Saturday, January 07, 2006

What are... 'Things NOT to say to tech support'? *ding!*

PEBKAC errorSomehow Dick Clark, Bill Cullen, or John Davidson never offered that clue on The [heaps-o'-cash] Pyramid. Maybe someday 'Deep Purple' Donny will. If you don't know me from Adam, let me tell you this about myself: I've been working with computers since the early 1980's, when I was editing programs on a Commodore PET at the junior high and writing my own stuff on a Commodore VIC=20 by high school. I was the go-to guy for the Apple // computer lab in high school, and one of the only people allowed to touch that newfangled Macintosh 128kb which had just come out; I wrangled Apple //e's and IBM-clone 286's in college, had a copy of Windows 2.0 which I never installed because it wasn't that useful, and have spent much of the last five years working at call centers helping others to get connected to the Internet (whether they had a need or reason to do so or not). I don't claim to be any sort of computer genius, though folks I help use that term in my direction all the time. My CompSci professor in college wrote the word GURU on the blackboard one day and said that the goal of attending his classes was to become one of these lords up on high that people seek out, and to the cyber-neophyte masses it's pretty much true: those who do not know consult those who do know, or at least act like they know (which is a whole 'nother bag of worms, since the neophytes' machines get even more messed up and folks like me have a deeper hole to dig the people out of).

Anyhow, from my experience and my time around others who have been doing this for too long, I would like to offer a list of phrases you should not use when speaking to the technical support representative. This goes for any form of technology repair, and I'm pretty sure that some of them or some form of them were used on radio repairmen who came to customers' houses to replace vacuum tubes, so there's nothing truly new in the universe. You will reduce the number of alcoholic/substance-reliant boys and girls in headsets dramatically while still not threatening our job security significantly. Here we go...

• Why can't I get online? ... I'm not at the computer right now, it's [at home, in another state, in the shop].
• I didn't change anything! I only replaced the hard drive.
• Single click or double click? Left click or right click? Do that now?
• What does this error message mean? ... I don't know what it said, I already clicked out of it.
• The box has one button and it says "Next ->". Should I click Next?
• I don't know anything about computers. [said when they've been using computers for more than two years]
• I like BonziBuddy. Why is my computer running so slow lately?
• My friend sent me [joke program or crapware], now I can't get the computer to finish booting.
• How do I download the Internet?
• Internet Explorer? I don't see that on my desktop. You mean the big blue 'e'?
• I don't have that key on my keyboard.
• Thanks, I'm taking this back to the store tomorrow. [said after spending 2 hours fixing errors and the thing is now working perfectly]
• I am not going to tell you my name/number or explain my issue, I want your supervisor right now!
• I bet you talk to dummies like me all day.
• It worked, but I didn't like how it looked so I deleted it. Can you help me find it again?
• Hello?! [said if there is 8 seconds without talk, or even more amusingly said midsentence... are we that used to really bad phone service?]
• I'm on the line/device that I dial the Internet on.
• Will you help me set up my AOL? [or any mention of AOL in any context]
• Could you transfer me to [name of someone who doesn't work in this location and didn't leave notes]? They understand my issue and so I'd like to talk to them. The line dropped suddenly while we were talking.
• Where are you located? How's the weather there?
• My grand-daughter is in school learning about computers... She has this little dog, she comes over about twice a year and I wish she would bring it over... [yadda yadda ad infinitum].
• I am the [grand poobah] of [unknown company] and I need this to work immediately, I'm losing [large number] of dollars every minute this is down! [usually said by someone who is using a cheap consumer plan, not a business plan]
• I can't do my day-trading/eBaying/, fix this!!
• Were you waiting for me? I was waiting for you. [said a span after you'd given an order such as 'reboot the computer', which they as yet haven't done or didn't tell you was completed]
• Click on the Start button? Slow down! Don't use that techno-jargon with me!
• Can't you fix it from there?
• Is the Internet down? When will it be back up? [often said after the phone system has mentioned an outage in their area, and they waited on hold for over 20 minutes to ask you anyway]
• I can't get [unrelated service by parent company, like DSL to a cellular provider or cable TV to the cable Internet department] to work.
• I want a new mouse!!

I'm going to quote that same prof's best statement: "A computer is a sandbox. The main component of sand is silicon, the main component of computer chips is silicon. Children play in sandboxes without any fear, children play on computers without any fear." What he didn't add was that real sandboxes attract cat feces and techno-sandboxes attract a different breed of crap, so whatever you find while you play you shouldn't put in your mouth, but it was a gentler time when he said it. There is no shame in calling for help, it's not a ding on your masculinity or your technical prowess. We're there for you when you need help. But do not make our jobs any harder by turning your brain off when you dial the phone, we sorta need it right now. Additionally, don't freak and shut off your interpretation skills when a message comes up on screen which might or might not be an error, since your username is not 'Valued Customer' and the world continues happily if a box only asks you to click Okay; also, it's good if you can read the dialog to us exactly as it is worded, your rewrites often don't work. And for the love of any chosen deity, do not call us when you're drunk, stoned, engaged in any form of sex act (it happens), or using the friggin' toilet – or are nowhere near the thing you need fixed. Now, with all that said clearly, operators are standing by. Call now!

oh my how I hate it when the Internet is down! it sometimes takes them a whole day to get it be back up!
This was hilarious! Did I ever send you this link to the Bastard Operator From Hell:
I take it you don't enjoy small talk while you're confronting a tech problem? I'm not a computer moron, but I'm certain not well skilled. It's a good thing my Hubby and kids have the answers to my computer related questions.
Are you a nice tech support operator or one of those rude ones?
Jamie: According to me, I'm one of the compassionate ones. According to my supervisor, I don't kiss enough tushie because I'm too busy FIXING the problem to say things like "I'm sorry to hear that, this must be bothersome for you" and such. And no, I'm horrible at smalltalk, on the phone especially but in real life as well. And I lose points on that due to dead air. (Hey, I can't think/type and talk at the same time. I can either fix your problem or I can discuss sports I don't watch, the choice is yours.) As noted, for most companies dead air is greater than 15 seconds of silence, but for some callers eight seconds without filler blabbing -- or even WITH filler blabbing! -- is far too taxing on their reptillian brains. [A coworker who read the entry cheered my mention of the "Hello?!" shouters.]

You know more about the computer than you think you do, Jamie. :)
I keep learning more as I go along. I will do an audio post one of these days. That will be a great triumph!
One thing I do know: I have the brains to learn whatever I need to know about using the computer. So, at least I'm not in that "reptillian" category you spoke of.
Hearing your voice would indeed be an accomplishment, especially if it doesn't sound reptillian. (You never knew Sleestaks had blogs!) As for the learning curve: someone here said "never mistake apathy for ignorance." No shame in not knowing if there's a desire to learn. Minds are like parachutes, they work better when they're open and you're gonna go splat if you don't use the damn thing. :)
Hey Mushy, that's exactly right, the apathy vs. ignorance. I have this problem with a friend of hours who keeps calling me with the same pc problems over and over again, and doesn't seem willing to learn anything. It's definitely frustrating. At least you hardly ever have to talk to the same person twice.
Indie: I love the BOFH and read it in The Register every so often. [1984-esque history revision] The next posting is a prime example of one of those guys in real life.

Yesterday I did have to talk to the same guy twice. He calls in and sounds pretty clueless, and as happens with supercillious twits his other line rang so he answered... and the call dropped. (*whistle*) Thirty seconds later he got me again, and there was no re-introduction... he spoke as though he had called me at home. What are the chances, with 500 other reps on the clock at the time, of reaching the same person twice in two minutes?
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