Troubleshooting 101: Effective Information Gathering

Teach Them to Fish
Johann Stoessel, MCP
HDI Member Adivsory Board Chair
So, what’s this got to do
with troubleshooting
“. . . the process of replacing probability
with certainty.”
Robert F. Mager
Troubleshooting the Troubleshooting Course
Troubleshooting starts with 5 Key Questions
 What
 When
 Where
 How
“The quality of the question
determines the quality of the answer.”
Kim Hankins, The Bergerac Company
Troubleshooting – Who?
Identify the customer
 Is the customer an intermediary
 One or many experiencing the symptom
 Technically savvy customer
Troubleshooting – What?
Record the details
 Get specific
◦ What version of what program
◦ Machine type, operating system
◦ What function is the customer trying to
Troubleshooting – What?
What is or isn’t happening
◦ How long does it take
What is on the screen
◦ Is there an error message
Can the customer perform similar tasks
in other programs
Troubleshooting – What?
“It’s not working . . .” vs
“How do I . . .” questions
 What is the question behind the
Torubleshooting – When?
When did it start
 When does it happen
 Is there a pattern to its occurrence
 What changed
New or different computer
New software installed
Changes to customer job function
Changes to customer network
Troubleshooting – Where?
“Any machine no matter who’s logged on.”
“Only my machine no matter who’s logged on.”
“On any machine but only when I log on.”
“Only my machine and only when I’m logged on.”
“Everyone on the east side of the third floor.”
Troubleshooting – How?
Can the customer make it happen again
◦ Reproducible vs. Intermittent incidents
Document the steps to recreate the
◦ Is the customer following proper procedure
Can you reproduce the incident in the
support center
Sometimes it is
not what you ask
but how you ask it
Avoid defensiveness
Don’t rush it
Open vs Closed questions
Avoid “you” and “why”
Is an apology in order
to keep the information coming
Develop Problem Statement
State the incident description as you
understand it
 Does customer agree the description is
 Does customer add new, relevant or
clarifying details
 Restate to confirm
Prioritize the Incident
Determine impact and severity
◦ Does it affect one customer or many
◦ Is a high-value transaction at stake
◦ Is a high-value account at stake
How does it compare with other open
incidents or problems
Establish 5 Key Questions with your Team
 Prove
 Whiteboard
 Adapt
Case Study
 What?
 When?
 Where?
 How?
 Restate
 Prioritize

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