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Tech Support and You

By steve - Posted on 07 October 2009

This really happened to me...

[User] (a nurse, calling my office for help) You have to get over here right away and fix this computer.

[Me] What's wrong?

[User] (getting madder) I don't know. You're the expert. Get over here.

[Me] Can you tell me what you are having problems with?

[User] (angrier) The computer. It won't even turn on. I keep pressing the "on" button and some green lights come on, but it isn't working. Look, I'm a nurse and I'm really busy and I don't have time to fool around with this. Just get over here and fix it.

[Me] Could you take a few minutes to answer some questions? It might be a simple problem.

[User] No! Get over here. Now.

[Me] OK. I'll be there in 30 minutes. I have to get a spare computer and monitor and drive on site.

[User] Whatever. (phone click)

(25 minutes later...)

[Me] (out of breath from hauling computer and monitor up 3 flights because the elevator was taking too long) OK, can you show me the problem?

[User] Yeah. Look, the screen's black.

[Me] (pressing the "on" button on the monitor) Looks OK now.

[User] Oh... (mumbles something incoherent and probably unrepeatable)

If you are in IT, you may have worked on, and definitely will end up calling, a Tech Support help line. If not Tech Support, then at least customer service.

Here's my advice: always, absolutely always, be nice. In fact, be nicer than nice.

Sometimes you have to be firm, but always be nice. Some environments make it difficult for the service people to really help you, but it usually isn't the person you are talking to's fault. If you need something, be resolute, but always be nice...

Here are some things to think about:
* I don't have to explain to anyone that has done help desk or tech support how thankless the job is. You can make their day simply by being polite and saying, "thank you".
* They have the power and you don't. They can end the call and you'll still have the problem.
* They may have certain protocols they have to follow, but they don't have to take your abuse.
* You can catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.
* If you let them, most folks will want to help you. Approach them as your partner, not as your adversary.
* Do you feel more or less compelled to help someone that is angry at you for something you didn't do?
* Do you feel more or less compelled to help someone that is kind and appreciates your help?
* How many people really like to work a help line? There are certainly some that like it, but most people work a help line because: they have the skills, they like to help, and/or they need the money. They probably aren't there because they enjoy abuse.
* Resist the urge to ask for a supervisor until your helper has exhausted all of their options. Calling in a supervisor does not help the tech, it usually hurts them. You may have to get to that point, but make sure you really need to.

The rules apply regardless if you are using online chat, email, or voice for your support: be nice.

I don't know if it makes any difference in the world, but I always end any support call that was the least bit helpful, even if it was that they gave me a different number to call, with an earnest, "thank you so much for your help today--I really appreciate it!" sign off. I might tone it down a little, if the assistance was limited, but I usually turn it up a little higher (short of sarcasm) than I might actually feel.

They've helped me somehow, now I want to make their day, or at least made them glad that they talked to me.

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