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Tech Talk Live Blog

Customer Service and IT: Keys to Successful End User Support – Part 5 – Self Help

Susan Koetzle Hoffman


This is the fifth of several posts that will address customer service and IT. To read previous posts in this series, click on To read previous posts in this series, click on Part 1Part 2Part 3, or Par​t 4.​

Self-help books occupy large sections of libraries, bookstores, and ebook title lists for good reason.  Many people are more than happy to learn new things and resolve problems on their own.  Including tip sheets, how to videos, and detailed instructions on your website makes sense and will appeal to the self-sufficient members of your organization.  If you have yet to offer this, getting started is fairly easy—think about all the questions you are asked in a day and start by addressing those that come up most frequently.  After that, think about all the devices and resources your organization uses in any given day.  You do not have to offer complete instruction manuals for each area; however, presenting basic instructions to get users started on their own, as well as ways to address common issues, situations, and/or problems will give you a sound support site.

Once you have decided on the basic topics you wish to cover, next determine what type of tips, guides, and/or troubleshooting measures are needed for each.  There is no need to write up original information for everything.  Most devices, applications, and websites offer online help guides and video tutorials to which you can create links for your users.  On your tip page, create sections for each main area you wish to address.  Beneath these main headings, list various sub-topics or common issues, and then create links to the appropriate site containing the desired information.  Your users are saved the time of searching on their own and wading through online help indexes.  They can always explore these help sites on their own when they have more time, but they will appreciate having the most frequently sought information readily available when needed.

If you have actual, hard copy manuals or quick start guides to any hardware or software, scan pertinent pages to use as tip sheets, being certain to add any necessary attributions to avoid copyright issues.  Digital versions of manuals can also be found online.  As with online help databases, users often do not have the time or patience to search for the solution they need.  Since you are the one fielding the questions, you are in a superb position to select the most useful information from these sources.

Often it is more useful or convenient to create your own tip sheets.  There is no right or wrong way to do this.  That said, be concise yet clear in writing up directions and try to include pictures to reassure readers that they are doing the right thing.  As an example, in our district, users have a choice of three Internet browsers.  Sometimes a browser cache needs to be cleared when sites are not functioning properly, but not everyone knows how to do this.  I created a simple tip sheet with instructions addressing how to clear cache, history, and other website data for all three browsers.

Everyone has a personal style—I prefer to keep it direct and to the point, and include screenshots when creating directions.  If you have the time, you can also create video tutorials for those who like to be walked through processes step by step.  One thing to remember when you have created your own tip sheets or instructional videos: be sure to update directions as steps and procedures change.

Once you have a database of resources for your users, these problem solutions can also be utilized in the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section of your ticketing software.  Most programs offer an FAQ option that can be tied to various requests.  You create your list of questions and then either provide the answer or give a link back to the appropriate help tip on your website.  When a particular request type is selected, all FAQs related to that category appear and may answer the user’s question immediately without the need to complete the help ticket.  The user clicks on the question and is either shown the solution or given the link to it.  Having already created your tip sheets, most of the work is done.  You will also get ideas for creating new tips based on the tickets received.

Providing a means for self-help makes sense and will be appreciated by most, if not all, of your users.  Next time I will look at department newsletters and blogs, and how they can help with introducing new technology, as well as demystifying some of the old.  As always, questions, comments, and suggestions are appreciated.

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