Troubleshooting – Telling the whole story

Frustrated woman sitting at a computerIn a former life I manned the support line for the company I worked with… It wasn’t really a support line, it was just the fact that customers would call in with issues and I was usually the one that picked up the phone. Then I needed to figure out who could actually help them. That’s where I learned about troubleshooting, then this week one of my CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members was having an issue with a PDF.

So the e-mail I got said she could not open the PDF that had been sent via e-mail.

I suggested downloading the free Adobe PDF Reader.

I was told that still didn’t help. Now my years of training kicked in… ok I had no training, but I did have years of experience that told me as a support person never believe what someone is telling you! Not that they are lying, it just they don’t know what they are saying. So I sent a list of questions.

  • Can you see the attachment on the e-mail?
  • Can you save it to your computer?
  • What happened when you try to open it?
  • Ok are you getting an error?
  • If yes what does it say?
  • If no what is happening?
  • What kind of computer do you have?
  • How old is your computer?
  • Have you been able to open other PDFs?
  • Can you open this

I was not surprised to learn that the real problem was she had not received the attachment. She was able to open the PDF from the site, so her computer was fine, but there was nothing for her to click on to see the PDF that had been e-mailed.

This was an issue I had all the time with people, they told me one thing but really meant something else. The end result was she could not open the file, however the problem was she did not receive the file.

So if you are having issues, either with your computer or anything else and you are talking to a support person try to give them all the information you Frustrated Man sitting at computercan, not just the end result.

Tell them what you did, what happened when you did it, any errors you received. Let them know how knowledgeable you are on the subject. Tell them everything you tried. If you think you might know what is causing the problem, let them know. The more information you can give them the easier it is for them to solve your problem.

It would be really hard for you to determine my problem if I called and said “I’m cold”

  • I could be outside in the snow
  • I could be wearing shorts and a T-shirt in February in Cleveland
  • I could have a broken window in the winter
  • My door may be wide open during a blizzard
  • I may be in AC
  • I may have just eaten an ice drink in one gulp

Just remember the result does not help nearly as much as all the information that lead up to that point.

Have a terrific day!

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