Saturday, 22 June 2013

Customer Service Skills For Technical Support Professionals

I have pretty good customer service skills. I know this from the feedback I get from customers and my managers.

Was I born with these skills? I don't think so. I mean, some of them are due to my personality type e.g. I empathize well with others. But others have been honed over the years.

Some people will never improve but most people can improve their customer service skills when doing technical support.

My Strategy

Generally speaking, I keep things as simple as possible. You must assume you are talking to a complete moron. You must also never assume anything.

Imagine what is on their screen and what is easiest for them to reach.

Point and click is best. Do not try to get the user to perform keyboard shortcuts.

These days remote control software such as TeamViewer, VNC, Dameware, LogMeIn etc. helps a great deal. If you can get the user to activate their software and let you in then you can take over from there.

For example, if I want a user to activate TeamViewer then I tell them to click the Start Button, go to All Programs, then click on the "Blue 'E' for Internet Explorer". This is a bulletproof method of getting them to open IE. I see too many people struggling to get users even this far but my method, as you can see, is bulletproof.

There's obviously a lot more involved but, in general:

  • Keep it simple
  • Try to connect via remote control
  • Avoid technical jargon and longwinded explanations
  • Don't make promises you can't keep in an effort to please e.g. saying 5 minutes when it could well take much longer
  • Listen carefully to what the user is telling you
  • Don't be afraid to interrupt the user, be direct and ask the user questions such as "what do you see on the screen right now" or "let's restart your computer and we'll go step by step" etc. Users want to be directed by you, the "expert" and they will respect you more for it

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Smart Board Sound Not Working - No Sound From Smart Board

If you have a Smart Board and you find that there is no sound coming out of the speakers then check one thing first, that the speakers are switched on! There is a switch on the speakers on the underside that turns them on and off.

This switch is so tiny that most people don't know that it even exists!

I checked all the cabling and determined that the fault in our case was either the speakers themselves or one of the cables. Then I discovered the switch!!

If you still have a problem then take another set of speakers and plug them directly in the back of the PC. If all is fine then there is no problem with the PC and its sound output. Next try plugging the speakers into the leads that come out the back of the projector. In our case we run an HDMI (which carries both video and audio) into the projector and another lead out of the projector that goes to the speakers.

If you follow these steps, you should identify the source of your problem. It's unlikely that any cables are broken. Be sure to check the power adapter for the speakers, is it plugged in and working?

Logitech BCC950 Video Not Working

Logitech BCC950 Video Not Working

If you have one of these popular conference web cams (most people use them with Skype) but the video is working (while the audio is fine) then first check Device Manager.

If everything looks OK, hold fire on reinstalling the drivers, it probably won't be necessary. I have found on more than one occasion that the connection between the camera "sphere" and the base unit is simply loose.

Just push down on the sphere and the problem will be fixed!

Talk about a shoddy piece of merchandise, Logitech! I hope you improve it next time around!

IT Support Contracting vs Full Time/Permanent

IT Support Contracting vs Full Time/Permanent

I am coming to the end of my current contract. We explored the possibility of going permanent but nothing emerged. They wanted it to happen but red tape prevented it. Not just that, but I suspected that they would never be able to meet my salary expectations.

Since the economic downturn that started in 2008, salaries in the private sector have remained stagnant and have barely, if at all, kept pace with inflation. Plus, I live in a big city so this means that the cost of living is so high that a normal salary from a permanent job is not enough for me to live a decent life and build a future too.

So I am going to stay in the contracting game. Next time out, I want more money. Even though most people see contracting as the opposite of a career, you can actually carve out a career with much greater precision if you know what you are doing. I am going to hold out for the right role for the right money.

I am confident on the money. I am hopeful about the type of work. I don't want to pick up phones anymore. My preferred choice is migrations but I will also consider VIP Support and 3rd line support. What I want to get away from is dealing with a multitude of average "users". That really is the "arse-end" of this industry. You'd have to hold a gun to my head to make me do regular first line "Helpdesk" work ever again.

Back to the money again, if I play my cards right then contracting may be able to give me money equivalent to a salary that I could never have gained with a permanent job. We'll see. All things being equal, I'd prefer to be "permanent" because I like to establish a base and long term trust. But if employers aren't going to give me what I want, then it won't happen anytime soon.

Right now, I'm quite happy being a contractor. There's a great sense of freedom with it and as long as you get enough money from it then it's well worth being one. I'm not so sure that being a lifelong contractor is a good idea but doing it for a few years can only enhance your CV/resume, especially in IT.

The Connection To The Microsoft Exchange Server Is Unavailable Outlook 2003 Calendar - Exchange 2010

We are migrating from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010. On the back-end we have first updated the server and are migrating mailboxes across from old to new.

Few problems but the main one is some users reporting that they get the error "the connection to the microsoft exchange server is unavailable".

I did some googling for this and found out that it could be an encryption setting so I turned this on, I think it was on the client. That did not help.

In the end I found this doc:

Basically, the problem is that opening multiple calendars in Outlook uses a large number of connections between the client and the Exchange server. You can raise this by changing a setting on the Exchange Management Console, you are basically changing the default connection throttling policy.

Alternatively, you can just get users onto the new client (2007 or above) as soon as possible. That's what we did.

Ironically, this only arises because in the old days people liked to have multiple calendars open to see when everyone was free. But since Exchange 2007, you can now see this when making an appointment and there is no need to use Outlook like this anymore. Maybe that's why the default connection limit is so low, to encourage users to use the new features.

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