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  1. #1
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    What to do about bad technical support




    BEST PRACTICES

    What to do about bad technical support




    By Lincoln Spector

    You might be shocked to learn that not all tech-support people are competent.

    But then again, it's likely you've already discovered that sad fact the hard way. Here's what you need to know the next time you run into atrocious support.

    The full text of this column is posted at windowssecrets.com/best-practices/what-to-do-about-bad-technical-support/ (paid content, opens in a new window/tab).

    Columnists typically cannot reply to comments here, but do incorporate the best tips into future columns.
    Last edited by Tracey Capen; 2011-08-31 at 19:02.

  2. #2
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    My experiences with technical support

    "You might be shocked to learn that not all tech-support people are competent."

    Shocked? I am shocked on the rare occasions when I do find a competent tech-support person! My biggest problem is that they don't read emails or listen to the problem. Instead of addressing whatever problem I am asking about, they talk or write about something that has nothing to do with it. I also often get demands for information that I have already given them (I don't mind as much over the phone, but why can't they read the emails I sent already?). It goes without saying that nothing is ever something they can fix. It is always someone else's problem. I appreciate a good tech-support person, and I am generous with my thank yous when I encounter one, even it they can't fix the problem.

    I can handle a foreigner most of the time, but I have no patience whatsoever for people to refuse to read or listen. I get especially hot under the collar when I write a perfectly clear explanation of the problem with all the pertinent information included and the "support" person simply refuses to read a word of it.

  3. #3
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    Next time I need tech support, I think I'll just call you, Lincoln!!!

  4. #4
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    I was learning to work with, and fix computers, the hard way. The learning curve was steep and the so called dismal tech support situation left me no choice. With a technical background in mechanics and electrical systems I only had to figure out how computers work. The mostly questionable tech support that I was faced with, forced me to solve problems myself.
    I don't want to rehash here all the horror stories about incompetent, language and skill challenged tech support personnel, located somewhere in India. I have encountered them all. Since I am retired with time on my hands, the interaction with this people has become fun. I have used quite a few generations of top of the line Dell computers, and got to know there tech support system quite well. The interaction with the zombies which pick up the phone on your first call or answer your initial e-mail is is an exercise in futility, until you get past them to the so called "higher level". They all have canned friendliness and responses to your problem. Many times I told them that I fully understand that trouble shooting at a distance is sometimes not easy, but at least take into account that there might be somebody who knows what he is talking about and just wants to get a piece of hardware replaced under warranty.
    Case in point:
    On a Dell 9100 desktop unit, I had a problem with a interrupted boot sequence. The unit would power up, fans start running, but after a few seconds when the hard drive should spin up, shuts down. Before I contact Dell, I dig into the unit, do my trouble shooting (want bore you with details), and determine that it is the power supply. Write e-mail to Dell with an explanation as to why I think it is the power supply, surprisingly no questions ask, Dell sends a new one, and I instal.
    Now, the fun part with tech support really starts, this time with an over enthusiastic support team ("we own this case and will stay with it until it is resolved", i was assured) . Initially the new power supply solved the problem, but the next day, I encountered the same situation. Curious, this was not what I expected. My system was under full extended warranty with free home tech service. So, after contacting Dell again, the tech came and installed a motherboard (maybe Dell knows something i don't know). It worked while he was at the house, but later that day the same problem again. Now I had the feeling I need to do my own trouble shooting again. Since the motherboard did not cause the problem(it could have been possible), and exactly the same symptoms I attributed to a faulty power supply persisted, I went after the power supply again. Lightning can strike twice, the replacement power supply was bad. (no power to the motherboard, wiggle wires coming out of the power supply, I get partial power).
    Asking the support team to send me another power supply went nowhere. After all, they just sent me a new one, I must be wrong. Over the course of 3-4 days the tech person arrived at my house with boxes of parts and proceeded to replace every component inside the case, except the hard drive which for obvious reasons, I did not let him do. Only after I was the owner of a non functioning new computer again and I was lucky to get a hold of a female, state side tech support person, did I get the requested power supply and the problem was fixed.

    Another case: A Dell laptop i need to fix for a friend, has a problem with shutting down after he plays a DVD for about 10 minutes. I run the Dell diagnostic, which indicates the CPU fan is not working properly. Makes sense, the DVD play is a strain on the CPU, overheats and the unit shots down. Dell was informed of this, I was told to send the unit in for repair. Get a call to ask if it is alright to proceed to replace the hard drive. Strange, but told them to go ahead, I had backed up a mirror image of the hard drive. The unit came back, for what ever reason only the hard drive was replaced, it was still shutting dawn playing a DVD. Now I got made, was moved to a higher level of tech support (we own your case now.......), gave them the test results of actual CPU temperature rises during DVD play, questioned there replacing of the hard drive and not the CPU fan, and sent the unit back.
    The fan was replaced, DVD play was fine, but now they screwed up the sound system. Finally the laptop was replaced by Dell.

    It is bad enough to be exposed to incompetent tech support personnel, but screwing up a situation where you do the trouble shooting for them, takes the cake. Pity the people who are at the total mercy of tech support.

  5. #5
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    Very good article, Lincoln. After decades using computers and absorbing all the tricks, it's easy to forget how mysterious they are to the less experienced, including tech support. The reality is most tech support is given a highly scripted path to follow; they rarely know much because if they did, they'd have a real job. The best support I've found, as you say, is online. Then one has to screen out the wheat from the chaff, another skill acquired over the years.

  6. #6
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    Chat, don't talk

    I've spoken with my share of tech support reps from the subcontinent, and some of their accents are simply indecipherable. (I've worked with scores of software professionals from the same world, and can sometimes "listen with an accent." My colleagues' grasp of English syntax and grammar is easily on a par with that of college-educated U.S. natives, but accents can be a difficult barrier.)

    My solution is to engage the tech support people through the interactive chat feature that many web sites offer. The written word is unambiguous, never needs repeating, and (depending on the software) produces a written transcript of the conversation. For all its other shortcomings in technical support, Dell provides an especially useful chat tool.

    Now, if the technician simply can't converse in English well enough to earn a living at it ("This sentence no verb" situations), perhaps another line of work is in order...

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