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When trying to resolve user complaints, one of the biggest problems is to insure that the necessary information is communicated between the user and the help desk. The purpose of this entry is to provide a check list for the help desk in order to enhance communications.

The first thing is to describe the problem. Start by getting the answer to the following questions.

  1. What was the user trying to do? The answer to this question may affect your understanding of the answers to the other questions.
  2. What is the application with the problem? This may seem obvious, but users often don’t know what application they are using, especially if they start it by clicking on an icon. If there is a question, the following are some methods that can be used for identification.
    • If the information was received on paper, have them send copies of the first page and the page with the questionable data.
    • If the information was received in an e-mail have them forward the e-mail to you.
    • If the information was received using a web application with a browser, have them send the URL used to start the application, a screen shot of the starting page of the application, and a screen shot of the page with the questionable information.
    • If it is a GUI application with a menu bar, the About menu item should provide information about the application.
    • If the application is launched using a batch file or script, the contents of the file will provide information may provide information about the application.
    • Screen shots of the opening page of the application and the page with the questionable information. The name of the program or the text for the icon would also be useful.
  3. What did the user do? Try to get as much information about the steps the user took. Tools for remote access to the screen can be very helpful.
  4. What happened?
  5. What did the user expect to happen?

Now that you have the initial information, there are a few immediate steps that can be taken.

  • You may be able to resolve the request immediately. Even if it isn’t really your area, answer it and you can close the ticket. For example, they may simply need to know how to sort a column in Microsoft Excel. The user will be happy and you will be happy.
  • Have the user check his connection to the internet by going to some web sites both inside and outside the firewall. Determine if the user can send and receive e-mail, and whether he can access shared drives. Problems in these areas should be resolved before going further.
  • Determine if the problem should properly go to somebody else. If so, notify the user where you are forwarding the request and that he can contact you again if nobody contacts him. If the user has to take action to get the problem to the right group, let him know what to do.
  • It may be that the user is actually getting the correct information, but doesn’t realize it. In an insurance application, the report could be aggregated by state of residence for the patient or the state of the processing office handling the claim. Some users didn’t fully understand the difference. Explain the situation to the user and ask him if that satisfies his request.
  • If the user is running the application through a web browser, have him open the error console and repeat the process. This can sometimes give you useful information.

If you haven’t resolved the problem at this point, you are going to have to do some research. The following information from the user will aid in this process.

  • Is the problem repeatable? If the user carries out the same steps, will the same problem occur. Did the program ever work correctly in the past? If so, when? If he uses a different workstation, does the same problem occur?
  • Have there been any recent changes? For example, is he using a new workstation or has there recently been maintenance or upgrades on the workstation? Is he operating the application in a new location or using a different network?
  • Get some information on the system being used. This would include operating system (Linux, Windows, Mac OS X, Sun UNIX, etc.), the version of the operating system, the type and version of the web browser (Google Chrome, Microsoft Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome, etc.), and anything else that seems appropriate.

And most importantly, tell the user that you will contact him when you learn anything.

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