One of the best, or most frustrating, experiences we can have when working with computer software is when we contact a support organization to get help on a problem with their product. Based on my experience in various support organizations for the past
15 years, I would like to share with you some tips that will help your support experience go more smoothly. Ultimately, the best support experiences I believe are built with good communication and teamwork between the Microsoft support engineer and
It was recently brought to my attention that I may be jumping the gun with some of the topics I have below, and that this discussion may benefit from some basic definitions and explanations. So, let’s begin. The first question we need to answer, I suppose,
concerns this elusive acronym “PSS.”
As with many of the acronyms used in the technology sector, PSS can probably have several meanings. In this case, PSS stands for
Product Support Services. This was the name of the Microsoft Support organization for many years, and continues to be used by many who advise us to "contact PSS" about a particular problem.
The new name for the support organization is Customer Service and Support (CSS); but in this document, let's make it simple, and use the term "Microsoft Support" or "Support".
Microsoft Support is the official route customers can take to receive help with Microsoft products.
We help people with problems they encounter in Microsoft software. If we determine the problem is in the product itself, the request could result in a hotfix being developed.
What if I find a Problem I think is a “Bug” in the product? First, what is a “bug”? This is a term that is used to describe a problem where the product does not perform as intended.
How do I know if I have run into a bug in the product? There is no way to actually know for certain that a problem you are experiencing is an actual bug in the system without Microsoft investigating the issue. There are some clues that I would consider triggers
for when to contact Support to discuss the issue:
I would check the knowledgebase articles by searching keywords on
http://support.microsoft.com/ to see if the problem you are experiencing has already been reported and has a hotfix available.
All error messages:
The best way is by creating a support case with Microsoft Support.
For Forefront Identity Manager 2010, we have listed your support options at the following link:
Support Options for Forefront Identity Manager 2010 General Support Options Page
Now that we have provided some background information, let’s go into some detail concerning product support at Microsoft.
The first thing that you experience when contacting support at Microsoft, is either a webform or person asking several things:
Based on this interaction, we try to route the support case to the appropriate support group team, applying the proper severity to the support incident.
Much as I would like to say that there are no problems encountered in the support process and every support experience is magical, this would not reflect reality.
Reality tells us that there are support experiences where cases are misrouted, basic problem explanations need to be repeated, and support wait times are longer than expected. The tips presented below are designed to help navigate around the common problems
experienced in the support process.
When beginning the investigation of a problem, there are certain things we will look for from the start:
Because each solution implemented in ILM is unique, it is often helpful for our support engineers to be able to look at your system directly. If your network is configured to allow Live Meeting sessions between machines internal to your network and machines
outside your organization, this will allow us to use a custom Live Meeting wrapper called “EasyAssist” to view the problem on your machine .
To further enhance the experience in EasyAssist and LiveMeeting, there is an option where you may allow the support engineer to “take control” of the session. This can be used at your discretion. If there is a special remote viewing application that
is used internally by your company that would be more convenient to use, please let the support professional know.
Having multiple people in a support call is not necessarily a problem, but there are times when this can cause a problem. I wish to discuss two common scenarios that fall into this category that are usually easily solved with clear communication.
Large Group - There are two types of people that usually attend these meetings:
Based on this observation, I generally like to separate the meetings into two types:
Technical Meetings - Technical meetings should be attended by a small number (usually one or two) people who are directly involved with troubleshooting the immediate problem. The people attending these meetings should be the same through
the troubleshooting cycle.
Status Meetings - I look at this meeting as an “Executive level meeting” to report status to stakeholders who need to understand and communicate problem status rather than technical details. This meeting is usually short and simply communicates
the points below.
Many times the Status meetings are not scheduled in favor of an email providing these details.
As the FIM expert contacting support, you are an essential member of the team troubleshooting the problem being experienced in FIM.
Without your knowledge of your implementation and your contacts with others in your organization, such as SQL Administrators, the troubleshooting of the problem becomes much more difficult and time consuming .
In the case where a consultant designed and implemented the FIM solution, scheduling conference calls with the support engineer and consultant to troubleshoot the problem is essential for a timely resolution.
While we try to anticipate all of the things you may experience with the product and document them, periodically you may run into a problem where you need additional help. If you get into a situation where you need additional help, please do not hesitate
to contact Microsoft Support.
Steve Klem is a 15 year veteran of Microsoft Support and has supported several different products and technologies during that time. Steve is currently assigned to the Forefront Identity Manager 2010 support team.