Tech Support Howto

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For the admin: Several accounts should be created for each support tech

  • RT -- This is the main one all support techs must have. Generally by the time a tech starts, his or her email is already in RT as a user. Find the email, change the username from the email to something suitable, give the account privileges, have the tech put in a password. Then once the account is privileged, add it to the fgcore group.
  • Database -- Also necessary. Find the techs volunteer contact info and edit it, check "Can login", check "tech support" and have the tech fill out a username, email and password. If the tech is not in the database yet, create the contact and save it before trying to set up the login, do not try to do it all in one step.
  • Wiki -- Techs need a wiki account because part of their job is to update the Tech support knowledge base.
  • Talon (application server) -- This allows them to log in to their own account on the terminals, and provides a place for them to store files. (accounts on request only, we don't really use this anymore)
  • -- has our checklists

When setting up these accounts, go over their use with the tech, and make sure that general guidelines are understood.

Process (for the techs)


  • Answering -- "Free Geek Tech Support, this is <name>. How can I help you?"
  • Documentation -- Every call should get an RT ticket. Try to have a ticket number by the end of the call so you can give it to the caller.
  • Get the person's name, and a call back number if possible.
  • Troubleshoot
    • Find out early if it is a supported system
    • Control the conversation, ask answerable questions, listen to the answers but don't let the conversation ramble
    • Be patient
    • Be aware of when to cut the conversation short, e.g. it needs to be brought in, or the issue is not supported. Bringing a box in is a hardship for many people, but there are many situations where 5 minutes on the bench is worth an hour on the phone.
  • Fix the problem?
  • Record everything in RT (yes, every call)
  • Give the ticket number to the caller
  • Resolve the ticket if appropriate (the issue is fixed).


  • Check voicemail at the start of the shift, on all phones. Check again regularly through your shift.
  • Record each voicemail in separate RT ticket (look for tickets documenting previous calls but don't spend a lot of time on that)
  • the subject should include VM and the caller's name
  • Call back each ticket as time allows. Document this in the ticket. For voicemails you leave, "CB LVM" is usually a sufficient note.
  • Leave the ticket number on the voicemail or with the person who answers.
  • Resolve the ticket if appropriate

Boxes on shelves

  • Review the boxes to make sure what is finished and not. Make callbacks, or reminder calls for boxes that are ready. Start working on boxes, oldest first.
  • Make sure an RT ticket number gets on the work order immediately
  • Call customers if necessary to clarify problems.
  • Make brief notes on the work order, but the RT ticket should have the detailed notes.
  • When the box is finished, initial and date it, note any charges, note the date of any reminder calls
  • Run a "printme"
  • Move the box to the upper shelf, or the middle shelf if there is not enough room on the upper one.


  • Start an RT ticket immediately.
  • Make sure there is a work order immediately
  • Talk to the client and determine the nature of the problem
  • Triage -- If the problem is a short fix, work on it right away and get the issue resolved. If it is a longer issue, put it in the queue with the other boxes. Explain how long you think it will take. Clearly this will depend on workload.
  • If the box gets left for any length of time, make sure the client gets an RT ticket number.

Various procedures and policies


Tech support requires 2 things, an interest in solving puzzles, and the ability to talk to all kinds of people. A sense of humor is a big plus. Not taking yourself too seriously is another. If you want to show off how much you know, this is not the place for you.

Here are some pointers:

  • Ask answerable questions. (Has it ever worked. What were you trying to do when this happened. Read off the error message)
  • Check the physical, i.e. cables, power switches.
  • Remember that the client may be totally unfamiliar with the lingo you are using, and may misread error messages, or misunderstand what you are saying and still be a normally intelligent person, and even if not, deserves patience.
  • Remember that the client may not always tell the truth out of embarrassment or to avoid refusal of service.
  • Lead the conversation so that you get the information you need.
  • 5 minutes in the office may be worth an hour on the phone.
  • Tech support boundaries are a guideline. We are not in the business of figuring out how we can avoid helping people, but there are situations where continuing support will open a can of worms we cannot handle. An example of this is trying to support windows programs in wine. Keep expectations clear.
  • You don't know everything and neither do I, so a necessary tech support skill is finding the information. Google is your friend.