The Communications Committee recently released a comprehensive report about the Communications Survey they did. You can read it here. Their survey got a very high response rate (almost 2/3 of our 409 residents), and it produced many interesting facts about our communication channels, but most of all about our digital communications. We are a remarkably connected bunch.  

On March 24 at 7:15, the committee will make a presentation (in the auditorium and via Zoom) on the survey results. There will also be an opportunity for Q&A. Watch for the details on the KRA website.

Here, I will deal with only one issue among the many raised by the report: tech support.

An “outpouring of pleas and suggestions”. On page 31 of the report, there is a summary of some of the areas where improvement is desired. The very first item concerns tech support. Here is what the committee wrote:

“There was an outpouring of pleas and suggestions for help to be available on campus to help residents more effectively use their computers and related devices. Expressions of needed help ranged from hardware issues to basic skills in using a computer, to working with different applications—search engines, Zoom, YouTube—in common use within the community. Most residents have an e-mail address but a substantial number are uncomfortable or feel inadequate in using the digital world. This may require a multi-pronged effort to respond to the variety of needs expressed by residents.”

What the report reveals above all (and what the quote above reflects) is that we are a computer-dependent population with a serious need for tech support. The vast majority of us use email, Zoom, word processing, Google, and a few web sites (especially the KRA website, But most of us, at one time or another, need help with the technology. Our computers are a mix of Apple and Windows, our problems cover a broad range from really simple to extremely complex, and our ability to understand and remember the solutions when we are shown them covers an even broader range. It would be hard for Kendal to provide good support for all of that variety.

I have an idea for one possible way good support could be provided using an approach that involves both staff and residents.  

Escalation and tiered support. About 10 years ago (in what turned out to be an unwise career choice), I worked for 2 1/2 years for a company that provided telephone tech support. Our clients were mostly large corporations, universities, and government agencies. I didn’t like the pressure and the low pay, but I did learn a lot about tech support during my time on the phones. One key concept was the idea of “escalation”.

At some of our client companies, there was a help desk that provided very basic support for a short list of possible problems. If that help desk could not immediately solve the problem, it was “escalated” to my company for more advanced support.

The term we used for the client’s help desk was “Tier 1 support”.  My company acted as “Tier 2 support”.

We could use a two-tier system here at Kendal. I think Tier 1 support could easily be handled by resident volunteers (another committee!), with a bit of training. The volunteers would know how to deal with most problems on a short list. If the problem went beyond that, it could be escalated to a Kendal employee, who would act as Tier 2 support (or the resident with the problem could call on a paid outside service, if that was their preference). The Kendal employee might also be involved in training the volunteers.

What might the Tier 1 problems be? In setting up a two-tier system, there would have to be a clear understanding about what problems the Tier1 volunteers were supposed to know about. Here is one possible list of issues suitable for Tier 1:

  1. My computer has stopped working
  2. My internet connection has stopped working
  3. I can’t launch my copy of Word/Chrome/Zoom
  4. I can’t access the KRA website
  5. When I’m in Zoom, I can’t unmute/show my video/raise my hand/see everyone/increase the volume /use the chat feature/see subtitles
  6. My printer won’t print
  7. My keyboard/mouse has stopped working
  8. A file I was working on has disappeared
  9. I took a picture with my phone. How do I get it into an email on my computer?
  10. I need everything on the screen to be bigger

Of course, this is just one possible list. Other people would have other ideas, and the Tier 1 committee could decide on the list, in conjunction with the Tier 2 staff person.

I imagine that, for each of the items, there could be a checklist of things for the Tier 1 volunteer to check. For example, if the mouse isn’t working, the checklist might be:

  1. Does the red light on the bottom of the mouse turn on?
  2. Is the window in the bottom of the mouse clean?
  3. If it is a wired mouse, is the USB cord plugged in?
  4. If it is a wireless mouse, try replacing the battery.
  5. Try a different mouse. [I assume each volunteer would be equipped with a spare one.]
  6. Try using a mouse pad. [Again, I assume the volunteer would bring one.]

If the problem is not resolved using the checklist, it’s probably time to call in the Tier 2 person.

I think it would also be natural for the volunteer committee members, if they were interested, to provide occasional training sessions on commonly-used programs.

What do others think about this approach to tech support? Please add your comments in the “Leave a reply” space below.