Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Reason Tech Support Insults Your Intelligence

Anyone who's ever called tech support for anything has been frustrated to the point of introducing your phone to the nearest solid object or a relatively innocent sounding young woman to colorful American swear words. Sometimes it's the long hold times, sometimes it's the inane questions the support people ask you. "Have you tried pressing the power button?" I've heard this question send people into a murderous rage.

Why the hell would they ask you a question like that? Do they really think that you are that stupid?

Short answer: Yes. Yes, they do think you're that stupid.

Unfortunately, most of the time when a user reports something as 'broken,' it's not actually broken. They're just using it wrong. Yeah, yeah, that might sound crass and elitist, but it's true. You could say that if the engineers designed it better so that using the latest gadget was more intuitive then people wouldn't have so many issues. You'd be right. Taking it out on your low level, low paid tech support person won't help the issue though.

Ok, so they ask me if I turned it on because that's often the problem?


This is an example of just that.

Getting Ready to Call Tech Support

So how can I make this process smoother?

It's pretty easy most of the time. The first thing ou should do is consult the troubleshooting flowchart.

That is the process that all your local geeks will go through if they don't have experience with the device your asking about. It never hurts to consult this cheat sheet. 

The next step is to ask your local geek for help, that friend or family member who you go to in times of trouble. If they can't figure it out it's time to call tech support.

Before we actually call, it's best to do a little reconnaissance. Gather the name of your gadget, serial number, tag number, model number and any other identifying markings.

It's also not a bad idea to go ahead and write down a description of the problem beforehand. Of course, double check all your cables too. Just to make sure they're tight and plugged into the right places. It's surprising how often a cable inexplicably gets loose. Once you have the phone number give tech support a call. Often they have a script to go through before they can escalate your call to a more experienced tech. At least this way you've eliminated the simple stuff like loose cords and unpressed power buttons, so you don't waste twenty minutes on hold.

Hopefully this will save you a little time in the future and maybe even a little hair.


  1. I love the flowchart. I'm thinking of adding it to my check in sheet for new personnel (at least going up on my wall of IT humor). Funny enough I was just briefing some new personnel about my disclaimer. I run the network, I'm not an expert on every piece of client software but know it well enough to point them in the right direction or fumble my way through it.

  2. As soon as I saw this flowchart, I passed it around to all my friends. XKCD is pretty good sometimes.