Things to Remember When Calling Tech Support

Geek!This is Gord’s submission for the HP Magic Giveaway. Feel free to leave comments for this article as you see fit – your feedback is certainly welcomed! If you’d like to submit your own how-to, what-is, or top-five list, you can send it to me. Views and opinions of this writer are not necessarily my own:

Have you ever worked in Tech Support? I have for the past 7 years. Now, I know that the highest suicide rate for a profession is air traffic controllers. I’m not so sure they took into account those of us who work the trenches of tech support every day. There is quite often someone on the line who makes me ask my co-worker if they managed to get a gun past security so they can shoot me. What’s so bad about working in tech support? Just a few simple things to keep in mind next time you call…

  1. Yelling gets you nowhere. We know you are frustrated, we know you are having a problem. Why else would you be calling? I can’t recall a customer ever calling in just to tell me “everything is working fine, just though I’d call and let you know.” We are there to help you. It’s much easier to help you if we can communicate in an adult manner. Oh and when you yell we just mute the microphone and mock you to our coworkers or start cussing.
  2. Read the warranty. You’re not getting a new product because you’re having your first problem ever. You’re not getting your money back when you’ve had the product for 6 months and have now decided you don’t like it. The warranties cover defects in manufacturing and workmanship. They do not cover your frustration of how much time you’ve spent on the phone with us or how many times you’ve called in for support. Stop asking for the ridiculous to happen.
  3. It’s tech support, not computers 101. We are NOT there to teach you how to use your product. Having a problem with a mail merge? Don’t know how to burn a CD? Unsure of how to add an attachment in your email? Well you know what? TOO BAD! We are there to make sure you product is in working condition. If you don’t know how to do something, check the help file, take a course, google it or ask your 12 year-old nephew.
  4. Did you write down the error message? So you’re calling for some help because you received an error message on your screen. Great that will help us find a resolution to your problem faster. When we ask what the error message says, “I don’t know” is not the correct answer. For the love of all that’s good, write down the message. Better yet call us with the message on your screen, when it happens.
  5. Be in front of your computer. Now this is the biggest one of them all. You want help. Be in front of your product or at least within a reasonable walking distance of it. No one can help you when you’re at work or on vacation and your product is at home. Tech support is a two-way street, yes we can help but we need your participation. There is no magic way for us to access your product. There is not a hidden button that we can press to fix the problem. Odds are the resolution to your problem is more than “turn it off and turn it back on.” Be in front of the computer. Is that too much to ask?

So want to make someone’s day go a little better? Next time you call in for tech support keep these things in mind. If you do, the person on the other end may sound a little less frustrated. We want to help you, that’s why we are in the business. Please help us help you.

45 thoughts on “Things to Remember When Calling Tech Support”

  1. Hey! Gordo! That’s the best I’ve ever heard it put! I think this should be the opening greeting when calling any tech support for anything! Maybe that “hold” music before you get an agent, should be replaced with this blog! I’ve only done a 3 week stint at Stream, and if I could have told this to the customers, I may have stayed in tech support!!
    Good job man! Very well said!!

  2. Thank you, Gord! Reminds me of the days I worked tech support. Pretty much sums up the feelings of everyone, on both ends of the phone. And I appriciate you not sugar-ing up the article. You said it plain and simple. Good show!

  3. ABSOLUTELY TRUE!!!! Wow. I have been doing customer service and tech support for almost 10 years now and I wish I could have sent this to everyone one of my customers. “Hi, my computer is broken and I’m not sure what’s wrong.” “ok ma’am, can you tell me if there are any error messages on the screen?” “Oh, I don’t know, I’m in my car.” ARGH!

    Thank you so much for this article, and for all you that have to call tech support? WE DIDN’T BUILD OR BREAK IT!!! Don’t take it out on us!

    Love Peace & Chicken Grease!


  4. wow that’s one job I dont want. Excellent makes me think about how I should treat tech support next time I need HELP.

  5. This is so totally true!! If only people would follow these few simple things, it would save a lot of frustration on both ends of the telephone!!! For some odd reason, most people who haven’t read their warranty and need support…think that you can magically read their minds to know exactly what the issue is and you of course being the all wonderful and knowing tech support can fix their problem even when their machine is in a completely different room from them!!

  6. Working in Tech Support myself, this is the absolute truth. To be honest, the more you yell, the less help you’ll get. Also, as for those rediculous requests, when we say we don’t have that option to send you something, or send it faster, it’s the truth. We do not have a “do whatever the customer wants” button in our tools. And yes, we use tools. These were designed so that we can’t send out anything and everything via personal delivery to your house. Oh, and when we say that’s the fastest we can send it…. honestly it is. Do you want me to get on a plane and hand deliver it? Not going to happen! And lest we forget…. blaming the tech support for the way a product was designed….yah, that gets you NOWHERE!!! We don’t design the things, we don’t care that you don’t like how it was made, you were the one that bought it that way! Thanks so much Gord for posting this, maybe the world will see just how crappy they make a job for us, and for no gain to them!

  7. Hey Gord,

    What an awesome article. It made think of the ‘good ol days’ I lost count how many times we were faced with those points in either ISP or OEM support.

  8. ok so first off i am guilty of all of the above mentioned…
    after reading this i see the other side.
    thank you for writing this it has opened my eyes and will make me better prepared and probably less frustrated…as well as less frustrating for the poor tech people that have had to deal with me in the past.
    reformed in london,ontario

  9. If you’re preaching to the converted, then we as your readers can commiserate. I get the frustration, but last time I checked, readers are more readily swayed by writers who meet their audience halfway, rather than distancing them with judgmental sarcasm. I realize that this tone is the standard for internet opinion pieces. It doesn’t make the tone a constructive one for a successful persuasive article.
    That being said, the suggestions are great! My guess is that, if you surveyed computer tech support agents, you’d get near-unanimous agreement on these as the top five suggestions to would-be callers to tech support lines. Good job!

  10. I can’t believe people actually do those things when they call in for support. Yes, I guess people do. number 1 is too funny. it makes me want to call tech support to0 say my computer is working great.
    Thanks for the laugh Gord.

  11. LOL! I did actually have a customer call in to say how much he loved the service, believe it or not! I do agree with Mary Jo on the judgemental sarcasm going beyond that I totally agree with the points raised! Good Job!

  12. I agree with Gord all the way. Mary Jo is a smart woman, however, if those people want to call up and yell at someone that they’ve called for help, then those people don’t deserve the SP’s patience. That SP doesn’t get paid enough to listen to someone yell and swear, and not even be in front of their computer. Or to have to put up with their difficult to understand redneck accent, while they sit and call them names. I’ve heard stories about people calling to complain that they can’t get on the internet, meanwhile their hydro is out in the first place! I would tell that guy to pack up his computer and take it back to the store, ‘cuz he’s too stupid to own one in the first place!!
    Cudos to this Gord guy for saying like it is! Puttin’ it right out there! He’s one smart cookie!!
    Can’t wait to read more blogs from him!!

  13. This is great! Anyone who has a computer and will have to call in should read this! I have been at Stream for about 1 1/2 hears and everything you said is so true! Great job Gord!

  14. Gord, I remember thoes days of working at STREAM and having to deal with thoes once and hour. Awsome article, you have every thing right down to the words. thanks for the laugh

  15. I’ve been working technical support for over a year now, I deal with internet service and I could not agree more. You pretty much hit it right on the head, oh and on a side note, when you’re sitting in fornt of your computer when you call……Make sure it’s on(Yes I have had call with this)
    Good work man.

  16. Hey good article, I guess sometimes you have to stop and think about the person on the other end of the line. I personally have always been appreciative of the people who’s job it is to help others with there problems and this is not exception. It can sometimes be a thankless job. Keep up the good work and thanks for the info.

  17. Well, I guess anything can happen. I am sure tech support hears it all day. I like the idea of call just to say something nice. It would probably make the techs day. I think the point of being infront of your computer to be essential to the tech and the customer. I think this article is excellent/

    Great Job Gord!

  18. hey this information is very true both my mom and brother worked in tech support at one point or another ; they complained about the same issues.

    I have similar problems but not the same, i work in an out bound call center calling the US. If i could write one of these stating how stupid it is to freak out on survey’s i would. i mean if you hang up after yelling at us we code you as an immediate refusal and you will get a call back like god damn if you dont want to be called just tell us to put you on our DNC list (Do Not Call).

    Well anyways i hope that this comment is long enough although not really on the same topic but what the hell if it helps you win then sweet!
    but whats this about will getting loved for ever WHERES MY LOVIN? will???

  19. What a great and useful article! I know that before I worked in tech support myself, this kind of article would have been very useful. People just don’t automatically know what to say or do and what not to say or do to get the best response from the person they are talking to. Being prepared before you even make the call makes it easier for both your self and the tech support agent. Then by the end of the phone call everyone is happier and that’s what good tech support is all about! This article should be written somewhere permenentley!

  20. Gord, those are some great tips.

    Along the same lines, I’d highly advise people to actually be sitting at the computer, not across the room, downstairs, etc.

    One classic experience for me was one lady who had been experiencing problems for months. She was so livid.

    I listened to her, with understanding, and offered to help. I said “Let’s take care of you.”

    She said “I’m not even home. I’m at the beach.”

    I just about fell out of my chair. I kindly suggested that she should call when she’s actually at the computer.

  21. hey that was great! i really hope u continue to keep up the good work i really enjoyed reading this one and i hope to have the next one is even better

  22. I have to say Gordo. That was beautifully put! When I was working in Tech support, they were the biggest issues with the job.

  23. I couldn’t agree more.
    makes you look at things in a totally differnt way once you have been on the recieving end of those calls.
    It only makes sense, saddly when people are frustrated they don’t stop to think. Just drift into full scale pannick or anger.
    A tiny bit of logic and patience will make the entire experience quicker and more efficient people.
    although sometimes the stories are worth te grief.
    the “mute the mike” thing is soooooo true, people have no idea how there rants are turned into comedy fodder.
    Well put sir.

  24. Great posting Gord. I agree with all of them, however i’d also like to point that the mute button is no fun, it’s much more amusing to just do what you can to get them even more teed off… but that could just be me.

    I think the best part is when customers would ask…. do you guys always have problems with this service… um well i work tech support, as far as i’m concerned it’s always broken… if it wasn’t i wouldn’t be here….

    But for those still working in the tech support field… just remember this motto when thinking of customers… Your Ignorance Is My Job Security….


  25. I’ve never worked tech support but the man does and so have most of my friends… sound to me like I have just been the lucky one to avoid it! Love the blog though I’ve heard the stories and you definatly nailed this one dead on. look forward to reading more. what will your next career move be… lol

  26. This is all too true. The worst part is when your family calls you because you do tech support. Horrible thing is my family does exactly the same things written about here.

  27. Good post and always remeber Tech Support tend to be reading from script and may know less than yourself to begin with, so never expect to get the problem you called about answered by the first phonecall made!!!
    Don’t work Tech Support but a system builder who comes accross very similar circumstances.

  28. i don’t really have an interest in tech support or have a clue what it is all about.i am sure that this article would be of help to someone who really knew what tech support was and had an interest in it.frankly the article to me was boring.

  29. Wow Gord! I worked in tech support myself. I couldn’t agree even more about everything you said. That is just way to funny the way you said it though. ahhahahah People who do call tech support could relate to this and be like I knew he had me on mute laughing about me being so ignorant! lol! take care

  30. Gordon….
    You have clarified for me exactly what I have been telling my mother for years… and although you were jesting a little I can understnad how frustrating it must be to have the nominds make hte call for support and not be ready to understand hat support you can actually give….

    Thanks for the giggle…


  31. Holy Poo! This couldn’t be true!!!
    My personal fav….someone calling in for tech support with a new computer with no idea what the blue ‘e’ is. When you buy a car, don’t you get a license first??? Do you call up Ford and say, “This car sucks because it got me into an accident, can you help me learn to drive it?”
    True head shakers. Thank God for that mute button! As it isn’t just there to silence the cough. It’s there to silence the head bashing on the desk.
    Oh, here’s a good one. When there is a hurricane that nearly wipes out a whole state, why are you calling asking why your pc has no internet connection. My favorite question…is there power sir?? No?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME????!!!! ARRGGH!!

    Hopefully this gets out to the public where it needs to be. This must be read by ones who think our job is to clean up their ignorance.
    Good times will then commence for all of us.

  32. I felt your pain. Deeply. Be thankful my mother doesn’t call you. Instead she calls me.

    *Wonders what ever happened to the days when a customer was asked, “Is it plugged in?”*

    If you were to make this into a movie, who would play you?

  33. I personally think Gordo hit the nail on the head as I have been in Tech Support over the phone for over 4 years now and I am at awe that people are actually calling us up to troubleshoot thier computer issue while telling us that they may have to hang up quick because they are on the interstate on the cellphone and can get a ticket….what the heck are you doing calling tech support while driving your car! OMG!

  34. Finally!!!! It’s put in words that a customer may understand!
    Awesome Gord!!!
    God forbid anyone read the warranties that come with their purchases, or investigate what they are buying before plugging it in!
    I can only hope that this be posted where they may get some benefit out of it.
    You should open a website specifically catering to them!
    This truly was perfect.

  35. EEEK! I was told to check this out, as apparently, I am one of those callers.
    I guess thinking first before calling is a GOOD thing! Mute button hunh?! I can just imagine.
    Who reads the warranty tho seriously?
    Error messages…sometimes they don’t stay up and if you restart and it doesn’t come back on how are we to have them. Not being computer smart, I wouldn’t know where to start, hence the call.
    I will definately be applying some of the tips you’ve listed.
    Do I feel like a chump!
    Thanks for the input..hopefully it helps others too..
    Good luck!

  36. EEEK!!! Apparently, I am one of those types of callers…
    I was told to check this out as I call friends, and support if I need to.
    Thinking ahead of time doesn’t apply when in a panic…I guess.
    Warranty? Who reads it? Seriously.
    Error messages? They disappear before you can write them down sometimes and restarting the computer doesn’t help if it won’t boot up!
    Mute button…egads, I can just imagine…do I feel like a chump!
    Not being a computer person, doesn’t help. Perhaps I should have learned more before messing with it and screwing it up as many times as I have.
    It is hard to explain what the problem is when you don’t really know though…
    I will use the information you have posted for further use before having to call in again.
    Thanks for taking the time to make us aware of what we put tech support through.
    Good Luck!

  37. Excellent article! That is so true about muting the microphone and mocking the yelling person on the line! I do it all the time. People have to realize that being rude and screaming at the person you need help from will not get anything resolved…bravo Gord :)

  38. Werd. A little bit of common sence goes a long way. You don’t need to be a tech just to have some common life skills like problem solving. One thing I would add to what Gord said is this: People, google is your friend. There is an answer to your problem online as your not the only one who has gone through it. Instead of waiting, becoming impatient and upset… why wait for someone else to give you an answer when you can find it yourself online. Or at the very least try, you don’t need to be a tech to use google.

  39. Great article Gord!
    Figured I’d drop a tidbit from the other side of the fence. I typically call Tech Support as a last resort to the manual, google, forums, etc. and never does it ever begin with the intention to take out any of my frustrations on the person on the other end. Mind you, I will say that it is frustrating to sometimes get a Tech who knows less about their own product than I do! That being said, I still realize that they are there to help me… my only problem is that in my experience, it can be an absolute nightmare with some support lines in getting to the right person for the right problems.
    Take the wonderful Telus as an example, spend 20 minutes on their automated attendant and receive the same support tech at the end of it had you pressed 0 at the start and skipped the entire useless process… What’s my point?
    That trying to get through to Tech support can sometimes in itself, be more frustrating than the actual problem with the Product!

  40. Huh, so THAT’s what I’ve been doing wrong all these years. Ha!

    Thanks for the giggle Gord. I’ll try to think of you the next time I call a help desk.


  41. Funny and insightful article. But I guess my main question would be: Where the heck is the ‘any’ key? lol

  42. I would have never believed people would be stupid enough to call for tech support while driving.

    I was wrong.

    I work for a university’s tech support group, and I just had a guy call for phone support while he was in a car. Was he a passenger? Of course not – but he was “on a headset so it’s okay” apparently, as if playing around with the damn phone settings while driving was a brilliant move. And he was a faculty member in a VP office.

    Words fail me.

  43. This has happened to me oh so many times. I now actually reprimand customers and tell them to call back when they can a) be near their devices and b) not be in a damn car posing a hazard to themselves and others.

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