I am going back to school soon, but I have worked for over two years now as a tech monkey for a mid sized ISP in the middle west. In doing so, I have had occasion to hear all manner of business sob stories and vituperative rants from across the copper wires.

Today a customer got quite frustrated with me, as I told her that we could not configure her server, and that while she insisted that we ‘did her email,’ we only handled her DNS. She agreed with this, yet held that it was still our fault, because even as we did not control her server, one which the website and email were hosted, we were at fault if it broke. There was a great deal of cognitive dissonance in the air, and it occurred to me that there are a few small things that can go a long way to smoothing over your experience when calling a company’s support line.

These will of course change from company to company, and depending on how those businesses treat their support staff, but I shall try to keep it to broad advice that will apply to many or all. If you follow a few rules, everyone’s stress level goes down, and you’ll feel less like you’re getting jerked around.

Let’s see what we have today…

1) If your hold time is less than a minute or two, do not start out by asking “Are the servers down?”

There is a lot that goes into this one. To start with, which servers? Chances are there are a variety of services that the company provides. All of them will use servers. Maybe you aren’t even talking about our servers? Your best bet is to state what service you are having trouble with, “Hi my name is x, my email isn’t working.” Also, don’t assume that there must be a big fuck all emergency just because your gear isn’t working. If we had an emergency every time you had to call in, we’d be out of business. I have people call in all the time, and what they want to hear is that everything is borked but we’re fully panicked and working on it. It makes them feel like part of a group. But no company has the staff to answer in less than one minute if everything is on fire. If your hold time was low, it’s probably just your gear. You’ll get better service if the support person doesn’t feel like you’ve started off with an accusation.

2) If you are calling for help with your computer, turn it on first.

I cannot stress this enough and I’m talking to everyone here. This is not some story about how people don’t know how to turn on their computer. You cannot comprehend how many people call tech support to say that their email isn’t working, but don’t boot their computer. What am I supposed to do about that? Maybe on the last day of work I’ll say, “Allow me to reach my spidery fingers through the interwubs and massage your data tubes.” Actually, no, I won’t. The key here is to call up willing to be helped and ready to be helped, and I cannot believe how many people fail to do that.

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