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Friday, March 13, 2009

Get Best Help When Calling for Technical Support

Just as it is the job of a tech support rep to help you troubleshoot a problem, it is also your job as the caller to do certain things to facilitate the process. If you follow certain basic steps, what might have been a 30-minute, highly-frustrating call could instead be a friendly, 5-minute call which efficiently solves your problem. This article offers some steps to achieve that. It assumes you are having a computer issue, but is easily extended to any other type of technical issue, such as one that involves an appliance or other device.

Before calling for support, make sure that you have tried some basic things on your own. If you're dealing with a computer problem such as not being able to bold some text in Word, simply take a deep breath and try it again. If it now works, it doesn't mean that your copy of Word "is going crazy," it just means that you were doing something wrong.
If your computer won't turn on, check for basic things such as whether it's plugged in to a working outlet and turned on. Make sure your monitor is turned on and connected. If your keyboard or mouse aren't working, make sure they plugged in to the computer. Check all cables to make sure they are properly connected.
Ctrl-Alt-Del Before calling, try rebooting your computer, either via Ctrl-Alt-Del or your system's equivalent. If all else fails, simply shut it off, wait 15 seconds, and turn it back on (i.e., hard or cold reboot). For other computer equipment, try unplugging it for 15 seconds and plugging it back in. Just doing those steps resolves the vast majority of problems.
If those steps don't solve your problem, and you need to call for support, be friendly with the rep at all times. S/he is a human being just like you are. Even though s/he is required to provide you with help, you will have a much better experience if you are friendly and courteous. If you are not, s/he could easily rush you off the phone instead of taking the extra time to make sure that your situation is truly resolved. If you are friendly, s/he might even take an extra moment to give you some special tips to avoid having the same situation in the future. Conversely, if you are rude or disrespectful, s/he may have the right to refuse you service.
Remember that the rep isn't involved with corporate policy or staffing issues. It's not his/her fault if you were kept on hold for a long time. S/he just picks up the call when the help desk software assigns it to him/her. S/he also might be required to obtain lots of information from you at the start of the conversation, even though you just want a simple question answered. Don’t get huffy with the rep for following his/her procedures.
The rep may be physically located outside the country, and may not speak English as a first language. Don't go out of your way to use big words or colloquialisms in an effort to justify your standpoint that such jobs are better kept in the US. You're not proving anything to anyone. The phone connection might not be ideal either. None of this is the fault of the rep. If you are encountering a communication barrier, do you best to speak slowly and clearly, and be as patient as you can.
If you are a novice or advanced user, inform the rep of such. By telling the rep you are a novice, s/he is likely to be more patient with you, and will explain steps in greater detail. If you are advanced, you can move through the conversation much more quickly if the rep knows that s/he can give you instructions in larger chunks, and doesn't have to tell you how to move your mouse cursor, etc.
Let the rep lead the conversation. S/he will start by asking you to describe your situation. Describe it as accurately as you can, taking into account that the rep is not there with you. Don't just babble, "I'm trying to click on my screen button but it's not clicking and I see something that's flashing and it says OK but the K is chopped off and wait a second let me just try something here…" That doesn't help the rep.

If you have an error message on your screen, don't ad lib. Read it slowly, word for word, including every number or symbol that you see. Every situation is different, but just do your very best to calmly and carefully describe what is going on. Include every single thing that you've done up to that point and everything that you are seeing.
Use your common sense. If your monitor won't turn on, don't call and say, "I can't get into Microsoft Excel." That is not your problem, and it is irrelevant that it happens to be Excel that you wanted to use. Your problem is that your monitor will not turn on, and therefore you can't get into anything at all, let alone Excel. You will waste several minutes while the rep asks you to try clicking on the Excel icon, and then you'll just say that you don't see it, and then s/he'll try to help you find it, all while you're staring at a black screen.
Be fully honest. If you know that you screwed something up, such as having deleted all of your data, don't just call and say, "I can't see any of my files. They're not on the screen and I don't know why because I was just using them." The truth is going to come out anyway, and if you're honest, the rep might actually have the means of rescuing you from your situation before it ever gets to your boss or your spouse.

Also don't fib if it turns out that you did something silly like kick the plug out from under your desk. Your support rep needs to track what is going on, and that is difficult if s/he can't determine if your system is truly having intermittent failures, or if it was something on your part.
It's very important that you do exactly what the rep tells you to do--nothing more and nothing less. As you are following his/her instructions, echo back everything you are doing so that the rep can follow along. If you don’t understand a step, say so. If you're not seeing something that the rep says you should be seeing, or if nothing seems to have happened, inform him/her. The conversation is going to be very long and unpleasant if you go off on your own tangents during the call in an attempt to solve the problem by yourself. The rep will simply have no idea what you've done, or what is on your screen, and s/he'll have to get you back to a starting point where s/he can again try to help you.
By following these steps you should be able to get your technical problem resolved quickly, efficiently, and painlessly. Good luck, and remember that if all else fails, reboot your computer and use the three minutes of downtime to take some deep breaths and/or pee.

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