How to make the tech support experience better

I’d love to start the column for you right now, but I need to put you on hold for a few minutes. Your readership is very important to me and I’m eager to serve you. So let’s put on some really bad music that you can listen to while you wait.

Now I need to know everything about you before we can start. I’d like to see a DNA sample and need you to answer 29 easy questions before we begin. But bear with me, like I said your readership is very important to me.

That’s about how it goes when you need technical help from the company that made your computer, or created your software. Calling technical support isn’t fun, or easy. But there are ways to make the experience a little better. That’s what we’ll talk about today.

Gathering the information

You will be asked a lot of questions. It’s smart to prepare for that in advance. You may be asked all sorts of technical questions about the software you are using and the way your computer is configured. Even if you are able to understand the questions, the information isn’t something most of us have at our fingertips. That’s why, when it comes to a computer, a program called Belarc is a godsend. Go to this web address — www.belarc.com — click on the free download button. The program is completely free and, in a few seconds, can tell you almost everything about your computer. You’ll sound like a true geek when you show that you can furnish even the most esoteric data.

Present your problem clearly

You need to find a way to explain your problem clearly and precisely. That means including any error messages you are receiving and explaining any symptoms of the problem in a straightforward way. I recommend that you spend a few minutes – before placing the call – writing down a clear and concise explanation. That will make the tech’s job easier and save you both some time.

Hanging in there

It’s common for a technical support call to start with a set series of things you are supposed to try. For instance, if you’re calling to explain you have lost your Internet connection you may be told you restart the modem, restart the computer and to remove all networking gear such as a router, and instead plugging the modem into a single computer. Now, if you are an old hand at all this you may have tried all these steps before calling. But don’t bother explaining that or to ask to skip that step. It isn’t going to happen. So politely follow through with all the instructions. It’ll actually save time.

But it’s always possible that the technician won’t have a clue. You may hear all sorts of excuses. For instance, it’s common to play the blame game. The software manufacturer will tell you that you need to talk to your computer manufacturer or vice versa. Sometimes they’ll be absolutely right. But this technique can also be used to get you off the phone.

That’s why you need to be polite but firm. Ask to have your problem escalated. That’s the word tech support uses for pushing you up the ladder. There are generally several levels of technicians. Each bump up the food chain usually brings you to a more knowledgeable tech support person. So if things aren’t going well ask to be moved up to the next tier of technical support.

Somewhere along the line you should get your problem solved. But there will be times when you don’t get the help you need. That’s when being stubborn can pay off. The few times that I’ve been in that boat I have slowly moved up the chain of command. I’ve even called company presidents – and they had no idea that I wrote a column – to finally get a problem resolved.

I sincerely hope that you never need to use any of the tips I’ve given you. Even at best, calling for help isn’t a pleasant chore. However, it’s even more unpleasant when you go through the ugly process and still don’t get your problem solved. Doing things my way will increase the chances that your encounter with tech support will be quick and successful.

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