Making the Best of a Tech Support Call

Making the Best of a Tech Support Call
It happens to all of us, even IT people…the dreaded call to technical support. These days it doesn’t happen with just computers. Now that we have so many other devices: cell phones, PDAs, navigational systems, MP3 players, we have even more things to break on us. In fact, it’s these devices that will probably land us on the phone with tech support since they may be relatively new purchases and don’t come with much in the way of a troubleshooting guide except to “restart.”

As anyone who has had to use tech support knows, the experience can be anywhere from quick and simple to long and drawn-out; usually the latter. So prepare yourself before you start with a few tips that can help make the call as painless as possible.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll do whatever is necessary to escape the dreaded tech support call. That includes trying my very best to fix the problem myself. I check the manual, do the old restart (which actually works a good deal of the time), and finally go online to see if I can find an answer there. I start with the product’s website, which can be a great source of information. In fact, you should always check out the website of a new product. You might find some special offers, free downloads, and sign up for notifications of product upgrades.

After that, look up your product on retail sites or product review sites. In the section for customer reviews or comments, you might find other people have encountered the same problem. You can even try to Google your problem. That might direct you to discussion boards or articles that address the problem.

If all that and a call to your cousin who’s “pretty good with electronics” doesn’t help, then you might just have to make the call.

Before you begin, make sure you have a good amount of time to be on the phone. With luck you won’t need it, but be ready for it. Don’t start your call if you know you’ll have to run out of the house in a few minutes or it’s the end of your lunch hour.

Have the faulty device in front of you, along with any accessories (like batteries or a power charger) you might need. If the problem is your computer, have it on and ready. Chances are, your tech support person will need you to work with the actual device during the call.

Another reason for having the item with you is that you may need to give the tech support person information such as a serial number or product key, or they may ask the version of your software. So you may need to either look at the product or software to find this. I suggest you find the information first and write it down, especially if it’s hard to see (reading the serial number off the back of an iPod needs a very good eye or an electron microscope). For software it’s usually found in the Help tab in the “About” screen. Tech support should be able to tell you how to find such information, but be prepared to look for it.

In general, if you’re calling about a computer problem, you should always know what operating system you use and the version of the software you’re calling about. You’ll always be asked this. And if you have a customer number or order number, have that on hand. Anything you can do to make the process run smoothly will help. You don’t want to be on hold half an hour only to find out that you left vital information at the office and you’ll have to call back.

Have something to write on and a pen or pencil. You may need to write down instructions or other information. Also, you might find yourself wanting to take notes as you go. If possible, you should try to get the name of the person who helps you and a way to call them back. This may not be possible (many companies won’t give you direct line information, it’s their policy and not the fault of the support person you’re speaking with), but if you can get this information, get it – especially if the person you spoke with is very helpful.

And finally, take a deep breath and tell yourself to be patient and treat the tech support person nicely. You may be angry at the product and company for failing you, but don’t take it out on the tech support person. He or she didn’t cause your problem, and bottom line is that your call will go much easier for both of you if you remain calm and pleasant. Use that time you spend on hold (which you knew you were in for) to relax, gather your thoughts and prepare for the call.

Speaking of the call itself, you might want to put your phone on speaker or use a headset. This way you can free your hands up to fiddle with your faulty product or take notes. At the very least, you can do other things while you’re on hold. I simply continue working on another project while I wait for an answer. There’s no reason why you should just sit there staring at the phone if you don’t have to.

When you finally get a human (congratulations!), be ready to tell them about your problem in as simple and succinct a way as possible. At the end of the call, be prepared to take down a confirmation number. Often calls are tracked this way, and if you have to call back they may ask for such a number. Make sure you don’t have any final questions before you hang up. And finally, thank them for their help. He or she will appreciate your patience and kindness.

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