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Blueprint for better support

When I start a new job supporting people with technology I look for the excited. I look for the passion. I look for people who care about the work and about the mission.

I’m often disappointed.

I find people going through the motions. I find people who have given up and given in to the rote memorization of their lines. They answer phones and reply to emails. Not with any urgency or excitement but with disdain.

The joy is gone. If it was ever there to begin with and I ask myself if I’ve made another mistake. I keep looking for people who care about their work. And I’m looking in all the wrong places.

The Challenge

There is a certain challenge to supporting people within a rigid structure such as government. The tools are limited. The ways are structured and set forth, usually long ago. But there’s still room to make the work easier.

There are places to supply information and point people in the right direction. There are ways to decrease the number of calls and give those who want to seek knowledge a place to find it.

How?

Where is the wiki? Where is the knowledge base? Why are support techs asking others for emails? Why does a new member of the team have nowhere to go to get the information they need to excel?

The easiest thing a support team can do is create a centralized place to store information, tips, fixes, and other vital knowledge the team needs. This is the first, and usually, last place a support tech should go for answers.

Step 1: Create a team knowledge space.
Be it a Sharepoint site or a wiki. Start small, with a collection of documents or a One Note notebook. Start somewhere and put everything in one place.

It will help the seasoned support staff because they won’t have to hunt for their past work. It will be right there. It will help the new support staff because they have a place to start looking before asking questions. They have a place to read and learn and get up to speed faster.

Step 2: Create a place for customers to get answers.

I don’t know how many times I’ve answered the same question by copying and pasting emails to customers. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen the same questions asked and answered because the customer has nowhere to get this information.

By creating a place for the customer to help themselves, it will not only cut the number of support calls. It will help the support techs because to write good documentation, you have to fully understand the product you’re supporting.

Step 3: Consistent Improvement

Neither of these resources can be built in a day. They will be built over time. The team will build the structure they’ll use internally and keep changing it until they get it right. Nobody knows how to build a perfect system from the start. By building a living system, it will improve and become the support resource the team needs and relies on.

The same thing goes for the customers. In the beginning the space can be stocked with documentation that already exists. Collect everything that gets sent out to the customers and put it there. Give it a home. Put a URL on it. Send the link to people instead of the content.

A link can be shared and bookmarked. An email is designed to get lost under the mountain of other identical text.

This is what I believe in and this is what I am going to build.

Published inObservations