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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | Obtaining Technical Support | Calling For Technical Support ]

Tips for Dealing With Technical Support People

I have learned a few tricks from countless hours on technical support phone calls. The difference between a quick and helpful session and a painful and useless one is often as much a function of what you do as what the person at the other end of the line does. Try the following tips to increase your chances of success:

  • Be At the PC When You Call: Sometimes in a troubleshooting session, the technical support person may require some information that you don't have, or will want you to perform a test or procedure. You should therefore always be at the PC when you make the technical support call. If you try to call from somewhere else, you greatly limit the technician's ability to help you.
  • Control The Call: Be specific about what it is you want. Make sure that the conversation stays on that topic, and don't be distracted into idle chit-chat if possible.
  • Have Your System Information Ready: Prepare system information in advance that you are likely to be asked about, before you call. The kinds of information you would typically expect to be asked for are described here.
  • Be Patient: Remember that you may have been working on your specific problem for two days, but the other person is just hearing about it. It may take some time before he or she gets all the information from you is needed to assist you. (In fact, most good tech support people are very skilled at learning what they need to know about a problem surprisingly quickly.)
  • Be Polite: Even if you feel you have just bought the biggest piece of junk ever and you are extremely upset about it, the chances are very high that the person who picks up the phone really had nothing to do with it. It's fine to hold the technical support person accountable for the quality of his or her company's products, but it's another thing to vent your spleen on someone who is really in most cases genuinely trying to help. A phrase I sometimes use when I feel flustered is "I know this isn't your fault personally, but I'm very unhappy about this product / your company's action / <whatever>". This sort of tone will usually get a sympathetic response and someone who recognizes a reasonable person who is dissatisfied. Saying something like "I am fed up with you people" or "Your company stinks" will just get the person's back up, the person whom you need to help you. If they think you are just being a jerk, that gives them the subconscious justification to not be nearly as concerned if you are happy or not.
  • Explain the Problem Clearly and Fully: Be specific when describing the problem. The better you express yourself, the more the other person can help you. If you provide details about the problem instead of generalities like "it doesn't work", this saves the support person from having to drag these details out of you, and gets your problem fixed much more quickly.
  • Get the Support Person's Name and Number: It is useful to find out the name and phone extension of the person you are talking to. This way, if you have a problem that cannot be resolved in a single session, or if you need to call back with a follow-up call, you won't have to start explaining the situation over again. It's also very helpful in the event that you get accidentally disconnected. Ask at the beginning of the call--that way they won't think you're taking the information to "get them in trouble" for some reason. Note that many companies do not allow their technical support people to give out their name and number so this may not work.
  • Be Persistent If You Are Being Pushed Off: While most technical support people recognize how important their job is and how much what they do reflects on their company, there are always some bad apples out there. Sometimes you may get the definite impression that the person on the other end of the line is just trying to get rid of you. Some indications of this are a surly attitude, trying to blame the problem on totally unrelated hardware or software, or giving bogus instructions that will take a long time and probably will not result in any improvement. For example, some technicians think the solution to any problem related even remotely to Windows 95 is to re-install it. This may fix some problems, but telling you to do that without first exploring easier solutions is a sign of sheer laziness. Be persistent (but not impolite) in your attempts to get a reasonable solution to your predicament. Ask to speak to a manager if the person becomes difficult or abusive.

Next: Other Alternatives for Technical Support

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