Tech Magazine

How To Handle Tech Support

Posted on the 17 October 2011 by Nerdywerds @NerdyWerds

Calling tech support is an unfortunate fact of life


  • Better Know a Support Agent
  • Tech Support is Tiered
  • Preparing to Call
  • Things to Remember in Call
  • Wrap Up

Murphy's law states that "anything that can go wrong, will". If you've ever been in the situation of having to change a flat tire at 5:30 in the morning on the day of you promotion interview, you'll know that Murphy's law carries a good bit of truth. It's why your presentation goes smoothly during your nine practice runs, but falls apart on the one that matters. It's also the reason tech support exists. There are certain stigma about tech support; "they're all based in India", "they don't know anything" or "they're job is to give me the run around". I can't change the perception of an entire industry; I don't have that kind of reach. But what I can do, and what I intend to do today, is help you learn how tech support works and how to deal with them better in order to get your problem fixed fast. Because, really, all we want is our stuff to be fixed by the end of the phone call.

Better Know a Support Agent

It helps to first understand what a tech support agent goes through. A typical day in a call center is spent under a great deal of scrutiny. You report to your tiny cubicle and strap on your precious little head set. You will then spend 8-12 hours having every word you say monitored, every break timed to the second and every bathroom break taken under pressure. You're given a quota of calls you must take in a day and you make roughly minimum wage for your troubles. Your day is filled with angry, irritated and desperate people that yell at you as if you broke their product. Often times tech support people are berated by the customers, but they aren't allowed to break their script.

So it's important to know that when you call tech support, you're pretty much catching someone in hell. Naturally the first tip for dealing with tech support is to be patient and calm. If you're irate, it's quite likely your support agent will try to get rid of you or put you on hold while he/she takes another caller; hoping they're calm and patient.

Tech Support is Tiered

Another important fact to know is that quality support agents are expensive. The ones that can truly understand your problem and work out a solution do not come cheaply. For this reason, most call centers utilize a 3 tiered support staff. The first tier, the ones you encounter first, usually know very little about troubleshooting your issues. They work off of a script. They'll probably have you go through the basic steps you've already done; turn off the device, reset your settings, things like that. You're average employee at a cell phone store falls into this category. They are trained only on the script. They're not trained troubleshooters. These are also the cheapest type of support person. Any one that can read and listen can do this job. As you might expect, they aren't really all that helpful. If you're ever put on hold so they can "investigate" your issue or something like that, it means they're asking a)permission to put you through to the second tier or b) they're asking a second tier person what to do.

If you're cooperative enough with the first tiered support, and your problem isn't something painfully obvious to fix, you may get put through to a second tier support person. Second tier support personnel are more trained and more helpful than first tier. They are also paid a bit more, so they should be more helpful. They still aren't engineers or troubleshooting machines, but they've been trained on the product enough to fix most simple to intermediate problems. Tier one support handles roughly 75%-80% of all calls. Tier two probably handles 10%-20%. This means they speak to significantly less people in a day than tier one, so they should be more helpful and, generally, in a better mood. Tier two has a higher level of technical acumen and can start making sense of some of the issues you're experiencing.

If your second tier support person can't solve your problem, something particularly abnormal is probably going on with your device. You're now going to be directed to third tier support. Third tier personnel are trained on the products and they are trained to troubleshoot them. Third tier doesn't work off of a script and thy are your best bet to get a problem fixed. In my ongoing issues with my hosting company, the problems almost always end up with a third tier agent working with me on the problem. Third tier are your best bet to get your difficult problem solved. They are the big guns of tech support. If a problem doesn't get fixed here, you're either S.O.L or it's time to exchange your product.

Important tip number two for dealing with tech support is to know that your call will be answered by someone reading off of a script. Aside from the patience I mentioned earlier, managing your expectations is important. Odds are, your problem will actually be a simple thing that these script toting agents should be able to fix. But I wouldn't get my hopes up that tier one tech support are all knowing beings that will fix every problem.

Preparing to Call

Now that you know what your dealing with, it's time to make the call. Well, it's almost time to make the call. In order for tech support, regardless of the tier, to help you, you need to be able to describe the problem. If you're getting an error message, take note of the full error message."I'm getting an error message" isn't helpful unless you know the message. Take note of all of the symptoms you're noticing, and be specific. Before you call, you should have a few things on hand. You'll want some paper and a pen, or something to take notes on. If you have a land line, call from that. Get all of the information about the product that you can. If it's a computer, know your operating system and version, have access to serial numbers, and other information like that. Also, this may seem like common sense, but have the defective product in front of you. tech support is going to ask you to take steps that need the device. And be prepared to wait. You may be on the phone for a long time, so get comfortable.

Things to Remember in Call

When you first call tech support, you'll be given the name, and typically, employee number of your agent. Take note of both of these. Also, jot down the date and time. You'll probably be given advice that will feel like an insult to your intelligence, but just remember, you're jumping through the hoops to get to a higher tier of support. When you're told to do something for the twentieth time, or told to do something you've already told them you did, just take a breath, and pretend you're doing it. Ask them to hold while you "go do what they told you". Feel free to take a bathroom break or get a snack or just take a deep breath. Again, you need them to think you're trying everything so you can move on to more knowledgeable support.

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog