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This article outlines some basic practices for giving effective support via Live Chat.
Table of Contents
- 1 Be friendly
- 2 How to determine what the problem is
- 3 Finding the answer
- 4 Fixing the problem
- 5 What to do when you can't fix the problem
- 6 Other issues
This one is actually a rule, but it's also necessary for giving good support and encouraging the user to be co-operative. When people are at ease with you, they're more willing to volunteer information, and to try your suggestions even if they don't work. People also tend to feel some level of shame that they're not able to solve the problem themselves. Being generally friendly and supportive causes users to cooperate with troubleshooting and be much more satisfied.
How to determine what the problem is
A lot of time can be wasted if you think a user is saying one thing, but they mean another, or if they thought something was the case, but it isn't. If a user says they tried safe mode already, ask them if they saw the safe mode dialog. If they tell you their bookmarks are missing, find out if they're gone from the bookmarks menu, or if they've just hidden the bookmarks toolbar. With any problem, make sure to ask the user when exactly it started happening. Other important information that often needs to be verified is which Firefox version(s) are being used, which security or firewall software is installed, and which extensions are installed. This is especially important when a solution you're certain should work didn't, but it will save you much time if you verify everything about the problem first.
Try it yourself
Try and reproduce the issue the user had. If you can see it as well, then it may be a bug in Firefox code, or if it's related to a specific site, it might be a problem with the site's design. If you can't see it, then the problem may be particular to that user, or a conflict with other software on that user's machine.
Try it in another browser
If the issue has to do with websites or connection issues, have them try the site in another browser. If another browser has no problems, then the issue may be particular to that user, or it might be a firewall interfering, or the site may not be written correctly to display in all browsers.
Finding the answer
Use the knowledge base
Many users either didn't look or weren't able to find their answer in the knowledge base. If you aren't sure whether something is documented, search for it yourself. If we find that many people aren't finding a specific article, we can add tags or create additional links to allow better discovery. With many users, you can solve a problem by simply providing a link to a knowledge base article.
Use the support.mozilla.com knowledge base first, but feel free to use other resources as a fallback. If you link to a third party site, make sure to let the user know that the site is not official Mozilla documentation.
If you confirm steps to fix a problem that you think should be in the knowledge base, or if you obtain troubleshooting data following the issue guide, in the contributors forum with any useful information. It's everyone's responsibility to make sure that newly learned information is shared.
Ask for help
If you see a new issue or need to perform troubleshooting, ask other helpers if they have seen the issue before. We're all capable of tracking down an issue eventually, but users deserve to get an answer as soon as possible. If someone else already knows the answer, you can solve the issue quicker. You will also help other helpers by asking, as they will learn any information you have obtained.
You can also ask for help in #firefox on irc.mozilla.org. People on IRC are usually also developers, triagers, or are otherwise involved in a Mozilla project technically. They can help you find a bug on bugzilla, or even get you in touch with an appropriate developer for more complex issues.
Asking for help is absolutely necessary to be a good helper.
Fallback to basic troubleshooting
If you don't know the solution, and asking for help didn't turn anything up either, use the Troubleshoot and diagnose Firefox problems article for clues. Many users will be willing to take extra time to troubleshoot the issue to a specific cause, others will just want to get back up and running and chalk it up to bad luck. Always seek advice from other helpers when doing this - other helpers might have seen similar cases.
Document any new answers you find
Sometimes when helping users you find a better solution than the one that is documented, or you find outdated information in a live article. Sometimes you'll find an issue that isn't documented yet, and will have had a user willing to troubleshoot it to a specific cause and solution. In all of these cases, you should try and document the new information. If you don't have time or don't wish to edit a knowledge base article yourself, find someone who will, or leave a comment on the article with the new info.
Fixing the problem
Link to the answer
Many users will just want a link to the answer and will come back if they have problems with the solution. Others will want to be walked through the steps. For people that need extra help, it can still be a good idea to have them read the article first, so they're prepared for what's coming. It will also give them an idea of whether or not they have the correct permissions to solve the problem, or if they have time.
Use a different browser if the solution requires a restart
Many solutions require restarting Firefox. If this is the case, you should advise the user to open help articles and the Live Chat in a different browser. Make sure they have your nickname and know to enter it in the field labeled "I'm already being helped by someone" to get back to you. In addition to this, if a chat session is started in Firefox you can copy the chat URL over to the different browser to carry on the chat. Firefox can then be restarted without ever loosing contact with the person needing help.
As above, ask questions to help determine that the user is following instructions successfully. Make sure the user understands the instructions and that they know what the results should be. If disabling an extension didn't solve a problem it should have, make sure the extension is disabled, and that the user performed a successful restart.
Warn the user when a step is destructive
If you have to reset or delete a file, make sure the user understands what settings or data will be lost or reset. Make sure they understand what they'll have to do to restore these settings. Same thing with the checkboxes on the safe mode dialog.
Make backups when deleting files
Some solutions require deleting one or several files from the profile. Much of the time you can do this by renaming the old file with Firefox closed, eg rename prefs.js to oldprefs.js or prefs.old. This leaves the old file intact but invisible to Firefox. Making a backup of the whole profile in another location is sometimes the best idea.
Never delete a profile
There's never a need to delete profiles to solve a problem. If creating a second profile with profile manager didn't solve the problem, then either the user didn't create a new profile after all, or the problem is somewhere outside the profile. It's incredibly rare that none of the information stored in the broken profile is usable, and in many cases only one file needs to be deleted.
Deleting a profile is the same thing as data loss, and unnecessary data loss is unacceptable. If a user wishes to just delete the profile and start fresh, make sure they know they'll be losing their bookmarks, history and passwords among other things. Only if they're ok with this, should you advise them that it's alright to just delete the whole thing.
Share information you discover
When helping with live chat, you will often encounter information that is useful to other helpers. Lists of installed extensions and steps that solved an issue are often shared among helpers. If you have information that may be useful to other helpers, share it by posting it in the Contributors chatroom or forum. This is important so that the information can be added to weekly reports and used to keep the knowledge base up-to-date.
What to do when you can't fix the problem
Check for a bug
If you can't fix the problem, or if you have the problem as well, check bugzilla to see if it's already a known issue. This will also tell you if the bug is fixed in a newer version, if someone's working on it, or if no one has been able to track down the cause. If you're new to bugzilla get help with this. Effectively searching bugzilla takes practice. Users on IRC are very good at this. Start in #firefox on irc.mozilla.org for help.
If a bug already exists
Explain it to the user, what the bug means, if it's fixed in a newer version, or if users are still needed to track it down. Let them know how to cc themselves if they'd like email updates, or they can bookmark it.
Check the bug for a workaround
Sometimes bugs will list workarounds, but these workarounds will most likely already be documented in the knowledge base.
If a bug doesn't exist
The user may wish to file a bug, or you may wish to file it for them. To do so you need to be able to reproduce the bug in a new profile in the latest nightly. It also helps if there are steps to take to make the bug happen reliably. If you've never filed a bug before, find someone who has and get their help.
The problem is due to an add-on or 3rd party application
If the problem was being caused by an add-on or other app that had to be disabled to solve the problem, we can't do much else. However, do help the user find contact or support information for the add-on or application involved, if they'd like to report the problem.
If you suspect the user you're helping is a troll, alert a Room Monitor. DO NOT try and goad them into revealing themselves. DO NOT accuse them of being a troll. DO NOT just drop the chat. Continue treating them as a legitimate user, until the Room Monitor advises you otherwise. Feel free to transfer the chat to another helper.
There are canned responses linking to the rules, as well as one to let a user know that you're ending the chat because they're breaking the rules. Always use these canned responses rather than your own words.
Room Monitors are here to help
Ask them for help or advice with anything, that's why they're here. If you're unsure of anything, approach a Room Monitor.
Becoming a room monitor
Room monitors are responsible for assisting new helpers, ensuring that helpers are giving good advice, and watching for violations of rules/guidelines. They should be familiar with troubleshooting procedures, the knowledge base, and all guidelines. Selected community members that meet these guidelines and show an interest in helping other helpers are asked to become room monitors.
Last Update: 2011-03-11