MSP's are designed to aid organizations of all technical backgrounds and troubleshooting IT issues is one aspect of the relationship. As such, they don't expect you to have certifications or in-depth technical knowledge, but some basic attention will make your life a lot easier.

Whether it’s with an MSP or elsewhere, many will have experienced the seemingly endless back-and-forth of troubleshooting, especially with IT. Without proper information, it takes time for the tech to figure out the root cause, and they may misunderstand what the problem is entirely.

This post will provide six clear guidelines to stop that from happening and reduce frustration on both sides:

Attend to IT Notifications Promptly

It’s easy to dismiss notifications in the moment, only to forget about them until it’s too late. Notifications are a key part of communicating with an MSP. Failing to address them quickly is likely to cause more productivity loss in the future.

Notifications can take the form of password reset prompts or subscription renewals They can also be error notices on your local machine. Users should be encouraged to note any persistent or stand-out errors they see on their desktop, whether they’re on start-up, in the form of repetitive pop-ups, or read-and-write failures.

Once an issue is raised with support, it pays to respond promptly. Missing a call is understandable, but not responding to contact attempts quickly may mean the support agent has to reschedule to another day entirely.

Keep Your Contact Information Current

Speaking of support contact, it's a big help if you keep your contact information up to date. You should immediately update your details with any phone number, office assignment, position, or name/title changes. Failing to provide the proper contact information could slow techs down as they're bounced around trying to get in contact with you.

Use Proper Channels to Report IT Issues

When you need technical assistance, it’s tempting to simply ring the last number in your call log or respond to your previous email thread. In most cases, however, this will only slow things down.

Reaching out to a tech directly could create delays. They may simply point you back to the proper channels. Or worse, they may accept the task, only to juggle it with their current workload and possibly forget it. If there isn’t a proper request, there will be no record in the system it could easily slip through the cracks. Filling out a web form or sending a message to the correct support email ensures your request gets to the best person for the job. This will be the person who is the most qualified and, crucially, the most available.

Remembering this becomes especially important during an emergency, where critical thinking often goes out of the window. As a result, it's useful to have proper emergency contact information accessible to avoid redirections.

Be Descriptive When Troubleshooting an IT Issue

While it may be tempting to send a "nothing is working" email during times of technical annoyance, it rarely helps the troubleshooting process.

The best thing you can do is describe your issue in detail. It’s not necessary (and sometimes counterproductive) to provide pages of information, but it’s in your best interest to include the following where possible:

  • Screenshots of errors: Keep the snipping tool pinned to the taskbar and be prepared to use it before you close any error messages or windows.
  • Full description of your system state: Describe the general behavior of your system, whether it's sluggish, erratic, or intermittent. Include the actions you performed prior to the error, during the error, and after the issue occurred. Though it's tempting to omit mistakes you may have made to try to save face, they'll be discovered eventually and the guesswork will only slow the process of remediation.
  • Fully explain what’s wrong: Be specific with your language. Rather than “My Microsoft Word is broken,” try “I get an error stating (this) when trying to launch Word for the first time after startup.”
  • Colleague experiences: Ask your colleagues whether they’re experiencing the same issue. They may have already talked to support, and if they haven’t, they’ll help determine if it’s a system-wide issue or if it’s specific to you.

Providing this information when you first reach out will help the tech narrow down the problem before they contact you. This may greatly reduce the time both of you spend troubleshooting.

Abide by Company Policies at All Times

You can further reduce the time spent troubleshooting by abiding by these best-practices. Though it may be tempting, don’t install or download unapproved applications or files or visit risky sites. Apply the same caution to emails, scrutinizing them before you click links, open attachments, or provide information.

Finally, don’t share sensitive or confidential information through unencrypted channels. This includes your password. In fact, you’re better off just not sharing your password at all. If somebody needs access to an account, run it through management first to see if they can come to a different arrangement.

Give Advance Notice of Changes When Possible

Let the relevant people know in advance if you're making changes to your ecosystem. This may include new user enrollment or termination, new devices, or deployment of third-party software. Naturally, you should also inform workers and MSPs of office moves and ISP changes.

Keeping the communication flowing to employees will reduce help desk calls when a new piece of software suddenly shows up on a PC. From an MSP perspective, knowing about these changes helps us provide aid where necessary and consider the security impact beforehand.

Closing words

Though following these practices may seem cumbersome at times, that quickly fades away once you get used to them. Ultimately, the better you convey the issue you’re having to your MSP, the faster and more successfully they’ll be able to resolve it.

Likewise, sticking to policies can be frustrating, but they're there for a reason. Though you may feel you're more technical than the average user, sticking to policy lets support immediately eliminate a whole host of factors while troubleshooting an IT issue.

Finally, and perhaps obviously, you'll get a faster response the quicker you react to items that require your attention. Whether it's returning a support agent’s call or reporting an error message as you see it, it's always preferable to get it out of the way before it becomes a major issue