Calling the IT Department

We’ve all had those days: the network is doing something strange; an application you use every day suddenly decides to reject your password; or you’re trying something new and the system just isn’t accepting it. If you’re a dedicated techie, it’s likely that you’ve learned how to work with the information technology service representatives or technicians in your area. However, just in case you’re encountering difficulties and aren’t certain what the IT person needs to know to help you, here are some helpful hints to make your life–and that of the IT guy/gal–more productive.

Before You Call: Try the Basics Before Calling

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the best. For example:

  • Is everything plugged in correctly–power, network cables, peripherals–and turned on?
  • Did you turn the machine off and turn it back on before and after you tried to perform whatever operation you intended? It’s surprising and a little dismaying how often this works. Related to shutting down and rebooting the machinery, you can close the application completely and restart it.
  • Are all your passwords updated, and are you typing them (or whatever data you need to input) slowly enough to ensure that you input them correctly?

Sad as it sounds, a LOT of computer issues can be solved my one or more of these simple actions.

Explain What You’ve Tried

After you’ve checked the basics and decide to make the call to IT, be ready to explain your problem directly and concisely, usually by providing the application you’re in, the task you’re trying to perform, and the response you’re getting from the computer/software. For example: “I’m in Windchill and trying to upload a document to the X: drive, but I keep getting an error message. I’ve already tried A, B, and C…” A, B, and C, of course, should be the list of things you’ve done so you save the technician a little time when running through their checklist. Mind you, some technicians are very process oriented, so even if you’ve already tried A, B, and C, they still might make you try them all again so they can satisfy themselves that you’ve gone through their checklist as well. This is especially true with technical support outside your own organization. Within your organization, they will appreciate the effort and will move on to things they can ask you to try that you hadn’t considered.

Don’t Take Anything for Granted

When the IT person is walking you through a procedure and they instruct you to press a button, type something that you heard wrong, or they say something could be interpreted multiple ways, ask a clarifying question before proceeding. For example, if you’re on a PC and the tech tells you to open Explorer, confirm whether they mean Internet Explorer (the web browser) or Windows Explorer (the drive directory). If the problem has been a detailed one, you might need to walk the tech through what you’re doing, keystroke by keystroke. The important thing to remember is that the more pertinent information they have, the better.

Declaring Victory

I really hate calling IT because while I understand only a minimum of HTML, I consider myself a pretty savvy application user. Calling for technical help is about as much fun for me as asking directions is for other men. It feels like quitting. However, every once in a while I’ll get a really odd problem. Something that makes the IT person say, “Hmmmm” or “That’s strange.” When I hear something like that, I can pause for a relieved breath because the odds then become quite good that I have a) an actual problem with the technology (rather than my understanding of it) and b) a problem that I could not have solved by myself.

It’s also been my experience that the technical people deal with way too many problems that can be solved by rebooting; often, what they really want is a challenge. Therefore, if you have a serious IT issue, don’t be afraid or ashamed. If you give the tech the proper information and show that you’ve made a good-faith effort to fix things yourself first, you might just make his/her day.

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About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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