Successful Troubleshooting – every time

“The only problem with troubleshooting is that sometimes trouble shoots back.”

Customers, like you, want to be successful and if teaming up with you for products or services serves that purpose, you can be sure that you will have their loyalty. Within the company too, it is essential that companies remain successful and the measure of success of their customer service would be happy customers. For customer service to run successfully, the teams must be adept at dealing with queries, problems and a number of situations that are likely to catch them off guard. One of these situations is the successful troubleshooting of problems more often than not. As a customer service team member the pressure is always high – whether it is the internal customers that need the problem resolved or an impatient customer literally breathing down your neck to ensure their issue is sorted out first. Troubleshooting is a stressful activity – the components of problem resolution in a short time frame, repeatedly – make it hard. It is harder when people around you, who are unaware of the possible problems, expect miracle troubleshooting to happen each time.

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Despite the importance of troubleshooting and the various stages involved, being able to first anticipate the various kinds of problems at the development stage, seems to be ignored in the planning. Successful troubleshooting cannot be hoped for without requisite and focused planning. Technology may have grown and become near infallible, but it must be understood that the persons working with it are not and are subject to limitations. With proper planning and effective processes, successful troubleshooting every time would not seem so far-fetched. Troubleshooting becomes an art then!

Customer service staff – all teams – will be faced with problems of the troubleshooting kind, almost every day and at every stage of the product usage. There could be problems from the word go or there could sporadic glitches that could be completely unrelated. Whatever the scenario, in each case the customer is the one that suffers and is more than likely to ‘rain down’ on the company and the first to meet this would be the customer service staff. Successful troubleshooting would depend on their capability and the company’s capability as a whole.
Troubleshooting in a training environment is exciting as the ‘troubleshooters’ can experience and resolve problems without time limits. It is a satisfying feeling to conquer the seemingly indomitable problems through troubleshooting. However, in real and time scarce scenarios, using a methodical approach is the only way to successful troubleshooting of problems. It would be best to create steps that work best for the team and the company. Broadly, successful troubleshooting would be about following the tried and tested systematic route.

– Being able to put the problem in perspective and having a positive attitude towards problem solving is probably the foremost pre-condition to successful troubleshooting. This would be so important since regular and or persistent issues do have the capability of pulling one down. It is a frustrating experience to not be able to find the root cause of an annoying problem that in turn is leading to customer dissatisfaction and probably anger. Remaining focused on resolving the problem while staying calm and controlled, will help to make resolution quicker and more effective. Successful troubleshooting is about remembering that the problem was not there and it will not remain there forever.

– As a professional the first thought of the customer service staff would be dive headlong in to the problem and make an effort to resolve it. However, it would first be helpful to read up notes and data on how a similar problem had been dealt with in the past and with what success. Organizing your work, feeding on useful data and making notes of your own is a vital step in successful troubleshooting.

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– The trickiest, time gorging and most laborious part of troubleshooting is recreating the problem or issue in a learning environment. This must not be done in the ‘real world scenario’ as the likelihood of other problems being created is high. The customer service staff would need to put to good use all the data collected and reproduce the problem and then work on arriving at the best solution. The focus must remain on reproducing the problem and steering clear of probable causes of the problem. Make notes as you go along especially of what elevates the problem and how many problems arise out of the one major problem, to ensure that nothing is missed out or forgotten.

– Eliminate from the list all the easy to identify possibilities of the problem. This will narrow down the possibilities and point you in the direction of the most probable.

– After reproducing the problem and narrowing down the possible causes, look at breaking the problem down to workable parts. There is a possibility that there is more than one cause giving rise to the one problem and other smaller problems. Successful troubleshooting is all about looking at the steps and stages involved to help resolve the problem.

– Successful troubleshooting is also about teamwork. The main person working on the problem should not feel isolated while troubleshooting and should be able to fall back on the expertise within the team if the problem seems to be taking longer than usual. Problems cannot be bigger than the persons involved and neither are they invincible. Explain clearly what you have understood, show the notes and information gathered and together you could figure out the exact nature of the problem and assign suitable resolutions to them.

– Successful troubleshooting is a process, as we have established. Now that there seem to be some probable fixes, apply them. The problem will go away. However, repeat the process just to be sure that the problem will not reappear and the solution you applied is the best and most appropriate. It is possible that you find the problem recurring but the time between the occurrences has increased. The solution has probably worked for one problem but not for another. The process as a whole or in parts may need to be applied again to actually ‘cure’ the problem. Some problems may have disappeared ‘miraculously’, but that just means there was a flaw in the process since these problems are bound to reappear or just create another problem. Strangely these problems are the ones that seem to emerge when there is a crucial project or a client meeting. Troubleshooting experts suggest that these problems need to be dealt with in the same methodical manner, lest they aggravate the situation by creating new sets of problems.

– Browse the internet for help. The problem or problems you are facing have most certainly been worked on before. Finding a solution or even detailed instructions towards resolution are very high on the internet. These instructions will prove very handy since the person who has put it up, has obviously achieved success in resolving the problem. However, before following the instructions, ensure that you have carefully identified and isolated the actual problem. Troubleshooting company’s websites too would be extremely helpful.

Troubleshooting can be a frustrating experience if the problem or problems being ‘attacked’ behave inconsistently or erratically. Since the problem or problems obviously do not have a mind of their own, a methodical and systematic approach will help the troubleshooter to arrive at a permanent resolution quicker. As with every skill, successful troubleshooting also takes practice and with time the problems become more identifiable and working on them becomes relatively easier. If at first a problem seems insurmountable, take a break. Walk away to clear your mind and when you get back to the grind, you will find yourself refreshed and be able to look at the problem from a different perspective taking you so much more closer to resolving it. A calm mind, patient disposition and an analytical bent of mind are indispensable for successful troubleshooting.

“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” – Albert Einstein

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