Technical Support - Poor Tech Support Can Be a Nightmare
If You Call Will You Get Help?
Poor technical support or tech support can drive you insane. I have been a computer user for over 30 years and I have the emotional scars to prove it. We have become so dependent on our electronic devices and the software that drive them that we are at the mercy of the dreaded glitch. When a problem occurs, it should be resolved quickly. If it cannot be resolved the very least we should expect is an diagnosis of the problem (such as "It's broken, get a new one"). This article is about customer support, specifically in the area of technology.
A computer glitch, especially a software bug or malfunction, can ruin your day, especially if you work on your own. After you try to solve the problem on your own you are left with no choice but to make the dreaded call to tech support. How your call is handled and how your problem gets resolved is entirely dependent on the company that you're dealing with. Automated systems are excellent, saving a company time and money. But there comes a time when human intervention is necessary. Some companies recognize their responsibility, and, more importantly, recognize that their success depends on customer satisfaction.
The Signs of Poor Customer Support
Unresponsive or poorly trained help desk personnel have become the subject of cocktail party conversations. Tech support jokes are a new genre of humor, perhaps destined to replace lawyer jokes. Let's face it: we have become dependent on our computers. In the early days of the computer revolution, computers were a fun novelty. Today our productivity begins with the computer. When you're down you're down, and you need to get back up. It's amazing how certain companies don't seem to care about their reputations. About the only training they give is how to handle angry customers. Here are some of the major problems that we have all experienced.
Overall how would you rate your experience with telephone tech support?
· Communication or lack thereof. If there is one area of human endeavor where clear verbal communication is essential it is technical support. Technology problems usually involve software. If it's a hardware issue that's simple. You either get it fixed or buy a new one. Here is a simple proposition, or at least I think it's simple: a technical support representative should be able to speak the same language as you, and speak it fluently. How many times have you finally gotten through to a tech representative who you can barely understand? This happens so frequently that it has become a simple fact of life for anyone who uses modern technology. When you are trying to resolve a software problem you need to focus intently on the issue. Instead, too often, you are focused on trying to understand the person on the other end of the line. Is there a reason for this? The only one that I can come up with is the desire on the part of a company to save money. Outsource tech support and improve the bottom line. But does it really save money?
· Responsiveness. When you have a technical issue you need the problem resolved as quickly as possible. It isn't rare to be on the phone for a half hour before you even get through to a representative. You hear the familiar message: "Due to higher than normal call volume, all of our representatives are busy helping other customers. Please hold and someone will be with you shortly." Somebody should make a play, perhaps an opera, about that message. So you wait and wait and finally get a rep on the phone who asks you a seemingly endless list of questions. Now don't get me wrong; the tech people need to know a lot about your situation before they can help. They need to know if you're using a PC or a Mac, and what operating system you have and all kinds of other stuff. But how many times have you gone through the questions, only to be transferred to another rep who repeats the same questions? A skilled and well trained receptionist would not allow this to happen.
· Training and Knowledge. Many tech reps are limited in technical knowledge. I have read that they are trained to ask questions based on a matrix of Q&A boxes. In other words, they are trained to think like a software wizard, which they are not. First ask the PC or Mac question. If the answer is PC, then go to the next question about the OS. If the answer is Windows Vista, then ask this question, and so on and so forth, until maybe the tech rep stumbles into the right answer. I gave up buying Dell computers because of experiences like this. I recently had a problem with my wireless network: I could not get online. I called my service provider who determined that the problem was not with the modem (their responsibility) but with the router. So I called Cisco, the manufacturer of the router. Now Cisco is the amazing company that has had more to do with the infrastructure of the Internet than any other. The Cisco rep, who I could barely understand, determined that my service provider was wrong, that it was not a router problem but a modem issue. So I drove seven miles to Cablevision, my service provider, which readily gave me a new modem at no charge. I drove back and installed the modem. No luck. After eight hours, one of many Cisco reps finally got the problem solved. Eight hours. Does Cisco think it's saving money by hiring unskilled tech reps? Not if they are being paid an hourly wage. This is one of the mysteries of our technological age.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly of Customer Support
Here are my personal experiences with technology firms. Please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section. Companies change, for better or worse, so I will amend this article from time to time. The ratings I give relate to customer support issues only.
- Apple. The late great Steve Jobs was fixated on creating products that are easy to use. He hated user manuals. Although I am a Windows user for many years, I am also an Apple customer with an Iphone and an Ipad. Yes they are easy to use and quite intuitive. That said, sometimes you have a question. The answer to your question is readily at hand with Apple's friendly and knowledgeable customer support people. If you're near an Apple store, the help gets even better. Could this be one of the reasons Apple is the world's largest company? Rated Excellent.
- Caspio. Caspio is a company that provides cloud database platforms. The software is amazing, but, because it is so complex, it can be confusing when you first start using it. As amazing as the software is, the tech support is awesome, and the response time is often immediate. So knowledgeable are their reps that they often come up with an answer before you finish asking the question. I have been dealing with a guy named Shawn Joseph who is sharp as a tack. Rated Excellent.
- Check Magic. This little company makes a nifty software package for handling bank accounts. It's useful if you manage multiple checking accounts. Bookkeepers love it. You buy blank checks (which saves money) and the software prints out a complete check. It also prints out deposit slips. There may be a better solution on the market but I'm happy with Check Magic. This article is about customer support, so here's what you should know about this outfit. You call for support and the owner, a guy named Bob, answers the phone (this is a small company). Because the initial set up is tricky, you will need support in the beginning. He's friendly and totally knowledgeable - because he wrote the software. Rated Excellent.
- Cisco. As discussed above, a company so large and important should hire smarter people and train them better. Rated poor.
- Createspace. This is a self publishing company owned by Amazon. At reasonable prices with very generous royalties and excellent automated technology, this is one of the more popular venues for self publishing. Of relevance to this article is their customer support. It's almost instantaneous. You click on a "call me" button and your phone rings. When you pick it up you get to talk to a rep after a brief pause. The rep then answers your question or finds the answer. Rated Excellent.
- Followerhub.com. This is a site that manages facebook friends and twitter followers. It had a useful search tool that enabled you to search for and follow people with interests similar to yours based on search criteria. About two weeks ago it simply stopped working. Their "contact us" link was down. It had a feedback link that seemed to work so I sent a few messages. I received no response. This is a paid site, about $30 per month. I had no choice but to cancel. They kept the unused portion of my monthly fee, even though I haven't' bee able to use the service for half a month. This is customer support at its worst. Rated Poor.
- GoDaddy. The giant domain server and web hosting company. When you call GoDaddy you get answered right away by a person who speaks perfect English. The reps at GoDaddy are knowledgeable and even have an excellent sense of humor. In September of 2012 the entire GoDaddy system was down for some four hours. Hundreds of thousands of users, including me, were without email and had inaccessible hosted websites. Because of this, the telephone support was not up to its usual responsiveness. That said, I think GoDaddy is an excellent company and I have no intention of switching. Their reps are so helpful that they will even give you advice about unrelated software (although with a caveat that they only support their own software). Rated Excellent.
- Google. The phrase "Google tech support" could be the punch line to a bad joke. The Google search engine is the greatest paradigm shift since the invention of the Internet. The company is so huge and its software so pervasive that Google has taken on some of the functions of government. Want to syndicate an article with your own copyright? That's perfectly fine by the US Copyright Office, but Mother Google says NO - It's duplicate content. As big as it is, Google does not have incoming telephone service. Rated Nonexistent.
- Intuit. The makers of the financial and small business software tools Quicken and Quickbooks. It's amazing that mighty Microsoft was never able to knock Intuit off its pedestal with Microsoft Money, which is too bad, because users would benefit if Intuit had some competition. The tech response is slow, the support robotic and the answers often not on target. I still use Quicken (for over 24 years), but when I have a problem, I ask friends or somebody at my accountant's office. Rated Poor (not the software, just the support).
- Microsoft. So many of us use the software products of this giant company that we need tech support from time to time. Microsoft is, for a company of its size, not bad at handling questions, although the help desk is outsourced to India so you may experience communication problems. But they do give it the old college try when you have a problem. Rated Okay.
- Wordpress. Wordpress has been and continues to be the software of choice for bloggers and even many web developers. It's good that so many people use it because there is no help desk. You may need to reach out to a friend or colleague. The software is amazing in its power and functionality, but you need to learn it from scratch. If you hit a problem, there is nobody at Wordpress to answer the phone (do they have one?). Great software, but don't expect an answer to a question. You will be referred to a forum, which sometimes has the answer you're looking for. Rated Nonexistent.
The above companies are only a few of the providers whose products and services we use every day. Whenever I am looking for a technical product, my first concern is whether I can count on competent support should I need it. I suggest that you make this your primary concern as well.
Copyright © 2012 by Russell F. Moran