image-columbo-one-more-thingLieutenant Columbo, the verbose, disheveled homicide detective in the self-named TV crime drama, Columbo, was quite popular. In fact the show ran for 13 straight seasons! Columbo would ask questions incessantly. You never really knew if his questions really had anything to do with the case or not. He’d ask questions about everything, your lunch, the furniture, your car…everything.

Being a network engineer is a bit like being Columbo sometimes—asking question after question trying to get to the root of the problem. We sometimes ask so many questions that our clients can start to get frustrated. But, rest assured, just like our favorite TV detective, every question is important.

There are so many little pieces of information an engineer may need to accurately diagnose an issue. How often does the issue occur? What time of the day? When did the problem first happen? The list goes on and on.

Even more important than the questions are the answers. You would be surprised how often some of our questions are not answered accurately or truthfully. The reasons vary from users who are afraid of being blamed for causing the issue to users that feel the question isn’t pertinent so they don’t really think about the question before answering. I like to say that lying to your computer guy is a bit like lying to your doctor. It doesn’t help anybody. The more completely and accurately you can answer the questions, the quicker we can get the issue resolved.

Take, for example, a fairly-straightforward issue like not receiving an email that was sent to you. Seems easy enough, “When Joe Smith sends me an email, I don’t get it.” Well to accurately diagnose a “simple” issue like this, we need to ask a few things like: What is the sender’s email address? Is the sender able to send to other users in your company? Can other people at the sender’s company send you email? Have you checked your junk email folder? Did the sender receive an error or an email rejection? There may even be more questions depending on the answers to some of these. The more complicated the issue, the more questions we are likely to have to ask.

We certainly understand how busy everybody is, and the last thing you want to do is spend time answering a bunch of questions. But think about it…wouldn’t you rather spend a few minutes answering questions that will help us get to the bottom of the issue, rather than us just taking a guess at what the issue might be? We’re sure you’d prefer the first option.

So the next time your computer guy is driving you crazy asking a ton of questions, remember, they are just trying to get to the root of the problem as effectively as possible.

Oh, there’s just one more thing…

First published in our February 2016 IT Radix Resource newsletter

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