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Glazer: Tech support isn’t what it used to be

POSTED: April 16, 2008 5:00 a.m.

My wife and I are both in business for ourselves. My dad had his own business, as did both of my grandfathers. So I was always taught the concept of customer service. It’s not so much as the customer is always right, my dad would tell me, but that you should make every attempt to try to accommodate the customer.

Things seemed to have changed since my dad’s time. People in general seem to be ruder. They don’t thank you when you hold a door for them, they are more aggressive on the highways and quality customer support is a hard thing to come by.

Customer service in the form of tech support used to be good. When consumers jumped on the computer bandwagon, there was actually help when you needed it. The technology was new and vendors realized if they were to sell their products, they would have to back it up with support. Dell used to have the best in the industry. Now they are as mediocre as HP, Sony and Gateway.

Again, things have changed. Dell, like many companies, has downsized and outsourced. So now, not only is it hard to get good support, it is difficult to understand those who offer it. First, you find yourself on hold for 45 minutes or more, then you get an overworked, underpaid malcontent from halfway across the planet whose first language is not English. So before you’ve begun, there are already problems.

I bought many Dells because of their support. Once it began to slip, I tried some of the others. I can’t say that one company’s support is any better than the next guy’s. They have all become complacent. The technology, although not new anymore, is always changing. So we will always have questions. What can we do? We have to deal with it.

The old adage about getting more flies with honey than vinegar applies here too. You’ve been on hold for a while; you eventually get someone whose name you don’t even understand — and you have a technical problem. If you demand assistance you’re just pushing his buttons. If he asks you how the weather is, humor him. Advise him it’s doing better than your computer and then get right to your problem.

Be ready with whatever information you have that will help with your problem. If you have a Dell for example, find your Express Service Code and have it ready. Get any other numbers from your computer’s sticker that may help, such as the serial number (SN) or part number (PN). Have a flashlight and a magnifying glass on hand as you may need them.

If you got an error message that relates to your problem, write it down. It could help solve the problem. Try to recall what may have instigated your error. What were you doing when your system crashed? Did you add a new program recently? Have you installed new hardware, maybe a sound card or a printer? These are all questions the agent will probably ask you. So be prepared.

My dad, in his infinite wisdom also advised me to always ask for the head barber. If you are having difficulties with the person you are speaking with, try excusing yourself, hanging up and calling again. You may get someone friendlier, more knowledgeable or at least easier to understand. If all else fails ask for a supervisor. They’ll tell you it may take a while because they are all busy. Tell him you can wait.

I’ve found dealing with smaller companies online is like dealing with them on the local level. Generally I get better attention at a ma and pa hardware store than at a huge corporate all-in-one. It’s the same online. Recently I had problems with a $50 program that I had not yet even purchased. The e-mails I got repeatedly over the next two days not only fixed the problem, they came from the owner of the company — in Finland! I got truly personalized attention. Needless to say, I ended up buying the program. For those of you who may get my newsletter, it is thanks to him.

Sure, there are those out there in customer service that should probably be stocking shelves or doing something else away from the consumer. But most of them do realize that we are calling in because we need to. If you treat them like you would like to be treated, chances are between the two of you, you’ll get your problem solved.

Arthur Glazer is a freelance writer and local computer technician. He may be reached at arthur@glazerthepctech.com



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