Why tech phone support is so difficult

call center

photo credit: vlima.com

It is no secret that computer and software phone support is awful. Finding a concerned and competent phone support person is like hunting for a four leaf clover.

Today, a long time client of mine called me, exasperated over a recent bout with her cable company’s tech support. Following is a modified transcript of the call:

Voicemail from my client: Hello Rick, I have a problem with my Internet. My Internet doesn’t work. I called (cable Internet company) and after talking with them multiple times, they asked me what antivirus product I used. I told them AVG, and they said they couldn’t help me because they had so much trouble with that product.

My thoughts while listening to the voicemail:  Wow, the classic “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, so I’ll blame another product or service” game played by so many undereducated tech support folks.

I called back my client:

Me: Hello Mrs. A. It’s Rick Castellini, I’m returning your call. First, I want to put your mind at ease, and let you know that AVG is not the problem. Literally hundreds of my customers around the valley use AVG, including me, and may of them use the same service you do…without problems.

Mrs. A: Really? OK, that makes me feel better. Thank you.

Me: What soft of problem are you having?

Mrs. A: I can’t get on the Interne.

Me: What do you mean by that? Can you receive and send email? (I knew she used Outlook Express, but what have asked if I had not even known her)

Mrs. A: Yes, my email works fine.

Me: Good deal. That means that your Internet connection is fine. What kind of problem were you having that caused you to call (cable Internet company)?

Mrs. A: When I try to go to my bank or any of my Favorites, it kicks me off. I can’t get anywhere.

Me: Ok. I think we can fix this pretty quickly. Are you near your computer?

Mrs. A: No, but I’m heading there now.

Me: When you get there, make sure no programs are running, then click Start then Control Panel.

Mrs. A: Ok, I’m at my computer and doing that now.

Me: When you get to the Control Panel, look for Internet Options or Network and Internet, then Internet Options and double-click the Internet Options icon.

Mrs. A: Ok, I found it and am looking at the Internet options.

Me: Look across the top of the screen and click the Advanced tab.

Mrs. A: OK.

Me: Look towards the bottom of this screen and click the Reset button. Then click Reset. If you see a check box that says Delete Personal Settings.  (I wasn’t sure if she had updated to IE 8 yet).

Mrs. A: There is no check box, just a button for reset or cancel.

Me: Please click the reset button.

Mrs. A: Ok, now I see that it is doing something.

Me: When it finishes, click the Close button, then the OK button on the previous screen.

Mrs. A: Ok.

15 seconds of silence

Mrs. A: It finished and I’m back to my main screen (desktop).

I then quickly walked her through resetting her home page, and walked through the initial options settings after the reset.

Mrs. A: Hey, it’s staying on so far. Can I try my bank account real quick?

Me: Sure, give it a try.

30 or so seconds of silence.

Me: Is it working? Any problems?

Mrs. A: Not so far, I’m checking on a deposit.

Me: Great. I think you are all set.

Mrs. A: Why didn’t the tech support folks know how to fix this so quickly and easily?

Me: Not sure, Mrs. A. They aren’t well trained most of the time. (trying my best not to be too derogatory)

Mrs. A: Thank you for your help.

Me: You are welcome. Have a good day.

I obviously had some inside knowledge of this woman’s issue. But even if I hadn’t, I do three things that most tech support people don’t do:

  1. Carefully assess the problem by asking the right probing questions.
  2. Truly listen and guide the caller into helping me understand the problem. (caring about the caller)
  3. Have a wealth of practical experience diagnosing and solving problems.

For those still reading. I used the most basic of all Internet Explorer troubleshooting steps that I wrote about many years ago here.

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