• Solving the Problem Between Keyboard and Chair

A friend was once remotely teaching his mother how to use Skype. He could hear her perfectly but there was a big, black square where her video should have been. He took her through every conceivable step, including multiple reboots, reinstalling the application and double-checking the webcam driver for updates. After an hour of frustration, he was out of ideas - almost. He checked the time and suddenly paused.

“Hey, hang on a minute,” he said. “Is your light on?”

“No,” she said. After a second, she appeared on screen, as if by magic. “Is this better?”

“Oh,” he said. “Hello mum.”

Sometimes, a IT support problem lies squarely with the user. Admins like to call it a problem between keyboard and chair (PBKAC). Preventing support tickets from uneducated users who haven’t thought things through can free up valuable time for admins to concentrate on real issues. There are several approaches that can help.

Tell, tell, and tell them again

Scheduled downtime, new applications and process changes will all trip up distracted users. Warning them once isn’t enough, and warning them in technology language won’t help them understand. Instead, non-techie messages that make sense from a user’s perspective. Send them via different channels such as email, voice message, login screen messages and even posters dotted around the place. The key to communicating technical changes is to do it early and often.

Triage the PBKAC problems

Even then, some users won’t get the message and will call or mail anyway. Triage incoming queries with an interactive voice response system or an online knowledge base, depending on the channel they’re using. Funnel them through the basic options to weed out PBKAC issues early on.

Take control…

Remotely controlling a user’s machine can be an easy way to solve basic software problems that might take an age to fix otherwise. Don’t just stop at getting the job done. Engage the user where possible and explain what you’re doing so that they can do it themselves the next time.

…and give it back

Empowering users to help themselves can save your sanity, as long as you do it in a measured way. Self-service portals can help tech teams to offload some of the more irritating tasks like resetting passwords and downloading drivers.

Automation via client-side scripts is a powerful tool here. Bob in accounts might never figure out how to connect to the network drive and search for Word files, no matter how often you tell him. Writing a two-minute script and putting a trigger for it on his desktop could save you countless irritating calls further down the line.

Identify low-hanging fruit with dashboards

How do you know what to script first, or what PBKAC questions to put on the front page of your support portal? Look for trends. Log incoming tickets and chart them in a dashboard system to find clusters of similar problems. Focus on these when building out the knowledge base or writing automated scripts. You’ll thank yourself later.

Will this save you from the woman who puts her laptop in her bag with a rotten banana, or the person who tries to use his mouse upside down? Perhaps not. But they might get you home a little earlier and keep you a little more sane. That has to be worth some up-front effort.


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