Peter Tolmie, Jacki O'Neill, Stefania Castellani, Antonietta Grasso
Ubicomp Conference, Giving Help at a Distance workshop, Nottingham, U.K. , September 2004
The work of troubleshooting sits at the heart of the operations of many companies who sell equipment and devices to their customers. Proper handling of troubleshooting is indeed a key aspect in maintaining market share and customer loyalty. In recent years, however, many companies have faced the need to drastically control costs, including break-fix ones. This has often translated into putting a greater onus upon the customer for repair, eventually increasing the number of problems that are resolved via phone and problems that users can autonomously resolve consulting on-line knowledge bases. It should be noted that this change does not necessarily lower the efficacy of services as it may often provide for quicker handling of the breakdown on the customer side. However, while crucial for company operations, the tools, currently used in this area, are still in their infancy.

In the materials we present here, we reflect upon some key issues arising in observations of the work of technical troubleshooters in one of the call centres of a large printer manufacturing company. The study in question had two key objectives:

- To understand the constituents of successful troubleshooting interactions in order to apply similar principles to on-line knowledge bases;
- To understand where telephone troubleshooting activity can in itself be improved by enhancing user-expert interaction.
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