Tech support: getting meaningful help

Tech support call centerBuying an electronic product such as a digital camera or printer is easy enough today. But getting decent technical support when something goes wrong, well that can be a whole other story.

I’ve been contacting tech support when needed for years. Some say that the support offered now has gotten progressively worse and in some ways it has, in my experience.

But even back in the ‘80 when my itty bitty Mac computer experienced a tummy ache, almost every time I called tech support I was told to “rebuild the desktop.” The advice often failed to resolve a problem. Oh well, at least they didn’t have a complicated phone menu system. Plus back then, right from the get-go you got to speak to a human being.

Today, there are several ways to contact tech support, some more effective than others. Here’s my experience about what does and doesn’t work well:

Before contacting tech support

  • Keep your electronic product nearby.
  • Know the model and serial number, as well as the date the product was purchased.
  • Have a credit card handy if your product is out of warranty. You may be charged a small fee. If tech support does not solve the problem, the fee is typically refunded.

Ways of contacting tech support

Tech support by email

I’ve found email support mostly useless for anything but the most basic questions. I carefully type the problem, attempting to explain the situation so it’s crystal clear. More often than not, I receive what appears to be a canned response and must email them again, and again. I sometimes wonder if they even read my email. When at the point of frustration, I close my browser and call tech support.

Online tech support

“Live” chat – You know. You visit the tech support area of a website and a little chat window pops open. The chat screen text message instantly invites you to ask your question. Like email, you need to carefully describe the tech problem before sending the message.

There are often delays between the time you send a message and when you receive a reply, probably because the tech support person is helping three dozen other people at the same time. I rarely find this method useful. I usually click the window closed and call tech support.

Technical support area at a manufacturer’s website – Searches about technical problems and troubleshooting information can be made at a manufacturer’s website seven days a week, 24 hours a day. If needed, you can also download the latest drivers and items such as manuals in the support area.

While the tech support articles can be helpful, some individuals may encounter information overload. If you’re stuck on part of the answer, then you have to do another search. If you’re not tech savvy, you can end up right where you started: unsolved problem!

PhoneTech support by phone – Tech support by phone is often the most efficient compared to the other methods, however that doesn’t mean it will always be a pleasurable experience. You may wait on hold for a long time after going through a series of options: “press #1 for ….., press #2 for ……, press #.. if you’d like the options repeated,” says an automated voice.

When you’re finally connected with a human being, you may be placed on hold* while the tech support person searches for the answer. Or maybe you’ll be transferred to another department (ooops, pressed the wrong option). While on hold or being transferred, you may get disconnected.

A tech support person typically asks for your phone number when you first contact them. I’ve rarely ever received a call-back if disconnected. Not to worry. Before the transfer, they’ll give you a phone number to call if you’re disconnected, but you probably have to go through another set of phone options by that lovely automated voice.

It should be noted that tech support by phone is usually available only on specific days and times of day, and it may not be available on weekends and holidays. Check visit the manufacturer’s website for times and days.

Let tech support walk you through the troubleshooting

When you finally get to the right person, most are helpful. When needed, the individual can walk you step-by-step through the troubleshooting. If they don’t offer to do so, ask. Some offer remote assistance. I did that once. Never again as it was much too slow. Forget it if you have a dial-up connection.

When a tech support person doesn’t have a clue

Let’s admit it; you don’t always reach a knowledgeable tech support person. Or you get one with some knowledge but not enough to solve the problem. When that happens, I hang up and call again, hoping to reach an individual who knows what they are talking about. If that person can’t solve the problem, I ask to be escalated to a higher level of support.

The bottom line for getting good tech support

With all its annoyances, I’ve found calling tech support by phone to be most effective when seeking technical assistance. Support personnel do try their best to help and, when they know what they’re talking about, do it well. They can also to determine if your product needs or is beyond repair.

Other tech support options

  • find an online forum geared to the electronic product you own and post your question. Replies will come from individuals who experienced and found the way to solve the same problem.
  • If available, go to a local electronics repair shop, or to the store where you purchased the product if they provide technical assistance.
Tip: When frustrated, don’t scream at computer generated voices. It will get you now where! 😉

*All my phones have speakerphones. When placed on hold, I continue working, or dust the house or something similarly mundane.

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