Troubleshooting is a Skill for All

We face and fix problems, figure out alternative methods to work on something or simply look at easier ways to arrive at conclusions almost on an everyday basis. Even though this does not amount to technical troubleshooting, we still follow the troubleshooting methodology and that is why troubleshooting is a skill that everyone must have. For a technical person within the customer service team or as part of a different team, this is perhaps one of the most valuable, albeit tough to learn, skills to have. Maintaining composure under stressful conditions or when there is paucity of time, and resolving a problem through the troubleshooting method, is no mean task. Troubleshooting is a skill that requires narrowing down the list of problems, isolating the problem and choosing the best solution. This is true of any kind of problem. Troubleshooting is a skill for all – an auto mechanic would need to understand the nature of the problem that has made the car breakdown based on sequence of incidents before breaking down. A doctor must carefully study past history and current symptoms of the patient to understand the cause of illness or a leader in a company must cautiously identify the causes for say a rise in customer complaints – analysing whether it is a problem with customer service or the company’s offering.

Related Article: How decision tree driven interactive guides help provide training to know Troubleshooting is a Skill?

The skill required for troubleshooting is being able to determine the ‘actual’ cause of a problem by analysing the effects on the device, system or whatever is the subject for troubleshooting. The cause of problem in most cases hardly ever surfaces as the direct cause and the person attempting to troubleshoot must have an eye for being able to determine it based on what is apparent. For some troubleshooting seems to be a natural talent and for others who require it but are not ‘born with it’ it is a skill that can be learned through consistent and focused training. Since it can be learnt, troubleshooting is a skill that anyone can possess if they so desire. Troubleshooting can be described as a scientific procedure – based on observation, analysis, hands on experimentation and a logical conclusion. Also the fact that troubleshooting uses both tested guidelines and the person’s own ability to innovate also makes it similar to a science. Irrespective of how many guidelines have been provided, or the number of times the problem may have surfaced, unless the troubleshooter is unable to use some creativity and be curious as to the reason of the problem, troubleshooting would be much harder and more complex. In the absence of creativity, the same standard questions would lead to standard resolutions that most likely might not work. Think of the consequences if a doctor just assumed that a patient was having a cough because of a throat infection and administer the medicine accordingly. The patient might be actually coming up a more serious respiratory problem which could prove detrimental if the doctor does not ‘troubleshoot’ the cause.

“Creative thinking is not a talent it is a skill that can be learnt. It empowers people by adding strength to their natural abilities which improves teamwork, productivity and where appropriate profits.” – Edward de Bono

Related Article: How call center agents use interactive guides instead of call scripts to provide training to know Troubleshooting is a Skill?

For technical staff to be successful in troubleshooting, they must have a technical inquisitiveness. Anyone who would like to be a troubleshooter must have the inherent characteristic of curiosity to know how things work, why things ‘behave’ a certain way, see a challenge as an opportunity rather than being afraid of it. The people who would like to get better at troubleshooting can learn how to inculcate a spirit of enquiry through requisite training and reading relevant materials. With time the person will be able to ask the relevant questions that lead to successful troubleshooting. Questions like:

– Were there any prior incidents before the current problem surfaced?
– Is this system or device been prone to failure varying in nature?
– What is the level of urgency or priority that needs to be assigned to the problem?
– What are the factors to be taken in to consideration to ensure that the troubleshooting is safe and without hold-ups?

These may seem basic but they are indispensable to ensure that the troubleshooting process is uninterrupted and a resolution can be brought about soon. These also help to ensure that the time and cost of troubleshooting is kept to the minimum. If the person is required to troubleshoot a problem while the system is running and operating, the risk of creating more problems or in a doctor’s case doing a procedure on a live patient could be potentially fatal. Therefore it is essential in such cases that the troubleshooting procedure is meticulously planned and seamlessly executed. Consistent, pertinent and ongoing training, in troubleshooting and training for the soft skills required, is an absolute and is non-negotiable. In the mentioned cases, the situation is mostly at an emergency level with no room for doubt or error as there may be no way to recover from the fault or faulty troubleshooting.

For a novice troubleshooter, the problem or failure presented could prove overwhelming since there is lack of experience, training and skill. Such a person can begin by looking at the comprehensive troubleshooting documentation, which is not meant to be exhaustive, but is a starting point. It would help the new troubleshooting person be pointed in the right direction and would at least be able to begin asking some fundamental questions regarding the nature of the problem. With this preliminary information, the novice troubleshooting person can seek the help of the more experienced staff around and device specific techniques to isolate the problem and seek out the most relevant solution. It is both by training and practice that the skill of troubleshooting can be bettered and perfected over time. For example, if an auto mechanic from yesteryears would try to troubleshoot the problem of a present year car, he would find it impossible to do unless he has taken the time to learn the new technology and upgraded his skills. Troubleshooting is a skill that must be practised and constantly updated since the technology that was ‘in’ yesterday is completely outdated today and requires a different understanding and new approach.

Troubleshooting is a skill that involves a step by step process understanding:

– Has the problem occurred before? If yes, are the conditions and or symptoms the same as before or are the manifestations new? A good troubleshooter would refer to the history of the system or device or person, and cross-check the current symptoms with the prior ones. Such checking will narrow down the number of problems and put out of the way the reasons that have no connection to the current problem. There is a need to do this for every troubleshooting problem since the operating conditions, technology, environmental conditions and other factors are most definitely not the same and so even if the problem seems ‘familiar’ it might not be so. For example – if a car’s engine in one particular model is overheating and the cause was inadequate coolant, it does not mean that this would be the reason for the engine to be overheating in a different car make. Of course, that would be the first and most logical thing to check, although not the only thing.

– It is possible that after some kind of alteration like a change or maintenance, some problem has surfaced. The troubleshooter with an eye for detail would check the kind of alteration made which could be causing the current problem. This person would also be open-minded enough to know that the alterations probably don’t have any bearing or contribution to the current problem.

– If a problem surfaces, a good troubleshooter would first look at what is working right – what are not the problems. This is the method of eliminating and saving time by keeping focus on what is the problem rather than what is not.

– Make a final deduction based on all the information gathered, look at the possible solutions and select the best one to fix the current problem and get the system up and running again.
Troubleshooting is a skill that everyone must have and take an interest to develop to have the ability to resolve problems in a methodical fashion, in their daily lives. It may seem daunting at first, but with time proves very rewarding and exciting as you find yourself becoming more self-reliant and finding people in awe of you simply because you could remove a problem that they could not even see or imagine.

“As competition intensifies, the need for creative thinking increases. It is no longer enough to do the same thing better . . . no longer enough to be efficient and solve problems”- Edward de Bono

Learn about a new approach to better customer service!

Interactive Guides for Superior Customer Service

Create interactive decision trees for customer service management, cold call scripts or self-service. Improve sales performance metrics and customer delight across your call centers.

Interactive Decision Tree