The ‘Net is full of horror stories from both those providing support and those requiring support. Sadly, both groups want exactly the same thing – to have an issue addressed as quickly, as painlessly and as thoroughly as possible.
From the point of view of those whose job it is to provide support, no matter how well prepared we are, inbound support calls are always “reverse cold calls.” We never know what or who we will be dealing with. Folks calling in for support can do a little preparation work to make the entire process flow more smoothly. A case in point:
Back in the day, I worked for the Business Telephone Repair department of a very large telecommunication company. To support our customers, we had:
- State of the art multi-language IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system to route calls to the appropriate department.
- World-class custom designed ticketing and escalation system.
- Well-trained Tier One technicians following a carefully crafted script that performed basic troubleshooting and provided for automatic escalation if required.
- For those issues where technicians had to deviate from their standard response, there were hundreds of searchable Knowledge Base articles, Tier Two supervisors available via instant messaging and above them Tier Three managers.
In short, the entire system was designed to handle thousands of support calls per day with an average time per technician to resolve or escalate to the next level in under 3 minutes.
For myself, I had been on the job for over a year. During that time, I had dealt with everything up to and including bomb threats (yes, we had a “Bomb Threat” support procedure). Every possible contingency covered – right?
The one thing you learn when doing customer support is that you’ve never heard it all. Here is a summary of a particularly interesting call:
In my best It’s-my-pleasure-to-assist-you-voice: “Hello. Welcome to Business Telephone Repair. My name is Scott. How can I help you?”
A sweet, grandmotherly voice responds: “Yes, hello. I’d like to report a broken fence.”
I must admit that I was a bit taken aback not knowing what fences had to do with telephone repair.
Admittedly, this example is a bit extreme but does illustrate that support can’t always be prepared for what comes our way. Callers, on the other hand, can help make their own support experience easier by preparing for the support call ahead of time. Here are some tips that can make the entire support experience more rewarding for everybody involved:
- Know exactly which product you need support on. This is especially important if you use multiple products. If you ask for support on product A and then go into great detail about an issue with product B, at some point in the conversation, we have to stop you, give our head a shake and then rewind the tape.
- Write down the main details of the issue before hand. We do understand that not everyone is a “computer person” but being prepared with the basic technical details beforehand will ensure the call goes a lot smoother. Twenty Questions may be a great party game but when the user doesn’t know if they are running a Windows or Mac computer, it’s likely to be a long call.
- Be ready to access the computer. At some point, you may need to run through some basic troubleshooting steps with us. This is really tough to do if you are calling support while stopped at a red light. Or the computer is in another city. Or the user is currently backpacking in Peru for six weeks.
- Have someone available who is able to do what you cannot. We wish computers were as easily manipulated as Hollywood like to portray. The hero types furiously. The auto destruct is aborted, 10 million dollars are transferred to a “Save the Whales” fund and as a bonus, the hero fixes his credit score. The reality is that not every problem can be solved remotely without someone that has an appropriate technical knowledge or access above the typical user.
You may still be wondering what happened to the lady with the broken fence? After some carefully worded questions and a little digging, it turns out that one of the telco’s substations bordered on an elementary school yard. The chain link fence around the substation was falling down and kids being kids, were trying to climb over it. I’m happy to say that the issue did eventually get escalated to the right department. Good support teams don’t like to leave anybody sitting on the fence if we can help it