Tech Support, or What I have learned in the last three years


Tech support by flowchart
Tech Support Flowchart by XKCD


In November I have worked tech support for a large global organization for three years.  That’s not bad.  It’s been a lot of fun, I have really enjoyed it.  But I have learned a lot as well.  Mostly, I have learned that people are dumb when they talk to tech support.

I caveat that with the phrase, ‘when talking to tech support’, because that is the only time I talk with them, and I want to hope that they aren’t this dumb all the time.  But something about calling the help desk makes people idiots – or maybe it is the computer problem itself that decreases their IQ.  Some psychologist will probably do a study on this, but I’m guessing that when they have a computer problem, they get upset, angry, frustrated and they stop thinking.  They also tend to forget common sense and decency and they want the help desk to fix their problems immediately and magically!

The first thing they seem to think is that IT people are omniscient.  We’re smart, but not that smart.  We still have to ask you questions, get information from you about what’s going on.  The more information we have about the nature of the problem, the better idea we have of what the problem is and how to fix it.  I know of very few tech support analysts who complain about their callers giving too much information, unless the caller starts going off on a completely random train of thought about their neighbor’s dog, I guess.   You can’t just tell me that you can’t log in.  That’s not enough,  I need to know what you’re trying to log into.  I really do.

Either that, or they think the help desk is staffed by morons who don’t know what they’re doing.  They think we ask these questions for fun, to waste their time, or because we have nothing better to do.  If I’m asking you a question, it’s because I need to know the answer.  It makes a difference if you’re using Windows XP or Windows 7, I’m not just stalling.  And insisting that you talk to a supervisor or “someone who knows what they’re talking about” right off the bat does not really instill in me the desire to be particularly helpful.  Just saying.  I could help you, or I could ‘accidentally’ drop the call.  Oops. (No, I’ve never hung up on an angry/dumb customer, though I have been tempted.)  I realize that you’re upset, that you’re busy and trying to get your job done, and you want your problem fixed as soon as possible.  That’s my job, too.  It’s my job to help you as best as I can, as quickly as I can.  And that’s what I’m going to do.

I have been a trainer here for the last two years, I know what goes into the training of new employees at the help desk.  Pretty much any of them are able and capable of solving your problem.  And the supervisor is not   to do a whole lot differently than the first guy you talk to.  They’re going to ask the same questions.  And, at least in my organization, the supervisors are involved with the first-level employees pretty closely.  When one of them has a quick question, they ask the supervisor who is right there. (If they ask you to “hold for a minute, while they look something up”, they are probably talking to a supervisor, as well as searching their Knowledge Base.)  Supervisors are involved, you don’t need to ask for them specifically.

And I also get bothered by those people who don’t seem to understand what “Tech” support means.  I can’t change your locks, move your desk, transfer you to Joe, etc.  (Yes, I’ve had all of those requests come to me.)  Usually these come in as Emails.  Now email tech support is a pretty good idea, for nonessential, low priority jobs.  But if you send an email in at 4:30pm stating that you need something done by 10:00 am the next day …..  I’m just saying, probably not going to happen.  If you need something done immediately, call us.  Calls are higher priority than emails.  It may be easier for you to email us, but it’s not easier for us – most of the time.  Because most of the time you have not given us enough information.  (My all-time favorite email that I received was “I cannot log in.  Please fix. Thanks.”  No name, no product information, and the email it came from was not recognized in our system. We did not know who this guy was, what he was logging into, nothing.)  We then have to call you to get the information and have you try a couple things that should fix your problem.

I guess the bottom line is – Love your tech support!  They are generally a good group of people trying to help you.  their job is to get you back to working on your job.  But, before you call next time, take a minute to make sure you have everything you need.  Take a deep breath and be calm and considerate of the Help Desk analyst, answer his questions, explain your problem clearly and concisely, be polite and the whole experience will be better for both of you.  Trust me.  I work for IT.

One thought on “Tech Support, or What I have learned in the last three years

  1. Nice. Scarily accurate. I do wonder if the stupidity also comes due to the large number of aged volunteers in the organization…it’d be interesting to see a study on that. Granted, with shows like IT Crowd and a plethora of comics devoted to tech support jokes, I guess we’re not completely alone…

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