“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

Customers calling with technical issues tend to be irritated from the get-go, and these calls are more prone to escalate if not handled professionally and systematically. Why? Because something the customer needs at that moment isn’t working for them. It’s costing them time and probably money.

This is when it pays to have a well-trained diagnostic troubleshooting team. Highly skilled technical support engineers—even those used to working under pressure—may not understand the critical thinking and problem solving processes needed to systematically get to the heart of the problem. Additionally, they may not have the communication skills to wrap up the process successfully and provide the customer with the necessary documentation for ongoing success.

Because of the immediacy of technical issues, technicians throughout an organization must be trained to correctly verify and define a problem and reach a solution that will get the customer up and running as quickly as possible. A standardized process for opening, identifying, resolving, and closing issue-related calls is critical so that the customer has a consistently positive experience with your company. And, if a customer is handed from a tier 1 to tier 2 engineer, the process must be seamless.

Of course, the ultimate goal is a satisfied customer, and a well-trained technical support staff will invariably see their first-call resolution rates and customer satisfaction scores increase, while shortening time-to-resolution.

Technical Problem Solving: Beyond Ordinary Thinking

Every-day problem solving techniques are good for solving every-day problems. However, this way of thinking has its pitfalls when it comes to diagnostics. Instead, clear, logical, and systematic process thinking is needed to:

  1. Verify the problem: Understand the role of symptoms and test to verify.
  2. Define the problem: Distinguish systems and subsystems in order to gather facts and develop a problem statement.
  3. Isolate the problem: Use key tactics to hone in on the problem and clearly define it.

Problem Defined. What Next?

Once the problem is isolated there are still a number of steps to achieving customer satisfaction. Technicians and engineers may immediately recognize (or think they recognize) a cause, but this needs to be verified and substantiated or the customer will be back on the phone in a very short period of time—this time even more irritated! So, additionally, the support staff must be able to:

  1. Identify probably causes: Understand causal chains and develop a testing plan.
  2. Create a resolution plan: Develop a solution that is verifiable and workable for the customer.
  3. Wrap up: Provide clear and useful documentation. Be confident that the customer understands the solution and how to achieve it.

Technical vs. Diagnostic Skills

An effective technical support team must not only have a strong technical background, but effective diagnostic troubleshooting skills, as well, to efficiently analyze a situation and quickly get to the source of a problem. This takes company-wide process training that gives engineers the critical thinking and communication skills they need to consistently resolve customer issues.