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Surviving Technical Support

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Over the past week, I have spent more than 15 hours on the phone with technical support for Apple, Time Warner Cable and Microsoft. I've spoken to about 30 different people in the U.S., India and the Philippines, and I have lost my mind on several occasions. I started out with one "simple" issue, which grew to about seven interrelated problems and my original problem and several others still remain unresolved.

I'd like to be able to say that I maintained my usual good nature throughout this experience. The fact is that I became a nasty and angry person who had no right to be so unkind to the innocent people who were trying to help me. I am not proud of that fact, and continue to take a good look at myself and my behavior to find a way to behave better in the future.

In an effort to gain some value from this experience, I decided to open up a discussion about this problem that I am certainly not alone in. Here are some questions I have. I am sure you have other ones. If you work for any of these companies, or other companies that have technical support departments, maybe you could do us the favor of passing the link to this article and reader responses along to your management team.

  1. Why is it necessary that every time one technical support person transfers a call to another one, the caller has to repeat their name, phone number, and other information? Why can't the information be captured and forwarded as well?
  2. Similarly, if the problem is explained to the first techie, why can't he or she forward that information as well so the customer doesn't have to repeat it again and (all too often) again and again and again.
  3. How come, despite the fact that the previous techie has provided notes regarding what they did to try to fix the problem, the new techie repeats the same steps that have already been done?
  4. Why are these products and systems we are using seemingly so complicated that technicians specialize in such narrow areas of expertise that the customer has to keep being sent to other technicians? Why don't these companies provide simple instructions for customers to use for the first 10-15 possibilities that the technicians are going to try and then let the big guns take it from there?
  5. How come these companies seem to have the same script of responses to customers who express their frustration, but none of these responses are delivered in a way that gives you the impression that the representative really cares about what you are going through?
  6. Why is it that when a customer says that he or she has reached their limit of tolerance, no option is offered to continue at another time? Why isn't there an offer of some validation of the customer's feelings and frustration?
  7. How come technical support people have no idea how long solving your problem is going to take? For example, one person transferred me to another, assuring me that the task to be done would take at most five to 10 minutes. The second technician estimated a maximum of 20 minutes. and 2.5 hours later it was still not resolved.
  8. How come techies commonly ask if they can put you on hold for two minutes, but typically leave you there for at least five to 10 minutes before checking in to say it will be a little longer?
  9. How come there is not an option to be put on hold without the tinny music or with some soothing music instead? Or why not let the customer have a few moments of freedom away from the phone and call them back when ready to continue?
  10. How come there is no value placed on the customer's time or compensation given if the technician(s) fail to resolve a problem within a reasonable amount of time?
  11. How come it is called "customer support" when it is designed to torture you in the process of seeking help?

OK, it's your turn. Do you have any other questions you would like to add? Do you have any answers that would make the experience more tolerable for the customer?

Again, I am not proud of how I behaved this past week. I wish I was the kind of person who didn't get so frustrated and angry under these circumstances. Believe me, I tried meditating on hold, talking myself down off my anger, and lots of other techniques. Unfortunately, I'm not there yet. I do offer my sincere apologies to all those technical support people with whom I was less than delightful. And, I forgive myself for judging myself for being so darn human. Now, if we could only fix customer support services!

I welcome your comments.

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