Before you call Tech Support…

Tech support can be the most fulfilling work in the building.  In my position in tech support, I have the privilege of talking to people that care about what they are doing, and I have confidence that supporting these customers is really what Sealevel is all about.  Sometimes the situation the customer is in is complicated, and sometimes the problems are simple.  Some symptoms hide a rather simple problem very well, just as other symptoms can make it fairly easy to break a complex case down into its separate parts.  However, in every case, there’s a person that I have the privilege to help, and that’s a really nice job to have!

The problems that people call in with are nearly as widely varied as the people themselves.  The variety of conversation, experience, and problems, is what really makes this job so unique and fun.  When a person calls in, they may have a very clear case where the warranty repair service is exactly what they need, and a quick transaction is exactly what is called for.  There are other cases, however, when the problem is incorrect driver settings, mismatched hardware configuration, a blocked driver installation, software that has to be set up slightly differently, or hardware that is simply not designed for the application.  These problems are very diverse, but there are a few common elements that we can depend on.

For many questions, I use the same tools that the customer uses.  The first tool is the 4-digit Sealevel part number.  It is true that there are a few products that do not, strictly speaking, have 4-digit part numbers.  Our computer products are labeled ‘R’ followed by a 4-digit number, and modified products have a 4-digit part number followed by a modification number.  In every case, the part number is on a white sticker attached to the product.  In the case of modified parts, the basic functionality of the unit is still the same, and most of the product usage information is still contained in that 4-digit number.

That part number is the first way that I find products on our website, which has detailed specification information, and the product manual, which has detailed setup information.  For most true hardware questions, that part number is the basis for our knowledge.
Many of our products have manual configuration settings.  Once the customer has that part number, they can also determine the proper hardware settings for their application.  The information to set these settings is in the user manual.  In order to apply this information from the manual or my assistance, it is essential that the customer locates the shunts, the jumpers, and the DIP switches that the manual refers to.  This is the second most important task that a customer can do on their own before the call to speed up the tech support procedure.  In many cases, this is all there is to the solution.

The final step that the customer can take before the call is finding more information about the software environment that the card is running in.  In nearly every case, I will ask for specific operating system version and word size (32-bit or 64-bit).  More detailed information will usually be needed as well, and I will need the customer running as an administrator on the computer that we are diagnosing.

With the information from these primary documentation and settings steps, the most common problems and solutions are documented on our support website.  We are always adding the most common questions and answers that we encounter in our frequently asked question (FAQ) section. We document more complicated questions and answers in our Resource Center and product literature.  Our support section also has the current software driver packages (also listed by product family), the current user manuals, and current software documentation.

Even with this documentation, there will always be questions where a fresh perspective or a detailed technical analysis is the key to finding the solution.  In every case, simple or complicated as it may be, I am happy to help you with the solution.  It’s a really nice way to meet you guys.

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