Friday, April 18, 2014

How to Stand Up After Working on a Computer

Here's a quick but simple formula that can save you a lot of tech support headaches.

What happens when you leave a client's office and the printers don't print?
What happens when you leave a client's office and the Internet goes down?
What happens when you leave a client's office and the email doesn't work?
What happens when you leave a client's office and the user can't see the server?

It's your fault.

Okay, it's not really your fault. But you've seen it a thousand times. You leave the client's office and some random thing that can't possibly be related to you happens. But you (or your people) were there.

The client doesn't understand technology. It's not their job to understand. So you sit down. And when you leave, you get blamed for every single thing that went wrong.

In our experience, 95% of what can go wrong falls into these four categories:
- Accessing the Internet
- Printers
- Email
- Accessing files on the Server

So here's a very simple checklist to make your life easier. Make sure that every single person who works for you checks those four things before they stand up from any client computer. It doesn't matter whether any problems are related to you or your staff. Even if the ISP randomly changed DNS servers while you are onsite, there's no point in in leaving until you find and fix the problem.

Remember, you're going to get the fallout from any problems that happen while your staff are onsite - whether you cause them or not. So you might as well take stock of what's going on and then address it. If your people caused the problem, they need to be honest and create a new service request. If your people did not cause the problem, they still need to create a service request.

The end result is the same. The problem is identified as early as possible and you begin working to address it.

I rarely do anything that's motivated by "CYA" or Cover Your Butt. In this case, however, it makes sense to create a very simple 4-point checklist. Ask your staff to verify the four items above. 99.9% of the time, any problems will not be related to the actions of your team. But if you find and fix things before the client knows there's a problem, that's good for you.

[Revision: In response to the comment below, here's a form:]
Click to Enlarge

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Your checklist might be different from this. But no matter what it it, you should have a very simple three- or four-point checklist. Cover your bases. Make your team look like heros.

Your Comments Welcome.


  1. Anonymous5:53 PM


    How would you go about implementing this in practice? Do your engineers print a test page after each client visit? I agree that your items are at the top of the complaint list, but I'm having trouble imagining asking everyone to send themselves a test email and print a test page after each PC visit.

  2. Your "checklist" could be as small as a business card. For a long time we printed up those laser-perf business cards with a very short form that said
    - I was at your computer
    - I did / did not change your password
    - I checked printer, internet, server, and email

    You could also make this a form that has to be filled out in the PSA time entry.

    Like many things, enforcement consists primarily of making it mandatory and not optional. That means talking about it every days, making it happen, and getting rid of people who don't follow the process. This is simple and reasonable - and saves a LOT of rework.

    See my post on "Can Do vs Will Do."


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