Top 3 tips for “dealing with tech support”

Tech support is unfortunately something we all have to deal with. I’ve been doing top-notch tech support for 10 years, and there’s more than a few things I’ve learned that can help you have less stress when you need to call for help.

1. Treat your technician like a partner

Okay, first of all, you’re the one calling for help. You and your tech are on the same side in this thing, so treat them like a partner in your search for a solution, not a hurdle that you have to jump over to get your problem solved.
Tech people tend to be fairly straight-forward thinking people, and their motivations are pretty basic, and simple. I really believe that most of them want to help you get to a solution. Good technicians actually get a little buzz out of fixing something (as opposed to the bad techs that sigh in frustration because their phone is ringing with a support call, yet they accepted a job to answer tech support calls).

However, if you’re the one calling for help, and the first words out of your mouth on a call are anger and frustration, especially if they’re directed at the poor tech who randomly answered your call, then that partnership has already started on the wrong foot.

If you call tech support, and feel like, “I’m paying these people to help me, so they will do whatever I say,” think about the kind of support they are going to provide. No one, in any service industry, deserves to be treated poorly simply because you’re paying them to be there.

2. Go with the flow. It’s faster.

If your tech asks you to reboot the thing, reboot it. Don’t get me wrong, even in my professional tech support role, I often have to call other tech people in other companies and ask for their help, and they often ask me to do things that are basically a waste of time. On the flip side, I certainly have to ask plenty of people to do silly things that I know have only a 1% chance of doing any good.
… but there’s a reason …

A good tech support person (especially for a problem that needs a very fast resolution) will try the quickest thing that might help, in order to try to get you a resolution as quickly as possible. If it only takes 5 seconds to try something, it’s worth the 5 seconds. Roll with it.

Additionally, many things in tech support are a process of elimination. Sometimes the tech has to figure out what the problem “isn’t” before they know what it “is”. The faster, and more calmly you can get through that list of possible (albeit sometimes ridiculous possible fixes) the sooner you’ll get to the thing that does work.

3. Stop paying for bad support

If you paid good money for a product or service, and especially if you’re paying ongoing charges for support, you expect to get good help when thing break. This is absolutely reasonable.
What isn’t reasonable is when you find out that the product or service unfortunately sucks, but you put up with it. It’s your money. Vote with your dollar and walk away, return the product, cancel the service, or get out of your support contract.

What you shouldn’t do it stay with a company that provides poor support. It’s a relationship, and you’re both supposed to be on the same side in this thing. If you’re living with an abusing or negligent support company, get the hell out (it’s just like dating someone that isn’t right for you). In the long run, both you and they will be a lot happier if you do.

The exception to this rule?

I’ve heard two objections to this situation. First, maybe you’re not the decision maker, and you can’t simply walk away. For example, one of the executives in the company makes the decision on who will do your tech support, and they’ve chosen a person or support company that you don’t like. The right thing to do here is bark up the decision maker’s tree, calmly and professionally express your concerns of frustrations, and have them work with the support provider to get it fixed. Too often if you try to take your frustrations out on the technician who is trying to help you, without talking to the decision makers, you won’t really get anywhere because the people with the decision making power aren’t involved in hearing your pain. Get them involved. I think you’ll be surprised how quick and eager they are to help you get a better support experience.

The second objection is when your company is doing something that is part of the leading edge of what’s possible, and you’re partnered with a support provider that is either the only provider of what you need, or the best of a bad bunch of providers. In this situation, if that support provider (and the technology they are providing to you) truly are the best option, and it truly is critical to your business, you’re kind of stuck unless you take a different direction with your company, or roll your own in-house solution. Of course the in-house option has a lot of its own caveats, but depending on your situation, it may be the best way to go.