Introduction: How to Call Tech Support

Picture of How to Call Tech Support

I work in a Tech Support call center and have had it with many of the ridiculous calls that come in. There seems to be a total lack of common sense and basic phone etiquette pervading the United States.

This Instructable will help to make your support experience a little less painful for both you and the rep on the other end of the line.

Step 1: Don't Try to Fix It Yourself!

Picture of Don't Try to Fix It Yourself!

If you are uncomfortable with whatever device you are having issues with, please, for the love of everything holy, DO NOT TRY TO FIX IT! There are people who in most cases are highly trained and intimately familiar with the device or system who are paid to fix it for you. They have had plenty of experience with issues just like yours and usually have a quick and painless fix for it. Tinkering with something you are unsure about is sure to make the issue worse, or you could make a small problem evolve into an irreparable situation. That won't make either of us happy.

If, on the other hand, you have a degree of technical expertise and are comfortable* with the device, give it a go! I really do like it when you call in and can show me that you have a good head on your shoulders. Just don't get mad if I ask you to do something you have already tried.

*comfortable, in this case, does not mean you use it daily. I mean that you are able to configure system options or change the settings of the device without referring to the manual. Just because you can push buttons does not mean you know everything about it.

Step 2: Before You Call...

Picture of Before You Call...

Here is a quick list of things to consider before you call that will make our experience much more enjoyable:

If English is not your first language, please consider letting someone else call me. You may be the owner of the business, but I can work with your employees just as well in most cases. If you need an interpreter, please ask. I am not allowed to suggest it.

Do you have all of the information I am going to need to help you? Usually I am going to need your name, or if you have been assigned one, customer identification number, the model of the device you need help with, the EXACT nature of your issue and what, if any, troubleshooting you have done. See step one first.

Did you do something to it? If you broke it, even on accident, be prepared for me to ask. It's OK, accidents happen. A lot of times, if you are cool with me and honest about it, I will not make a note stating that you did it, so it will still be covered under your warranty. If you are rude or lie to me and the troubleshooting we do shows that the issue is a result of your ineptitude, I will note the account as such and charge you for the replacement. I have that power.

Are you in front of the device you need help with? Please be as close as possible to your system so that we can troubleshoot it. I will need you to perform certain operations that may be complex or provide feedback that I will need you to relay to me. These operations may require fast responses that cannot be entered quickly enough when you are running to and fro. This is for your convenience as well, as I don't want to make you erode a path in the floor like a cartoon character going back and forth from the phone to your device.

Step 3: The Call...

Picture of The Call...

OK, the time has come for you to call me. I am anxiously waiting for you on the other end of the line. You dial the number and input any information my call routing system asks you to put in and you get placed in queue. That's right, queue, also known as a line. There may be horrible music you are forced to listen to, not my idea, and I will get to you as soon as I help the other people that called in before you. They aren't following the rules, so their call is taking a little longer than yours will. Please, be calm and wait for your turn secure in the knowledge that you know how to work with me and won't take up as much of my time as these other people. Please don't make a list of what we are doing wrong to spout off to me as soon as I get on the line. I don't like being backed up any more than you like being on hold. I do care about you and the time you have to spend calling me. I also like to get a break every now and again, and I can't do that until I am out of queue.
While you are waiting, make sure you followed step 2 and you have everything we need.

Step 4: Now, It's Your Turn.

Picture of Now, It's Your Turn.

You have made it to the front of the line and I am about to answer. Please keep these rules in mind.

1. You will be greeted with a scripted greeting. I have no control over it. It may be longer than necessary, but I still have to recite it. DO NOT CUT ME OFF. Please wait until I have completed the greeting and asked you for your information before you speak.

2. After I get your information, it may take a few seconds before I can pull your account up. Please be patient. The computer system I am working with may be antiquated or difficult to navigate. I may be experiencing technical issues myself. It does happen from time to time. It is helpful if you wait until you are asked the nature of your issue before you start rattling off what has been going on for the last two weeks.

3. Unless you have been advised to, do not tell me what the previous rep did. I can see their notes. If I am asking you to do something different, it is because you are still having an issue and I may have a method that will fix the problem permanently.

4. Please follow all instructions and if the device provides you with any feedback, relay it to me. I will tire quickly of asking you repeatedly "What does the screen say?"

5. Do not argue with me. This is a big one. If what I tell you to do does not work, please gloat silently. I have other tricks up my sleeve. Usually there are several issues that share symptoms. I will be trying to fix the easiest or most common first and will progress down the line until I fix what is going on.

Step 5: IT'S DONE!!

Picture of IT'S DONE!!

Yay!! We have worked together and fixed your problem! Fantastic! Please say thank you. It's not much, but I appreciate it.


packratpedro (author)2016-10-24

I am a paid member of the I would please like a refund. I am a smart friendly person. Yes I know this is not a dating site. The reason for the refund is because I spent, countless hours trying to find a some way of printing out the 8×8×8 diy LED kit. As of now I have given up trying to find it. I paid less then 12 hours ago. I am politely askind for a refund. I did not download the YouTube videos that I found on PLEASE And THANKS FOR THE HELP AT ANY RATE

mblack3 (author)2011-08-21

Good info. My only concern was the English barrier. I exactly agree but on the exact opposite. It's usually tech support with the issue.
All that being said, actually hearing from a support member was helpful!
Thank +)

hintss (author)2010-12-22

you can always say shibboleet...

yay xkcd!

=SMART= (author)2008-06-12

lol when i was at school in my DT class i waited until the teacher left the room (he's really weird he just leaves for like 40min) and then took one of the old unused pc's and opened the case , working quickly i got 2 fans, usb hub, capacitors , cd drive with motor and laser, 3 other small motors and around 10 led's. then i clipped the case back together and put it behind the CNC machine, about 2 weeks later i saw him and our school tech-support guys standing around it and clicking all the buttons !! they looked like monkeys, none of them bothered to open it up so they just threw it out when it didn't work!!, later i took the whole thing home and got some other stuff :D many of you may say this was a waste but it was one of the old cream colored windows 98 pc's and everyone in our school apart from my year has laptops and theres like 100 pc's for 60 kids do it didn't matter :D

hintss (author)=SMART=2010-12-22


coolz (author)2008-06-15

who do you work for?

Hexadecimator (author)2008-03-23

Hmmm... I have to agree with some of the comments that this goes both ways. Being friendly to your tech support person does not help when said tech support person is incompetent.

I had a nice rant on the differences between good and bad tech support all typed up when I remembered that this article article sums it up quite nicely.

Basically, if the company you are calling doesn't meet any set of criteria close to those (along with the unstated prerequisite of not employing people as stupid as those at Verizon), following this advice simply isn't going to help you at all.

It doesn't matter how nice you are, how insistent you are that the fan really is broken, that you'd replace it yourself if the connectors weren't proprietary, and that you'd be willing to pay for the damn thing if they would hurry up and let you order one, far too many tech support people will ask you to power cycle before being stumped and handing you off to someone else who will do exactly the same thing.

Final nit to pick:
If one tech support person transfers my call to another, why, oh, why does every piece of information the last person entered into his computer not automatically show up on the new person's screen? If they can pass your first name to the next person, why can they not pass on the 12-digit serial number inscribed in 8pt font on the bottom of your television?

Nephus (author)2008-02-01

That's all fine and good, but there's a flip side to this. I'm a computer science major, and I routinely fix a variety of electronics that supposedly have no user serviceable parts inside. The only time I ever call tech support is when I've exhausted everything I can do on my end, and I need something done from their end. For example, I keep having issues with my Xbox Live downloads and their restrictive DRM ever since I had to replace my console. I call, wait on hold for 10 minutes, finally get a guy that barely speaks English, and then has no idea what I'm even calling about no matter how many times I explain it to him. Then I get shuffled around different departments for another 35 minutes (no, I'm not exaggerating, I was calling on my cellphone and the total call time was 46 minutes) while generally being treated like a complete moron ("Are you sure you have the game downloaded?" "You are? Well let's check anyway.") before being hung up on because they didn't know what to do. I've had the same issue with ISPs in the past when a traceroute clearly shows that a piece of equipment on their end won't let me out of their local network. It took 3 days for them to send a technician out, and then in 5 minutes he calls the office and tells them the same thing I did. So instead of posting a pithy little instructable, why don't you make sure that you and your coworkers treat people like human beings.

netxtc (author)2008-01-15

ON the issue of scripts...some of it HAS to be scripted so it is not missed by the Support rep and for the sake of some unthinking customers: Techinician got to site to do repair: 14 year old daughter only left at home no adult you think the technician can enter the premisis ..NO he leaves...then customer calls back...why did'nt anyone tell me and Adult has to be home? Well I didnt read you the script. Customers please: Customers think support reps can see through the phone....what colour is my wire ?(yes the wire that never came from the company you are calling) Customers that are not honest up front in the call usually pay for it 2 ways...their problem doesnt get fixed and the call is 2x as long ...wasting both the reps time and theirs. Swearing at a rep accomplishes something very quickly....The rep is now looking for reasons to get you off the phone and NOT have your problem fixed (yes you will still get the 1/2 assed, what appears to you like troubleshooting , troubleshooting) Customers: If you want results....ask politely to speak to a supervisor....don't yell and scream, swear at the rep that just answered the phone about the last rep (And contrary to a previous post....IT DOESNT give you the right!)...If a rep is rude to you speak to a supervisor or Yes get curt with him/her. Customers: you get bad service....get the reps id and ask to speak to supervisor.....just dont go away....

bleachworthy (author)2007-11-19

"harrow, dis be hassan wabadambadingdong from dell custoomer support, give me name now, or I leave. what? you broke compoooter? how you break? you bein soo stoopid! hit shift+q+right ctrl+enter, while typing hassanwabadambadingdonisgreat 5 tims, then hit window key, and it fix." uhh, dude, I just want to order a replacement power adapter!" "oooooo, ok, then instead of hassanwabadambadingdongisgreat, type, hassanwabadambadingdongisnotgoingtohelp, 7 time, then I order if I feel good." - Yes, the name has changed (but is equally crazy) but that is actually how one of my customer service went, it sucked, I hung up, and demanded to speak with a shift leader, or manager, and they just hung up on me. needless to say, I refuse to deal with dell anymore. no joke, i wish I had a recording of it.

There name is always American even if they live in other countries."Hellro dis is Bill, howr can i elp yoou" LOL

Doctor What (author)joejoerowley2007-11-26

It's because their names are a million characters long.

Doctor What (author)2007-11-19

Outsourcing from india might seem like a problem for you, but for the indian, it is a godsend. being a support service-man, they earn way more than the national average salary, and can support their families better because of it. And it may not seem like it, but the indian person on the other end of the line had to take tons of english classes and accent classes. So, in other words, just be nice to the indian people on the other end of your lines, they try as hard as they can.

Lftndbt (author)Doctor What2007-11-19

And you got the impression that I wasn't nice...? How? I am always particularly nice, especially when someone is scripted... I have spent MANY hours trying to fix this problem and so have MANY tech supports.. Even when a young lady, accidentally blocked my connection for 2 weeks... No support tech was able to work it out, until about the twelth call when someone realised that all three, of the available receptions tower's had been physically blocked. (still paying I might add) My responce to this was... "Thankyou so much! Your a miracle worker! Have a wonderful day!" I then sent a prompt email, outlining how thankful I was to have it re-connected and what a great job Matt had done... "So, in other words, just be nice to the indian people on the other end of your lines, they try as hard as they can." Please don't just assume things... Perhaps you could take some of your own advice and use a uppercase i for the word Indian.

cubemonkey (author)Lftndbt2007-11-21


Doctor What (author)cubemonkey2007-11-24

how is that awesome??

cubemonkey (author)Doctor What2007-11-25

That he took the time to recognize that tech is all. I help 25-50 people a day, and I never let them go unless we have the issue resolved, or I have sent the part needed to resolve the issue. But we only ever get told we are doing a good job once in a great while.

Lftndbt (author)cubemonkey2007-11-25

Tainted conversation... As you can see, I removed my first post... It was not only ignorant, but very hurtfull... Please let this comment end now... Or I can, remove all my posts if that helps it die.... Thanks.. ;)

Doctor What (author)Lftndbt2007-11-26

She was noting your nice-ness towards the call peoples. Not the original comment. She confused me when she said "AWESOME!!!", and I asked her why, not trying to insult you or hurt you in any way shape or form. I hope you don't think that I am being mean or anything. I discuss and respond to comments. DON'T REMOVE YOUR POSTS!!!! It was a well played out argument.

Doctor What (author)cubemonkey2007-11-25

you all do a great job :) except for the ones that charge for extra parts lol.

Doctor What (author)Lftndbt2007-11-20

Wow, i didn't know that comment would tick you off so bad... Please just don't assume things... well, aren't you just assuming that they don't try as hard as they can??? And i don't think that not capitalizing the i in indian is such a big insult. Indian...Happy???

Lftndbt (author)Doctor What2007-11-20

"... well, aren't you just assuming that they don't try as hard as they can???" Sorry? Where did you pull that from? Please Quote I know all to well of benefit's, resulting in outsourcing to countries like India... Both my Indian sponcer children have parents/relative. Working in telecommunication's.. And believe me not ALL centre's are so well trained/paid... e.g .. Neither child was able to attend school, even with this "support" Perhap's instead of outsourcing to India to increase profit's... They could outsource to India to "support" the economy... Not to exploite it... So it is not your comment that has "ticked" me off, but the generalized ignorance, that the rest of the world is being a "god send". They are not, they are looking to exploite a already vunerable economy... And yes if you through a homeless person that has NO money $5, then that is like a fortune to him.... Doesn't mean you should make them work for it though...

Doctor What (author)Lftndbt2007-11-20

Last Paragraph, first and second sentences.

Lftndbt (author)Doctor What2007-11-20

Rrrrrr ok.... That did not make sense.... I was saying "please don't assume i'm not nice to people" Not "please don't just assume they are trying as hard as they can" I was slightly offended you thought I was rude... Which I certainly try not to be!

Doctor What (author)Lftndbt2007-11-21

you don't seem rude.

Doctor What (author)Doctor What2007-11-20

and to answer your quote question,""So, in other words, just be nice to the indian people on the other end of your lines, they try as hard as they can." Please don't just assume things..."

Doctor What (author)Doctor What2007-11-20

btw, india video
and i didn't say that you should make them work for it. And i'm not saying that the rest of the world is a godsend, i'm just saying that the call taking job in india pays five times as much as the average job. and if i was getting paid five times the amount of a normal salary, that would be a godsend to me.
The original comment that got me started was "Nice to see someone not from india", which to me, makes it look like they are a nusiance, which is what gave me the impression that you were'nt being nice to the call people.

Doctor What (author)Lftndbt2007-11-20

And i totally agree that they are exploiting a vonurable economy. they should pay more. but for right now, it's all they got until the US companies actually feel like paying a decent salary. Face it, american businesses are tight-arses. But then again, would you rather pull the american businesses out of india and have all those people loose their jobs??? That would leave millions jobless, and if and when they got another job, they would most likely earn less.

Doctor What (author)2007-11-26

Yeah, I kinda figured that it wasn't to terribly fun. I was just curious. BTW, I like dorky cubicle gadgets and USB powered crap from china. And you sound like you don't like your boss. You mentioned "her". Not him/her or the usual him. Sounds like you need a change of scenery.

cubemonkey (author)2007-11-21

This is one of my hot buttons. I work in a call center as well, this is stuff that we really do appreciate. and as he said, we do have the power. I've talked to people that have been so rude, or refused to do what I asked, that I've charged for parts when I could have just as easily sent them for free. Remember, if you work with customer's, treat the people that help you how you want to be treated. We have the power to keep you on the phone for hours, or try to get you fixed as soon a possible. If you call in ranting and raving, expect the tech to get her revenge. Also, I work in the US, and I am not robot.

Doctor What (author)cubemonkey2007-11-24

You can actually charge people for parts? I think that has been done to my stepdad, he has a short temper for tech support (even though he is asking them for help). BTW, I was wondering, how much do tech support people make?

I am paid pretty well, but I have the degrees to justify it.

You have to have degrees to become a tech support person?? And how much in Ks.

MattBurch1579 (author)2007-11-23

don't forget the DB queries that are being processed and the additional apps running on the network. Thousands of queries per hour = slow responses.

MattBurch1579 (author)2007-11-23

OK uber-user. I will make sure I charge you for everything I can when you call in. I really can't stand guys like you. If tech support is soooo crappy, and you are a master of network protocol, then you don't need my help. Please, don't call me.

Doctor What (author)2007-11-19

Great advice, i frequently have problems with my dish, and i have to call in alot. The only problem with this instructable is the pics. whats the cow for??

I wasn't able to comment them. The cows are for an explanation of close and far away.

If you go back you should be able to comment now. Give it a try. Thanks

Done and done! Thx!

Sure, anytime at Joe's tech support that would $22.39. Crash, credit or debt. jk :)

It seems that there is a glitchy-buggy thing with the instructable maker, you have to save your instructable, then go back. it takes a while to go through all the pics, because you have to save, then go back.

MattBurch1579 (author)2007-11-21

And you will be the one we bill. I don't like you.

cubemonkey (author)2007-11-21

Also remember, if you are a jerk, and incompetent, we will be making fun of you after we get off the call. Or sometimes while we are on the call, alot of places have MUTE buttons.

Lftndbt (author)2007-11-19

Tried this... Internet StiLL won't connect properly... :(

cubemonkey (author)Lftndbt2007-11-21

If you have talked to a couple of techs and still have issues, politely ask for a supervisor.

MattBurch1579 (author)Lftndbt2007-11-19

Seems to be working now. Anything else I can do for you sir?

callmeshane (author)2007-11-21

Tech support??? I am so smart I even give the head of Microsoft in Australia a run for his money - much less the entire department...... Ummmm outsourced call centers, where almost all the people read from scripts? Ummm....... How about when it comes time to buy a new and expensive product with warranty, I ask, "Is the service department located in Australia?" No??? Ummmm given that tech support ranges from the occasionally brilliant to the really awful and the lack of hands on training and backed up by people who only recite crap by rote from a computer screen - I think that I shall only buy a product that is supported by technically qualified and locally employed staff..... Goodbye.

callmeshane (author)2007-11-21

Motorcycle Spares Dept: Woman rings up and says she needs a part for her husbands motorcycle. Sales guy asks, "What sort of motorcyle is it?" Woman replies, "It's a red one".

atombomb1945 (author)2007-11-20

Here Here. Just wish I could email this link to some of my customers.

atombomb1945 (author)2007-11-20

Why do you guys have the oldest, crappiest equipment? My work computer is 9 years old, yet I can still pull stuff up quicker than a hi-tech support center.
If I have given my info 6 times already, shouldn't you have it by the time you pick up the line?

Did I have you on a call last week?
Think of it this way, your computer on your network. Not that big.
My computer on the call center's network that is running somewhere around 2400+ users at anyone time. That is Big.
No matter what kind of equipment you have, there is always going to be a spike in the network and pulling up info could be slow for a little bit.

As for the info you gave the last guy. You phone call (read voice) came through the line. Words don't display on a head set. One day yes it will. Until then, remember we are trying to help. If you need to repeat yourself a few times then that is what you have to do. The guy answering the phone is trying to get you to the guy who answers the phone for the department you are trying to get to.

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