem Owner Responsibilities (continued)
  • Analysts sometimes share ownership by
  • Helping other owners when they can
  • Updating a ticket if a customer contacts the help
    desk to provide additional information
  • Updating a ticket if a customer contacts the help
    desk for an up-to-date status
  • Negotiating a transfer of ownership for any
    outstanding tickets if the analyst is going to be
    out of the office for an extended time

33
Providing Status Updates to Customers and
Management
  • Notification An activity that informs all of
    the stakeholders in the problem management
    process about the status of outstanding problems
  • Notification can occur when
  • A problem is reported or escalated
  • A problem has exceeded a predefined threshold
  • A problem is resolved

34
Providing Status Updates to Customers and
Management (continued)
  • Management notification is appropriate when
  • The problem is extremely severe
  • The target resolution time has been or is about
    to be reached
  • Required resources are not available to determine
    or implement a solution
  • The customer expresses dissatisfaction

35
Providing Status Updates to Customers and
Management (continued)
  • Management notification ensures that
  • Management knows the current status of problems
    that are in an exception state
  • Management has the information needed to oversee
    problems that involve multiple support groups
  • Management has sufficient information to make
    decisions, follow up with the customer, or call
    in other management
  • Management actions are recorded in the problem
    record so that everyone affected knows what
    decisions management has made or what steps they
    have taken

36
Providing Status Updates to Customers and
Management (continued)
  • Customer notification is appropriate when
  • The analyst has told the customer they will
    provide a status at a given time, even if there
    has been no change in the problems status
  • The target resolution time will not be met
  • Customer resources are required to implement a
    solution
  • The problem has a high severity and justifies
    frequent status updates
  • The customer was dissatisfied with earlier
    solutions

37
Providing Status Updates to Customers and
Management (continued)
  • Customer notification ensures that
  • The customer knows the current status of the
    problem
  • Customer comments or concerns are recorded in the
    problem record and addressed

38
Providing Status Updates to Customers and
Management (continued)
  • Help desks add value by
  • (1) Making it easy for customers to report
    problems
  • (2) Delivering solutions
  • (3) Taking ownership and ensuring that problems
    that cannot be resolved immediately are addressed
    in the required time frame
  • Even bad news is better than no news

39
Providing Status Updates to Customers and
Management (continued)
  • The help desk can notify management, customers,
    and others by
  • Telephone, in person, with an e-mail or instant
    message
  • Through a paging device, automatically via the
    incident tracking and problem management system
  • How notification occurs and who is notified
    varies based on conditions such as
  • The severity of the problem
  • Who is affected by the problem
  • When the problem occurs

40
Providing Status Updates to Customers and
Management (continued)
  • Closeup - Levels of learning
  • Unconscious incompetence
  • Customers typically cannot articulate their
    problem
  • Conscious incompetence
  • Customers know what they dont know
  • Conscious competence
  • Customers use correct terminology and clearly and
    correctly articulate the problem
  • Unconscious competence
  • Known as power users. Customers feel they know
    more than analysts and resent being asked basic
    questions

41
Building Good Relationships With Other Support
Groups
  • Level one analysts must
  • Strive to continuously increase their knowledge
    and the efficiency and effectiveness of their
    problem-solving skills
  • Ensure that all available information has been
    gathered and logged
  • Ensure that all checklists have been completed
    and logged before a problem is escalated
  • Seek assistance only after using all other
    available resources
  • Level two service providers must
  • Respect the help desks role as a front-line
    service provider
  • Acknowledge that the help desks efforts are
    freeing them from the need to answer the same
    questions or solve the same problems over and
    over again
  • Be willing to impart their knowledge to the help
    desk

42
Building Good Relationships With Other Support
Groups (continued)
  • Review and understand your companys SLAs
  • Provide mutual feedback
  • Job shadowing
  • Review incident tracking system information
  • Communicate
  • Give praise

43
Focusing on Prevention
  • Once a solution has been identified and
    implemented, there are still questions that need
    to be asked and answered
  • Did the resolution solve the problem?
  • Is the customer satisfied?
  • Has the root cause been identified?
  • Was the corrective action permanent?
  • If the answer to any of these questions is No
    the problem cannot be considered resolved

44
Focusing on Prevention (continued)
  • If all of the answers are Yes the problem can
    be closed once all pertinent data is captured
  • Without data, trend and root cause analysis
    cannot be performed
  • Any or all members of the help desk team can
  • Identify and analyze trends
  • Suggest ways that problems can be eliminated
  • Go beyond the quick fix and take the time to
    resolve problems correctly the first time
  • Engage the resources needed to determine and
    eliminate the root cause

45
Chapter Summary
  • Help desk analysts must be able to solve problems
    efficiently and effectively
  • Most help desks develop processes and procedures
    in an effort to ensure that problems are handled
    quickly, correctly, and consistently
  • The goal of problem management is to minimize the
    impact of problems that affect a companys
    systems, networks, and products

46
Chapter Summary (continued)
  • Analysts use their problem-solving skills to
    handle each problem
  • The best problem solvers condition themselves to
  • Gather all available data
  • Create information
  • Methodically diagnose the problem before
    developing a course of action
  • Effective diagnostic techniques include
  • Asking questions
  • Simulating the customers actions
  • Using diagnostic tools

47
Chapter Summary (continued)
  • Customers expect someone to take responsibility
    for ensuring the problem is resolved in the time
    frame promised
  • The problem owner assumes that responsibility
  • Ownership ensures that everyone involved in the
    problem management process stays focused on the
    customers need to
  • Have the problem solved in a timely fashion
  • Be informed when the problem requires more than
    the expected time
  • Ownership is critical to the problem management
    process
  • Without it, problems can slip through the cracks
    and customer dissatisfaction invariably occurs

48
Chapter Summary (continued)
  • Do not hesitate to suggest ways that problems can
    be eliminated and prevented
  • Be persistent and act on your hunches
  • An understanding of your companys problem
    management process and strong problem-solving
    skills are essential to your success
  • These processes ensure that problems are handled
    efficiently and effectively
  • Ultimately, however, customers prefer that
    problems be prevented
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