Need Telephone Troubleshooting Tips? Here You Go! – 9/13/16


I received a request for help from an Information Technology call center representative. She wanted to better herself, but she had no access to corporate training. However, she clearly knew her needs – she had difficulty troubleshooting issues on the phone with customers.

She was communicating purely verbally – no written instructions for the user, no body language to read or convey. The representative sometimes got lost in the details of the issue, so it’s hard to help a novice user if the representative herself has difficulty keeping all the facts clear and top-of-mind. Also, the representative wasn’t always certain where the user was on the system versus where the representative expected the user to be during the resolution process.

So the representative wanted guidance – what were specific, tactical things she could do to better resolve issues on the phone? Here are some thoughts – although they’re written through the I.T. lens, they apply to any telephone troubleshooting situation:

  • Tell the customer that you’re going to ask several questions, and note why you’re asking (i.e., the better you can specifically know the issue and cause, the better you can give them the right solution).
  • Be patient with the customer – they probably are frustrated and may be overwhelmed.
  • Avoid acronyms and “tech terms” – the customers are probably not as knowledgeable as you.
  • Get to the root cause before you get to the solution. That way you can address it the first time without backtracking through resolution steps to alternative solutions.
  • If you get lost in the details, draw a picture of the issue and resolution process on a piece of paper (almost like a flow chart) while talking with the customer. That way, you don’t have to rely on your memory; you can see everything on one page. Possibly have standard bubbles on the paper that address key points including: hardware system, application/software, timing (time of day, day of week), frequency (first time or recurring), system messages, key issue occurring, etc.
  • If you have trouble explaining to the customer how to troubleshoot, walk them through the typical flow on your paper. Then, after each question or step they complete, confirm with the customer that they understand. Never go to Step 5 until you’re certain they’re done with Step 4 and you know where they are after Step 4.

Review these quick telephone troubleshooting tips, and tailor them to make the issue resolution process better for you and your customers.

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