Troubleshooting Tactics – Part 1

By | January 8, 2016

At VEXIS Systems, we take pride in our knowledgeable and well-trained staff of support technicians and constantly strive to provide our customers with 100% satisfaction when resolving an issue.  While product knowledge and continued training and education are key factors in the success of our support group, the core of our expertise lies in problem solving methodology and troubleshooting tactics.  Effective troubleshooting transcends beyond the scope of IVR and CTI solutions – The same techniques can be applied to solving any problem, be it an IVR telephony issue or a car that won’t start.  On that note, let’s take a look “under the hood” at some of the steps for solving problems.

Effective troubleshooting begins with obtaining a detailed understanding of the symptom or symptoms.  When your end customer, colleague, or user encounters a problem, they may only be presenting a symptom of the root problem.  For example, a user may request assistance because the IVR is not successfully authenticating callers by account number.  While this is a problem, it is primarily a symptom – perhaps one of several of an underlying root issue or problem.  Additional discovery may reveal that the IVR cannot connect to the database.  While this could very well be the problem, it may also simply be another symptom.  Still more discovery and troubleshooting could reveal that the root issue or problem is an unplugged NIC cable.  The unplugged NIC represents the root issue or problem, while database connectivity issues and customer authentication issues are classified as symptoms of the root problem.  Taking the time to dig deeper into the details of the situation before engaging in the resolution can save considerable time and frustration down the road.  Collecting the information necessary to reproduce the issue is also a critical component of swift problem resolution.

“The 10 Step Universal Troubleshooting Process” by Steve Witt provides an excellent road map for issue resolution.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Prepare – Every human activity requires preparation. In troubleshooting, one must prepare his or her tools, work area, documentation, and most importantly, attitude.  The best way to get and maintain the attitude is to remember that it is a mathematical certainty that you “will” solve any reproducible problem in a system for which you have knowledge or system documentation.

Make a Damage Control Plan – Before you do anything that could cause damage, determine appropriate precautions. This may include making backups of data, notifying other departments, or developing an emergency back out plan.

Get a Complete and Accurate Symptom Description – To be useful, the symptom description must be complete and accurate. The more detailed the symptom description, the less work you’ll need to do. If you need to call in a specialist, a complete and accurate symptom description will ensure the quickest and most accurate solution. A good symptom description minimizes the risk of “fixing the wrong problem”, and helps determine the facts if there’s a suspicion that you made the problem worse.
Reproduce the Symptom – You can’t fix what you can’t see! If you haven’t reproduced the problem, you can’t toggle it on and off to narrow the scope and to determine the quality of the fix. Reproducing the problem prevents unfair accusations that you made the problem worse.

Stay tuned for additional highlights from the “10 Step Universal Troubleshooting Process” in the next issue of the VEXIS Voice.

Brian Smith, Director of Strategic Initiatives