coaching technology managers, I have run across a recurring client frustration: Network
administrators are usually not good at user support. They are great at solving technical
problems, but they often lack the people skills and emotional insights required to
effectively support users.
This is not a problem for large firms, which can afford
separate administration and support groups. But small and mid-size firms are in a bind.
With a one- or two-person Information Systems staff, the network administrator must also
wear the user-support hat.
So if your firm has one of these dual-role I.S. staffers, you can pass along this
10-step user-support checklist.
Importance of support
1. Recognize that user support is just as important as network administration.
The best-running network is useless if users cannot make it do what they need. Their
perceptions will be based on how well you treat them rather than on how well you treat the
2. Give users your full attention.
Whether you are contacted in person or on the phone, listen carefully to what the user
Don't cut the user off, even if the solution to the problem is obvious. Give the user
the courtesy of a full hearing.
3. Acknowledge the legitimacy of the problem.
Even if the problem seems small to you, it is important to the user. Empathize with the
user. State that you will solve it when your schedule allows, and give some idea of when
that is likely to be.
4. Find out what the problem really is.
Users often label problems incorrectly. Walk through the operation with the user so you
can learn where the problem really lies.
5. Use a call-tracking system.
Don't let help requests get lost under piles of paper - this makes users unhappy.
Buy or develop software that will let you track the user, the nature of the problem,
when it was reported and resolved and how it was resolved.
An added bonus: Over time, you will build a valuable data base to help you anticipate
where future problems will arise.
6. Realistically assess when the problem will be fixed.
If you give unrealistically optimistic projections, you will lose credibility. If you
need to do some research, say so.
Whatever the corrective action will be, let the user know what the next step will be
and when it will likely take place.
7. Fix the problem.
You're a network administrator - this is probably the easiest of the 10 steps. If it
cannot be fixed, let the user know right away and propose a work-around.
Confirming the fix
8. Confirm that the user agrees the problem has been fixed.
Your say-so is not good enough. Make sure the user specifically acknowledges that the
problem has been resolved.
9. Check in a few days later.
See whether the user is still satisfied. The public relations value of a follow-up call
is huge (and may even increase the size of your next raise).
10. Keep your boss informed.
Let your boss know about overall trends, significant problems and major successes.
Managers like to know the important stuff, and they hate being surprised by bad news.
Follow these 10 steps, and no one will have the right to complain about your
Dana Shultz is an Oakland-based certified
management consultant, speaker and coach specializing in office technology. He may be
reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on the
web at www.ds-a.com.