Tech support begins with you…yes you!

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By Lori Brownell,
GM of Product Quality & Support for Microsoft

We all have that person we call with our computer questions.  It might be a friend who works in IT or a nephew who knew the difference between a right click and a left click before he could ride a bike.  We come to rely on these trusted advisors, as they’ve done their fair share of saving us from countless digital disasters. But what about when that friend is busy with her real job, or your nephew goes off to college?  Who can you call on then?

Guess what?  It’s likely you do not need to call on anyone but yourself.  Software support isn’t what it used to be and is actually becoming more automated, intuitive and preventative than ever before.  For example, did you know that …

Keeping your software up-to-date can prevent many issues from occurring in the first place?

Just as people need vaccines for protection from certain illnesses, computers need updates for improved security and reliability.  It’s a good thing, though, that we don’t need shots as often as our computers need updates, which can be numerous times a week.

Windows can be set to automatically install both important and recommended updates.  Recommended updates can address non-critical problems and help enhance your computing experience, while important updates should always be installed.

Newsgroups and online forums aren’t just for geeks?

There are numerous online communities that welcome all manner of technical questions and often have searchable archives with answers to many common queries.  Consumers are more frequently turning to these forums because, through these channels, questions aren’t just posed to one computer guru, but to thousands of technical experts across the globe.  Believe it or not, answering forum questions is an addictive hobby for many people!

For example, Microsoft Answers is a new online Q&A community resource for mainstream consumers and has provided answers to thousands of questions since its launch in December 2008.  This is just one example – there are thousands of similar forums that nurture a growing movement of “peer-to-peer” support.

Your computer actually can fix itself?

When was the last time you really had time to fix your computer?  Probably never.  Technical issues always seem to occur right when we’re in the middle of writing important e-mails or purchasing plane tickets just before the sale fares are about to expire.

Fortunately, software makers are beginning to provide users with quick fixes and troubleshooting tools that take much of the time and guesswork out of computer repair.  For instance, Microsoft’s “Fix it” is the industry’s first automated support solution that addresses common technical questions about products including Office, Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player.  “Fix it” lets you apply automated solutions, workarounds, or configuration changes so you don’t have to spend valuable time on the phone with customer support, or perform a long list of manual steps to resolve a simple issue.

Your feedback actually makes a difference?

Even if you don’t have the credentials to give advice to technology makers, your experiences as an everyday PC user make a real impact.  Technology companies like Microsoft employ entire teams that conduct real-time analysis of customer feedback so that common challenges are quickly identified and resolved.

People always ask me if they should click “Send Error Report” when a “Windows Error Reporting” pop-up appears after their computer experiences an issue.  The answer is a resounding YES.  These reports help identify key product issues and have significant influence on software development.  In fact, in 2009, 195 unique solutions became available that address more than 1600 issue types – all as a result of Windows Error Reporting.

The evolution of software support is making it possible for even the most technically naïve among us to independently solve our problems through intuitive tools available at the point of need.   So the next time you run into a technical difficulty, pause before calling your trusted advisor – it might be an issue you can tackle yourself!

About the author:  Lori Brownell is general manager of Product Quality and Support for Microsoft.
For more information on Microsoft support and free resources to help you maximize the value of your technology, visit www.support.microsoft.com.