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Tech Support from the Other Side of the Phone

Call Sooner. No, Really!

  • June 3, 2010
  • By Cathy Malmrose
Too often, we tell the person calling in to tech support, �Why didn't you call earlier?�

<em>ZaReason logo</em>
ZaReason logo

For example, yesterday a customer called explaining that he had spent * weeks* trying to get this desktop do x, y, and z (details omited to protect the innocent). It was obvious that he was angry, frustrated, and mentally past the point of logical thought.

He was verbally �on� but mentally �off� for approximately four minutes.

Ironically, the fix he needed took only two minutes for us to explain.

Why hadn't he called earlier? Why waste weeks banging his head against a fully fixable UBF problem? (UBF = user brain failure) It was a simple fix!

*If* he had enjoyed the tinkering, searching the forums, getting to know the details of what he was trying to fix, then great. Those weeks would have been enjoyable hobby-oriented weeks that rejuvenated rather than depleted him.

Why Customers Don't Call

In talking about this issue in our own little company, from what we can tell, the reason people wait so long to call is because:

1. They don't *trust* tech support.
2. They have been burned many, many times before.
3. They know that even if the tech support person doesn't know the answer, he will pretend like he will, wasting your time. He can not say, "I don't know." It is against company policy. Without being fully honest, the chances of getting the problem fixed are lower.

So, what's the solution? Software as a service is definitely a big part of the fix but what about hardware? How do we build an infrastructure where people have access to good, easy resources? Mostly thanks to Google, I have grown accustomed to having access to any information I want, when I want it. The Nexus One is making the length of my patience even shorter. For my computers, I want access to the builders who actually know how to fix the hardware, people who actually have the systems within arm's reach.

Our world of free and open source software is currently being pushed heavily by a man who believes that software should *just work*. As hardware builders, how do we do the same? As anyone reading this article probably already knows, when you find the hardware that is built to *work* and built to *last *for the particular operating system in play, there is a rush of success that is hard to explain. As one of our builders describes it: "It's like snowboarding off a big mogul and not getting hurt when you land." It feels good to build and to have a system that works out-of-the-box and keeps working alongside you long-term.

We Don't Care, We Don't Have To

Given the current resources we have at our fingertips, the following situation should have never happened:

Recently, a woman, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley purchased a computer from one of the large vendors who shall remain unnamed. Her system was dead from day one, but apparently "not defective". After nearly a week on and off the phone with tech support, including two "vacation days" off work, she was told by the tech support rep, "We're sorry ma'am but it appears that your computer is not powerful enough to run the latest version of the software you purchased." (not Linux)

She replied, "So... you sold me a desktop that is... incompatible with itself?"

Tech support: "Yes ma'am."

<em>Earl with guts</em>
Earl with guts

By some bizarre twist of massive industry-wide inefficiency, this situation is not only plausible but the amount of effort she expended working towards a fix is not uncommon. People no longer think it unusual to spend significant, valuable, and even painful time working through a problem before calling in for help. There has to be a way to fix this horribly broken system. We are currently talking about it, trying to find solutions on our itty-bitty brand-new forums at zareason.com/forums

Tech support will probably always have many funny stories to tell, but for the customer, we have been far too patient for far too long. Frustration is supposed to lead to solutions, not acceptance.

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