How to Get Effective Technical Support

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 to 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.

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 it if you can help it.)

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 a screen­shot of them if you can.
  • Take note of what you’re doing when the errors occur. 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. Got error mes­sage and Inter­net Explor­er closed.”
  • 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 Inter­net Explor­er or Chrome or Fire­fox), have the name and ver­sion of your brows­er ready.

Time to Call!

Now, get ready to make your call.

  • 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 using said com­put­er to the tech sup­port line! If the prob­lem is with your cell phone, call from a dif­fer­ent phone. If the prob­lem is with your print­er, have it turned on and con­nect­ed to your com­put­er with the ink 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 aren’t always con­nect­ed to the Inter­net, go ahead and get con­nect­ed, because the agent might ask you to look at some­thing online, or she might want to get con­nect­ed to your com­put­er remotely.
  • 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.

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.