Any suggestions on how to improve my experience with tech support people?
This question was answered on May 20, 2002. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
We have all suffered through the tech support "wait-a-thon" or 'finger pointing marathons' that leave us drained, frustrated and ready to commit acts of violence to the family pet!
But remember, the person on the other end is supposed to be able to help you with a problem they can't see, on a system they have never touched and generally with a frustrated user that can't really explain much because they don't know the 'lingo'!
Did you know that YOU may be just as responsible for the lack of help you receive when you call a tech support line as the company that you called? The most common mistakes are that the caller is unprepared, is calling the wrong company or starts the conversation by jumping all over the poor tech on the other side of the phone.
Here are some tips that will help you become a more effective user of tech support lines:
Make sure the problem is repeatable - Before calling anyone about a computer problem, always reboot your system and try to reproduce the problem
Document error messages - The worst thing that you can do is to call a tech support person and refer to 'an error message' but not have the details It's the equivalent of the 'engine' light in your car, no help at all!
Know what you have - Generally, before a tech can help you, they need to know some specifics about your computer and software (Which version of Windows, how much RAM and free drive space you have, etc.) 'I donno' is not a helpful answer to any question?
Don't call the wrong vendor - Why wait on hold for 45 minutes just to be told you called the wrong company? Spend a few minutes to track down where the problem exists, so you can avoid this common error For example, if you are having a printing problem, check to see if the problem is with every program or just a specific program.
Kill them with kindness - If you were stuck answering tech support calls all day, which would you rather talk to: a frustrated, angry, abusive caller or one that is polite, cracks jokes and listens to instructions? Your first impression may influence the entire process
Document everything - Date, time, rep's name or ID number, what you did, how you did it, etc This will save you time in the future
Avoid speakerphones, use a headset - Speakerphones can be hard to hear clearly, so try not to use them Instead, use a headset so you can use the keyboard, document items or do things while you're waiting on hold.
Don't be afraid to ask for a Supervisor - Most tech support systems have their "least experienced" (often referred to as Tier 1) support reps screen all problems Give the person a chance, but don't be afraid to politely, but firmly request that your call be escalated to a supervisor.
Try to avoid calling during peak times - The beginning or end of any weekday is often the worst time to call.
If all else fails, RTM (Read The Manual)! - Or, better yet, before all else, read the manual, open the 'read me' files or use the built-in help menus.
And finally, you can input any specific error message into any major search engine and usually get lots of information about the problem from a number of resources!
About the author
Ken Colburn of Data Doctors on May 20, 2002