Things are weird right now. As I’ve said in other columns, business is still being conducted, just differently. And, I’m sorry to say, at a slower tempo. Some things still need to get done, though. And one of those things is tech support and troubleshooting, whether it’s for an existing installation or a new install that’s being completed (with proper safety protocols in place, of course). In an ideal world, everything would just work. We wouldn’t have to troubleshoot problems. But we don’t live in a perfect world; we live in this one, so we have to work with what we’ve got.
I wouldn’t say the number of troubleshooting calls I’ve gotten from dealers in the past few weeks has increased, but by that same token, it hasn’t decreased either. I’m not sure what that indicates, but I’m just happy that some of my installing dealers are still working.
If you’ve been at this long enough, you know that no matter how much planning goes into a project, and no matter how carefully you follow your plan, things happen, and they need to be addressed. It’s great when we succeed in expecting the unexpected and being prepared for it, but for all those other times, you need to have processes in place to identify and solve problems. When an issue needs to be addressed, there are two interested parties with overlapping responsibilities: the install and the vendor roles. There’s a third interested party, the client, but I don’t recommend assigning any responsibility for troubleshooting to them
The install team is the first line when it comes to troubleshooting, and vendor support is the backup. When it comes to taking safety precautions in the current era of COVID-19, vendor support has it easiest these days: They’re already isolated, sitting there on the other end of the phone or the chat window.
When it comes to barring online monitoring and remote access to installed systems, it’s the dealer’s install teams who have to bear the brunt of all the social distancing and safety guidelines. Up until now, who was keeping their work trucks stocked with disinfectant wipes?
Aside from the extra levels of sanitizing and distancing, the basic standards still apply.
Troubleshooting follows an established process: diagnose, analyze, repair, test and prevent. The easy one comes first: Diagnose what the malfunction is. When determining the possible source of the issue, start with the most likely problems, such as bad cable termination, and rule them out. Being methodical saves time. The diagnosis leads you to analysis, where you identify the solution to the problem. That leads to repair, where you fix it. Then comes testing to ensure that the repair worked. Lastly, prevention requires you to look at the nature of the fault. If it’s something that can be prevented in the future by changing or modifying something, then do so.
For seasoned, experienced techs in the field, troubleshooting will be second nature to them. Consequently, they’ll be reasonably self-sufficient when it comes to solving their problems. For anything that they can’t solve on their own, that’s where the vendor support comes into play.
Vendor support comes in different flavors. Vendor reps like me can assist troubleshooting on the phone — help identify the issue, and if I think it’s a defective unit, arrange an RMA and a swap. I also have to know when to escalate the install team’s support call to dedicated tech support, who’ve got more information resources at their fingertips.
If you are still doing fieldwork right now, you are fortunate, even if you may not always feel that way. Keep taking sensible precautions and stay safe.