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How to Get Effective Technical Support

Woman 's hand holding a cell phone while looking at a laptop computer

Tech­nol­o­gy is a won­der­ful thing. It enables us to stay con­nect­ed to our loved ones, keep all man­ner of infor­ma­tion at our fin­ger­tips, and stay con­stant­ly enter­tained. But when it does­n’t work prop­er­ly, it can be very frus­trat­ing! Get­ting the help you need can seem absolute­ly impos­si­ble because some­times it seems like the peo­ple who know how to fix your equip­ment and ser­vices speak an entire­ly dif­fer­ent lan­guage, or their job is to do some­thing oth­er than actu­al­ly help you. You can get angry, but that isn’t like­ly to get things work­ing right again. It makes much more sense to release the anger and focus on get­ting the help you need in an effec­tive manner.

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Make sure you’re con­tact­ing the right peo­ple. Gen­er­al­ly, if your cell phone isn’t work­ing, you call your cell phone com­pa­ny, right? (Well, maybe. You might need to call your cell ser­vice provider, and you might need to call your cell phone man­u­fac­tur­er.) If your Inter­net con­nec­tion isn’t work­ing, you call your Inter­net ser­vice provider (ISP). If your wire­less net­work isn’t work­ing, you call who­ev­er pro­vid­ed or set up the wire­less router (often the ISP). The fact that you bought some­thing at a par­tic­u­lar store does­n’t mean you should call that store for tech­ni­cal sup­port. In fact, you prob­a­bly should­n’t unless you also bought a tech­ni­cal sup­port sub­scrip­tion from them. You need to call who­ev­er made the item–the pub­lish­er of the soft­ware or the man­u­fac­tur­er of the hard­ware. If you’re talk­ing about Kasper­sky Inter­net Secu­ri­ty, you call Kasper­sky. If your prob­lem is with Microsoft Office, you con­tact Microsoft. If your prob­lem is with a Hewlett-Packard print­er, call Hewlett-Packard. You might have bought all of the above at Office Depot, but that does­n’t mean you can get sup­port for them from Office Depot. (Or you could, if you bought tech sup­port from them, but I would­n’t gen­er­al­ly rec­om­mend that if you can avoid it.)

Finding the Right Number

It’s impor­tant to note that there are scam artists who spe­cial­ize in pre­tend­ing to be sup­port for var­i­ous well-known com­pa­nies such as Apple and Microsoft. If you call their num­ber instead of the num­ber for the com­pa­ny you need, they’ll be hap­py to help you for a stiff fee. They usu­al­ly want to access your device remote­ly, and in some cas­es, they har­vest data from your device or leave mal­ware behind. Be sure you’re call­ing the gen­uine num­ber for the com­pa­ny you need! Instead of Googling for a num­ber, try going to the com­pa­ny’s web­site and using its search facil­i­ty. If you go to Apple’s site, you’ll find all their sup­port num­bers here. On Microsoft­’s site, you’ll find this form that will guide you to the right place. Every rep­utable soft­ware pub­lish­er and hard­ware man­u­fac­tur­er in the world has a web­site, so all you need to do is go to the right one. If you aren’t sure whether you’ve iden­ti­fied the right site, check GetH­u­man, as they list all the major pub­lish­ers and manufacturers.

What You Need

Next, gath­er the infor­ma­tion you need to give to whomev­er you’re going to contact.

  • Take a few min­utes to get your thoughts on the exact prob­lem you’re hav­ing clear. Write them down. Be pre­cise. “It does­n’t work” isn’t going to be help­ful to any­one. Nei­ther is any state­ment using the words “thing,” “stuff,” or “whatchamacal­lit” promi­nent­ly. Be as descrip­tive as you pos­si­bly can.
  • Deal with one issue per call. Do not wait until you have a laun­dry list of prob­lems and then call expect­ing the tech­ni­cian to fix your email, set up your print­er, teach you how to use your word proces­sor, and get your MP3 files shared across your network.
  • If you’re see­ing any error mes­sages, write them down as com­plete­ly as pos­si­ble. Take screen­shots of them if you can. 
  • Take note of exact­ly what you were doing when the errors occurred. Don’t rely on your mem­o­ry, because trust me, things will get blur­ry after you’ve wait­ed on hold for a sup­port per­son. Write down notes, like, “Tried to play video on CNN in this arti­cle (URL). Got error mes­sage (exact error mes­sage) and Inter­net Explor­er closed on its own.”
  • Have any account cre­den­tials that might be need­ed on hand. If you’re call­ing because your Inter­net con­nec­tion or wire­less net­work isn’t work­ing prop­er­ly, you should have your router’s admin­is­tra­tive login name and pass­word and your wire­less net­work name and pass­word on hand, as well as your Inter­net account name and pass­word. (Why yes, all three of those are usu­al­ly dif­fer­ent. If you did­n’t set up the router, the per­son who did set it up should have left you that information.)
  • If your prob­lem involves any­thing you did in a web brows­er (like Edge or Chrome or Fire­fox), have the name and ver­sion of your brows­er ready.
  • If the prob­lem occurred on a web­site, have its address available.
  • Pro­vide as much detail as pos­si­ble about the equip­ment you’re using. The brand, mod­el num­ber, and ser­i­al num­ber of what­ev­er it is are impor­tant. “I have an Epson WF-3540 print­er, ser­i­al num­ber…” Some­times they’ll also want to know where you bought the equip­ment, and they might even ask for the date of purchase.

Time for Contact!

Now, get ready to con­tact support.

  • Make sure you have the equip­ment that’s being trou­ble­some avail­able, and you aren’t busy doing any­thing else with it. If the prob­lem is on your com­put­er, don’t start a big down­load or any­thing like that while you’re on hold. Most cer­tain­ly don’t make a VoIP call to the tech sup­port line using said com­put­er! If the prob­lem is with your cell phone, call from a dif­fer­ent phone if at all pos­si­ble. If the prob­lem is with your print­er, have it turned on and con­nect­ed to your com­put­er with the ink or ton­er car­tridges and paper in place.
  • If data is stored on what­ev­er device you’re hav­ing trou­ble with, back it up before call­ing the sup­port line if it’s human­ly pos­si­ble. I mean it. Even if you have to look up how to back it up, and it takes a long time, back­ing it up is worth the time.
  • If you’re using chat sup­port, it’s often wise to con­tact sup­port from a dif­fer­ent device than the one hav­ing the prob­lem. That way you can reboot the affect­ed device if nec­es­sary with­out get­ting disconnected.
  • Remem­ber the notes you made about what’s going on? Have them handy.
  • Turn off the TV, the radio, your stereo, or any oth­er noise­mak­ers. Please! Send the kids to play in anoth­er room. It’s going to be much eas­i­er to under­stand what the tech­ni­cian says if there’s no back­ground noise.

No, the sup­port tech does­n’t have time to wait for you to gath­er the above infor­ma­tion after you call because they are grad­ed and paid based on how long their calls last. They can’t say that to you, but it’s the truth. Please don’t ask them to do so.

Write It All Down

Take notes. Write down the name of the sup­port tech­ni­cian, any case num­bers (if you aren’t giv­en one, ask!), and any instruc­tions you’re giv­en. Make sure you can find those notes lat­er and that they’re leg­i­ble. That might save you fur­ther calls in the future.

Pay­ing atten­tion to the infor­ma­tion above will make your sup­port expe­ri­ences far more effec­tive and pleas­ant than they were in the past.

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