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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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