Never Call Tech Support Again!

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Support Tips From the Pros

Illustration: Dynamic Duo Studios

Sometimes you just can't avoid a call to tech support. You concede defeat, reach for the phone, and hope for the best. But most of us who have resorted to calling can relate our own personal horror stories--times where it felt like tech support was purposely yanking our chain. Tech support is a tough job, no question, and many technicians sincerely want to help you get to the bottom of an issue, but a few Machiavellian support representatives seem to enjoy making you suffer. Still, when we spoke to ex-support staff to get some tips about the best ways for customers to work with phone support to solve problems, we never expected to hear the types of stories they told us.

"We had one person who didn't like the tone of the customer's voice, so he put the caller on hold, drove 7 miles to pick up a Pepsi at a gas station, came back, and finished the call," says a former employee of Alorica, which handles support calls for Gateway. "Callers just assume when they're on hold we're looking something up trying fix their PC."

The Alorica employee we spoke with, who asked that we not use her name, says rule number one for calling tech support is, "Do not be rude." When a caller to Business Processing Outsourcing in New Delhi, India, curses three times, says support technician Akanksha Chaand, who used to field calls for Hewlett-Packard PCs, company policy permits the technician to hang up.

But even with perfect phone etiquette, getting quality tech support can be hard. These tips--provided by actual help desk operators--will help you learn how to avoid the tech support runaround.

Problem: You're experiencing an advanced PC problem but the tech keeps asking questions like "Is your computer plugged in?"

Tip: Telephone tech support consists of two, and sometimes three, levels of assistance. Level one handles basic PC questions. If necessary, ask to have your case elevated to the next level, or ask to speak with a supervisor--nicely. "If the technician thinks you're a nice person, they will often give 110 percent to help you," says David Hill, tech support pro with Stream International.

Problem: A tech keeps putting you on hold--more than twice--to "take a look at something" to help you fix your PC.

Tip: The tech probably doesn't know what he or she is doing. How do you get to a higher level of support fast? Alorica requires that customers ask three times for their problem to be escalated before it honors the request. However, a tech support technician can't escalate the problem without gathering basic computer and warranty information.

For more tech support tales of woe, read "Tech Support: Life on the Other End of the Line."

Tom Spring

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