IT Support Process | Process StreetIT Support Process – Process Street

Introduction

Staff in the IT support process have a lot to deal with; we all know that. You have to remember the ins and outs of every system under the sun, on top of expectations that you will be able to fix any issue which comes your way.

"Being a support tech often means being invisible until something goes wrong. Ironically, if you're doing an awesome job... you're less likely to be noticed" - Becky Roberts

You're some of the most unsung, seldom helped heroes of the tech world, so isn't it about time someone made your job a little easier, rather than harder?

Thankfully, instead of furiously Googling for the solution or wracking your brain for that elusive solution, this time you can scroll through this checklist and find the answers, whether you're a newbie or a seasoned pro. (That's because we've already done the furious Googling)

Without further ado, let's get you started battling buggy systems and quelling user complaints.

Preliminary Data:

Record the case's data

The first step in the IT support process is to record all important information about the support case in question. This can be done by filling out (or editing) the form fields below.

Don't worry about giving a life story in the details section - go for a rough overview of the problem, ideally as the client originally reported.

Primary IT Support Process:

Examine all cable connections

Start off the primary IT support process by checking that their machine is plugged in correctly. At the very least, go through and check:

  • 1
    Power cables (on both ends)
  • 2
    Speakers or headphones (correct sockets, etc)
  • 3
    Ethernet cables or wireless boosters (ports, etc.)
  • 4
    USB devices (pugged in and indicating power, if appropriate)

This can be a delicate subject for some, as you need to also assure the user that their intelligence is not being criticized (but avoid directly telling them "You're not stupid"). These checks need to be achieved whilst being friendly and in no way at all patronizing, lest the client be offended.

Reset their computer

Whilst serving as one of the longest-running jokes of the IT Crowd, resetting the client's computer can easily solve many problems the average user experiences.

Although they may have already done this, go ahead and turn their machine off and on again once more to be certain that this basic check has been completed. Remember to shut the system down naturally, as a forced shutdown can both create new problems and worsen existing ones.

If nothing at all happens when turning the machine on (no sound, lights, etc.) despite being plugged in, it is most likely that either a fuse has blown in the plug, or that the PSU needs replacing. Advise the client as such.

In the event that the machine boots up, but either makes unhealthy clicking noises or presents you with a BIOS error relating to the hard disk, the PC should be turned off immediately and a data recovery company contacted by the client.

Check for updates to their system

Although this will probably require another system reset, you must now check that they have the latest updates to their operating system.

First off, enquire as to whether the client has received any prompts to restart the system recently (especially from official sources such as Windows Update). Although updates should be checked for no matter the response, this can indicate that a system update is required and could solve many issues.

Windows

To check for system updates on a Windows device, navigate to their Settings app either through their Start menu, then their "All apps" list, or by typing "Settings" straight into the search bar.

Once on their Settings, follow this path:

  • Update & Security
  • Windows Update
  • Install now

All available updates should be installed, and the computer reset.

If the computer in question is running pre-Windows 10, the only difference is how you need to navigate to the Windows Update app. Instead of the previous method, Windows Update should be available through either the programs list in the Start menu, or by typing "Windows Update" into the search bar.

Mac

Macs are simple to update, as all you need to do is load up their App Store, navigate to the Updates tab and click on Update All.

Programs can be updated one by one, however, this is not recommended; if the client is tech-savvy enough to have a good reason for not updating their software, chances are they wouldn't need to contact the helpdesk in the first place.

Linux (Ubuntu)

Navigate to the System menu, then to the Administration sub-menu and finally the Update Manager entry. Once the manager loads, click on "Check" to check for updates. Desired updates should be selected (all of them, if you are unsure) and then hit "Install Updates". There will be a prompt asking for the client's user (sudo) password, which should be entered.

Look for signs of overheating

Although it sounds practically comical, a common issue which many unaware users do not even dream of is that their machine can overheat. Lightly touch their faulty device (around the laptop case, desktop tower, router box or external storage casing) and feel for overheating.

If you can detect high temperature in any part of their device, inform them that it is likely the component simply needs to cool down. Turn off the hot component and ensure that no vents are blocked or clogged up with dust.

Ask them to describe their problem in more detail

Now that the general fixes are out of the way, it's time to start tailoring your enquiries to the client's specific needs; although the client has probably given you some basic information about the problem they have experienced, it's a good idea to go for as much detail as you can.

Ask them to elaborate more on the issue which they have been experiencing, and attempt to tailor your next move to any details they give. Adjust your use of this checklist accordingly.

For example, if the client is unable to give more detail, is unsure as to their exact problem or is experiencing multiple issues at once, go through the entirety of this checklist. If they give feedback such as "my computer is going much slower than it should be", considering prioritizing the "Sluggish Computer" section of this checklist.

Make sure that you also gently probe the client's actions leading up to the problem surfacing, as this can often give an indication as to when the problem was caused by.

Sluggish Computer Fixes:

Free up some space on the hard drive

The easiest way to increase the performance of a computer (if only by a little) is to clear up some space on the hard drive.

Ask the user if they have any unnecessary folders and files which you can delete to make space on their hard drive. If either you or they are unsure as to the purpose or function of a particular file or folder it should not be deleted.

Check their startup programs

Another feature which can damage a computer's performance (although mostly upon booting up a computer, rather than a lasting effect) is the number of programs which attempt to start as soon as you turn on the computer. As such, you need to check their list of startup programs.

Windows (10)

If the client is running Windows, their startup programs can be examined from their Task Manager. Either right-click their Start icon and select Task Manager, or just hit Ctrl+Shift+Esc (this is worth telling the client too, as this can be a lifesaver for when a fullscreen application becomes unresponsive).

Once the program is open, go to the Start-Up tab and take a look at the programs within. These are all of the programs which automatically start up along with the computer; ask them which programs they are comfortable with taking off the list to (as long as they know what the program does).

Change the status of a startup program (enabled or disabled) by right clicking on the item within the Task Manager.

Mac

On a Mac, you can see the client's startup programs be navigating to their System Preferences and going to the Users & Groups pane. By clicking on "Login Items" you will be greeted with the list of startup applications, and you should once again advise them to be harsh, yet cautious. Remove or add programs as necessary with the plus and minus symbols.

Linux (Ubuntu)

Ubuntu is even easier than Windows or Mac, as all you need to do is navigate to their System, then to Preferences and then finally to Startup Applications. For the third and final time, advise your client to be harsh with the number of applications they allow you to disable, but only if you are both sure that this will not negatively affect the system.

Uninstall unnecessary programs

The final aspect with an easy fix which you can do for a sluggish computer is to uninstall any unnecessary or barely used programs.

Windows

To uninstall an unnecessary program within Windows,  type "Programs and Features" into the search bar, or follow this file path:

  • Control Panel
  • Programs
  • Programs and Features

Once loaded, this screen should you and the client to sort through their installed programs and view them based on criteria of your choice, such as date installed, size and when it was last used. Any program which is not vital and is either barely ever used or has not been used in months should be uninstalled by the client by clicking "Uninstall".

Remember to not uninstall or remove any programs which you are uncertain as to the purpose of; this will avoid causing further damage to the machine.

Mac

When removing an app from a Mac, all you need to do is todrag the application in question to the Trash and then empty the bin.

Linux (Ubuntu)

For Linux computers, you need to go down the following file path and open the GUI Package Management Tool, which will allow you to remove unwanted software packages:

  • System
  • Administration
  • Synaptic Package Manager

Now you just need to select any package the client can stand to be rid of and click on "Mark for Removal". GUI can also be launched from the command line by entering "$ synaptic &", but the file path is generally easier to navigate unless you are experienced with Linux.

Security Problems:

Make sure that only one antivirus program is running

Multiple instances of antivirus programs running at once can cause huge problems, and so you need to make sure that your client's computer is running only one active antivirus program.

To give an example, if the computer is running McAfee and Norton antivirus at once, any problems they are experiencing are likely to at least partially be caused at the points where they meet. You need to deactivate (and preferably uninstall) all but one of their antivirus programs.

Run their antivirus software

Next on our list of security measures in the IT support process to open and run the remaining antivirus program.

This is exactly what is says on the tin, quite frankly. Boot up the client's remaining antivirus program (Norton, McAfee or even AVG) and perform a full system check through it. Erase or, at least, quarantine any threats which are detected.

Remember to include any external storage devices in the antivirus scan, as these can easily harbor nasty surprises in a portable format.

Check for adware and malware

Although some antivirus software also performs a malware check, you should download and run Malwarebytes Anti-Malware software to be certain that all malware has been removed.

Notify and assure the client of what you are doing, and that this software will not interfere with their computer or connections in any negative way (they may be wary of new software if experiencing a security issue), and then proceed to run Malwarebytes. This will remove both adware and malware on the infected system, and should also become part of the client's routine maintenance.

Connection Issues:

Ensure that the router is not causing the issue

Connectivity problems can make up a sizeable chunk of support requests and callouts, and so it only makes sense to deal with the easiest solution to many of these issues first. You need to confirm that their router is working. Tick off the checks you make as you go along.

  • 1
    Check for unlit lights on the router
  • 2
    Ensure solid and secure physical connections
  • 3
    Turn the device off and on again
  • 4
    Check that the aerial is vertical
  • 5
    Make sure nothing is blocking the signal
  • 6
    Reset the router

By verifying this, you can eliminate the router as a source of the problem and focus on fixing their device's connection at the correct end. Although overheating should have already been covered in the initial inquiries, several general router checks must now be undertaken.

The checks to perform are as follows:

  • Look for unlit lights on the router to signify that there is a problem (these lights show the status of the router, and although they change from model to model, there will usually be a standard set of lights which demonstrate a working router, such as "Wireless" and so on) 
  • Ensure all connections are solid and secure (all cables are fully inserted)
  • Turn the device off and on again (there should be a button or switch at the back of the device, or just unplug the power cable for a few seconds)
  • Make sure the aerial is vertical (this gives a much larger coverage area than horizontal)
  • Ensure nothing is blocking the signal (between the router and device there should be as little interruption as possible)
  • Reset the router (ask for a pencil, or something with a similar tip, and use it to press into the "Reset" divot in the back of the device; it should reset, shown by the wifi lights blinking)

Check that the computer is connected to the router

The next best thing to checking the router when a client comes to you with connectivity problems is making sure that the computer they are running can access the connection.

This can be done by checking their connection to the router. The computer must be connected either by an ethernet cable directly into the back of the router (the fastest method, and the easiest to check), or via a wireless connection (which usually needs to be confirmed by entering the router's password).

If the computer is wired up or wireless-capable and the router is not showing as an available connection, consider advising them to replace their ethernet cable or move the computer closer to the router, so that less can interfere with the signal.

Run the network troubleshooter

Network problems can be frustrating to deal with, as there are a multitude of points at which the connection can fail. Thankfully, by running the client's network troubleshooter, many connectivity issues can be automatically solved.

To make the troubleshooter an even greater gift from above, you can very easily access it by right clicking the network symbol in the bottom right of their screen, then clicking "Troubleshoot problems".

If you do not know what this symbol looks like on their particular machine, it usually resembles either a series of curved lines growing larger as they travel to the left (the universal wifi symbol) or a computer screen with a cable running alongside it.

Visual Oddities:

Check the screen resolution

If a client is complaining of strange visuals, but not necessarily anything malicious (menus and desktop shortcuts being the wrong size, the screen being blurry, etc.) you need to check their screen resolution.

First up, go to What Is My Screen Resolution in order to determine what their current resolution is. Next, ask them what size their monitor screen is (if they do not know, measure the screen size from one corner to its diagonal opposite; eg, the top right corner to bottom left).

From the size of their screen, assess what resolution their monitor should be:

  • 13 inch = 640x480
  • 15 inch = 800x600
  • 17 inch = 1024x768
  • 21 inch = 1280x1024

If their resolution is correct, then move on. Otherwise, you will need to change their resolution with the following method.

Windows

From the Control Panel, go to "Appearance and Personalization", then "Adjust Screen Resolution". From the drop down slider, select their correct resolution and hit "Apply". You will need to wait for the changes to take effect, after which you should assess whether the resolution looks correct, then press "Keep".

Mac

Open the client's Apple menu, from which you need to select "System Preferences", "Displays" and then "Display". Then you will need to click "Scaled" and choose the correct resolution, confirming the choice afterwards.

Linux

In the client's terminal, enter the following command:

xrandr

This will show up a list of resolutions, from which their ideal one should be selected.

Update their machine to the latest visual drivers

Visual problems can often be caused by having outdated graphics drivers, and so you now need to go through the process of checking and updating their drivers.

Windows

First up, you need to find out what make of graphics card their machine is running. This can be done by searching "dxdiag" in their computer's search bar, and opening the resulting program.

When the DirectX Diagnostic Tool opens, navigate to the "Display" tab and note down the make of graphics card, which is displayed in the "Device" section under "Manufacturer".

Depending on the make of card, you must then go to one of the following websites and download the latest driver (there will usually be a tool which you can use to automatically detect the latest applicable driver, if you are unsure of which one to download).

Mac

Macs are much easier to find updates for (indeed, most should have already been installed when checking for OS updates). This time, all you need to do is follow this path:

  • Click on the Apple logo
  • On the menu, select "Software Update"

Linux

Linux can be a little trickier, but start up by opening the Terminal, then enter the following command:

% lspci | grep VGA

The text returned will include the client's graphics card's manufacturer's name (usually NVIDIA or ATI). Next you need to check for the version of the driver they have installed. In the Terminal,  type the following command:

% glxinfo | grep OpenGL

This should return more data, of which the last series of numbers in the "OpenGL version string" line is the driver version. One you know both the driver version and manufacturer, go to the manufacturer's website and download the newest driver (if theirs is not up to date, that is).

Post-Checks:

Sum up the status of the problem

Once all of these checks have been performed, you must assess the status of the problem.

Think back to the interaction with your client and assess the level to which the problem has been solved. There's no need to use specifics, so instead just select one of the options from the dropdown above, as follows:

  • Completed - the issue has been solved
  • Diagnosed - the solution (or at least offending part) is known, however, it cannot be solved by you or with your current equipment
  • Inconclusive - the issue has no easily discernable cause and requires further analysis

Once you have categorized the client's problem at the current time, move on to the final stage in the helpdesk procedure!

Tell the client what to do next

The IT support process is in its final stage; now you only have to convey your final comments to the client.

If the client's issue is "completed", thank them for their time and move on to the next support case. Start this checklist again to help you achieve consistently high level of support.

For "diagnosed" problems which cannot currently be solved (such as a broken cable or faulty component), recommend replacing any offending parts or even calling in a specialist to deal with the issue. If your team has such a specialist available, either refer the client to them, or transfer the support request to them yourself.

If the issue remains "inconclusive" with no solution to be found, recommend that the client seeks further diagnostics on the machine by either the manufacturer or a reliable company which will physically examine the computer.

Congratulations on completing the support process for your client! Time to move on and make yet another satisfied customer.

Sources:

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