The lost world of tech support

Have you ever been lost in an inhospitable and cheerless region of Technical Support? Stuck in a phone loop explaining your electronic dilemma again and again to a series of people who mean to help, but just haven't got a clue what to do if your problem is not on their script of solutions?

Have you ever been lost in an inhospitable and cheerless region of Technical Support? Stuck in a phone loop explaining your electronic dilemma again and again to a series of people who mean to help, but just haven't got a clue what to do if your problem is not on their script of solutions? Well if you have, this column is for you.

I just spent the better part of a month in transcontinental telephone orbit among the tech supporters, and I bring news and a warning. But first, let me tell you my tale:

I signed up for DSL service for my office through our local phone provider and it was easy. It was so painless in fact that I decided to do the same thing at home through another phone service provider. After weeks of trying, however, it was clearly not going to be easy this time.

For hours every evening, tech supporters for the phone company, the computer company and the Internet access provider passed my problem around the globe like a plate of cookies. The only change that took place though was that the household computer, no doubt also exhausted by the ordeal, quit entirely and refused to go even one more, slow dial-up step farther.

Finally, I broke down and called DSL Sales again (Tip: Sales always answers the phone) and begged them to send an old-fashioned service truck to my house. “I'll pay,” I pleaded, “I just can't go on like this with your technical supporters anymore.”

Sales passed me to Billing, who passed me to Tech Support (Them!), who passed me back to Billing again. “Listen,” I said, “please don't pass me back to Tech Support, please. I can't stand it. Please just send a real technician to my house.” I was pitiful. I am ashamed to admit it, but there you are.

“Well, I'll ask,” a sympathetic-sounding man finally agreed. “I'll put in the request, but they might not come. They might, but they might not.”

You know, there is nothing like a surge of anger to snap you out of self-pity and despair, is there? “What did you say?” I asked. “Did you really just tell me that you won't make a service call to a customer, even for a fee, to make the non-functioning system I have been paying you for actually operate? Is that what you said?”

“Well, I'm not saying they won't come, I'm just saying they might not, that's all. They might or they might not,” he trailed off lamely.

That evening at about 7:30, the telephone rang at home. It was a technician from the phone company. It was Brian. “I got your request for a service truck,” he began, “but before I dispatch somebody, will you tell me what has been happening?”

Brian listened, asked a couple of new questions and then said, “If you will bear with me, I think I can fix your problem over the telephone in about twenty minutes.” And he did. The problem was with their server.

So here is what I learned from all of this: Somewhere in every organization there is probably a Brian who really understands his or her job and is glad to do it. If you need help, the goal is to find that Brian in as few steps as possible.

If your company provides technical support, I hope you know who your “Brians” are and reward them according to the enormous value they bring to you and your customers. Without the Brians, none of this technology-enabled world would work at all for very long.

P.S. To the very real Brian in my story, thank you again. You know who you are.

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