The problem that gets reported is not always the real problem.
This can be due to a lack of technical knowledge by the customer. It could also be caused by similar symptoms from very different causes. Listening closely to your customer.

Recently, I had two good examples of things not always being what they seem. The first saved me from having to reinstall the Microsoft Office suite which can be very time-consuming. The second was very unclear but frantic.

First, I received a support call stating Microsoft Word was crashing and it needed to be repaired. Upon arriving at the customer’s desk, I saw the customer working on a document in Word so I knew this was not necessarily the problem.

I asked her to show me what was happening. And she did. When she opened a file from her desktop, Word froze and had to be force quit. I tried with another file on her desktop and it opened successfully. I tried three more files. They all opened.

In the span of a minute I’ve gone from Word being corrupted to a file being corrupted. A much easier fix. I was able to open the file in Wordpad and copy the data out of it then create my customer a new Word file which she was able to open. She was eternally grateful and I was happy I didn’t have to reinstall Microsoft Office.

The second support call today came in as “My Computer Is Locked !!!!”. That was the entire text of the ticket and it was categorized under VPN Assistance.

So I went to go see the customer and when I arrived I was greeted by a PointSec lockout screen. PointSec is a type of encryption used to encrypt the entire hard drive of the computer. It will trigger a lockout and ask for a special username and password if the customer’s credentials for Windows are entered incorrectly too many times.

I entered the administrative credentials for the program to bypass the lockout. Instead of a VPN issue, I have an encryption lockout. I went from a very difficult VPN issue with many possible points of failure, to a much easier issue that resulted from too many incorrect login attempts.

The problem reported can be very different from the real problem the customer is experiencing. It pays to listen to your customer and have them show you the problem. Many times a customer does not understand what is going on and draws their own conclusions. There is nothing wrong with this, because not everyone is a computer expert.

When it happens, know to look deeper and ask the rights questions or have the customer show you what is happening. That will tell you more than anything the customer could describe over the phone or in an email.

Not everyone has the benefit of being able to stand at the desk of the person experiencing trouble. If you have to work remotely, use the tools you have. Walk the customer through what they’re trying to do and ask them to tell you exactly what they’re doing and what is happening.

Often times this will result in the customer realizing they’ve skipped a step or clicked something they didn’t mean to. If there is an error, this will tell you exactly where in the process the customer is encountering trouble and you can troubleshoot from there. I’ve had a customer read their entire screen to me as we go through each step of an installation and advise them on each click.

Listen to what your customer is really asking and you will be able to offer the best possible support no matter the situation.