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Rant: computer technical support(15 posts)

Rant: computer technical supporttarwheel
Aug 16, 2002 9:01 AM
If the stock prices of computer companies are tied to their technical service, then I am not surprised by their stock market meltdown. Have you ever tried to get help for an ailing computer? It's like being stuck in voicemail/email hell. We bought a new Dell computer last winter because all the computer geeks at work seemed to like them. They also are supposed to have good service, and our last computer (Compaq) was sorely lacking in that area. Well, the Dell has been acting up lately (only 8 months old) and I absolutely cannot get through to their tech support. Our email and browser won't work, so I can't reach them that way. I tried calling on the phone and after navigating voicemail for 10 minutes was put on hold for 30 minutes. Then the guy couldn't help me because I wasn't at my home computer. So I try reaching msn.com, our internet service provider. I can't contact them through our home computer because the browser won't work, so I tried at work. I can't reach them through their website because it doesn't recognize my work computer. I tried sending them an email but their site wouldn't let me send an email without a password. So I clicked on the link for how to contact by telephone, and it required a password. So I call Dell back and manage to get a toll free number for msn. I call the number, wait on hold for 20 minutes and then it hangs up on me. ... Sorry for the rant. I feel better now.
End User RantKristin
Aug 16, 2002 10:57 AM
I have a number of thoughts around this topic. Home PC users are kinda screwed in the current market for a number of reasons. The largest being that Americans seem to believe that every luxury on God's green earth should come to them freely and at the precise moment they wish it. Ask yourself honestly, how much you would pay for high level tech support. I'd wager its not enough to keep Kristin armed with current skills and knowledge AND still eating three square meals a day.

Tech support is what I do and--despite recent attempts to shake free of it--its still what I do after 8 years. Far-and-away supporting users is my greatest talent. I could walk you through dialog screens with my eyes closed and make it look easy. But its hard for computer manufacturers to keep people like me around for the following reasons:

1. Computer manufacturers must keep their prices competitive. That means that they can't afford (or don't think they can afford) to keep their helpdesks staffed with talented techs. Talent costs money. (Personally, I think this issue could be resolved by selling support as an add-on purchase. But people don't want to pay for support, so they will throw their hands up and wale anyway.)

2. Talented people are on a journey and helpdesk jobs are a stepping stone on that journey. Tech support as a career is a deadend.

3. Burnout. How long do you think you could last in a job where you had to listen to people complain about their computer problems all day? Tech's with any amount of talent will move on to management positions before they burn out or shortly after.

I've considered several times launching a tech support company aimed at the home user; but I'm not sure it could be profitable. To support the average Joe User at home, means I will encounter a crapload of variables. It costs a mountain of dough to prepare oneself for all those variables. (This is why most corporations have policies against supporting employees personal computers.) Have you ever priced out an IT certification course? The amount of knowledge I'd have to arm myself and my employees with is insurmountable. And for that knowledge customers would have to pay handsomely. More than most would be willing to pay I imagine.

By the way, if I could earn enough doing tech support keep me well trained and financially stable' I'd quickly become marketable to corporations willing to pay an additional $10-15K for my skills.

There is a rainbow for you. The IT industry is tight now. Real tight. When jobs get scarce you start to find talented people in unsuspecting places...like helpdesks.

Okay, end of my Rant.
ah, memoriesmr_spin
Aug 16, 2002 12:08 PM
I used to do tech support for a software company that did a very popular disk and file utilities product. It was the most stressful, soul killing job I've ever had. Very few people lasted more than a year, including me.

It isn't a lot of fun being yelled at, cursed, threatened, etc. all day by people who did terrible things to their disks and files and are now upset because we can't save them. If our product wouldn't solve their problem, or if they encountered a bug, people had no one else to bitch to except tech support people. I don't know how many times I answered the phone and people immediately started screaming at me. I would wait for the noise to stop and say "I'm sorry. What version of DOS are you running?"

Even worse, we spent a lot of time making the utilities easy to use and automating common tasks. We wrote step-by-step procedures and included red disks and cheat sheets in the box so that customers didn't need to call us. If they did, we usually told them to follow the instructions on the cards we so carefully included in the box.

Still, every day, all day, people would erase their database or thesis, run out and buy our product, and without even opening the box, call us up and demand we get their stuff back. That's where RTFM comes from. Read the F------ Manual. It's the tech support reps mantra! People are too lazy and too important to bother with manuals, except to find the page where our phone number was. The card that said "What to do if you erase a file" in 48 point font apparently wasn't obvious enough.

Other people would call us up for anything computer related. Their printer didn't work. Their monitor didn't work. Their Lotus 1-2-3 macro didn't work. We usually didn't have the time to help these people and they would get very upset. Have you considered calling Lotus about this, sir?

Then there were all the different machines people were using back in the early 90s. The second and third generation of PCs had all kinds of non-standard stuff that caused havoc. Hopefully, no one here ever had to deal with the worst machine ever made, the AT&T 6300 Plus. There was some card that allowed you to run four floppy drives, as if anyone needed four floppy drives! And there were products that allowed you to work with large drives, like Compaq DOS 3.31 and Disk Manager. It was a nightmare trying to make software work right on an infinite number of machines! Today, PCs are fairly standard in comparison. But now it's printer drivers and video drivers and ....

I hated that job so much. Never again. Thankfully, I got out and into Engineering.

If you ever do get a voice on the end of the line, be pleasant and calm and rational. If you screwed up, admit it, because the guy on the other end already knows you did. Say thank you and please and don't vent. Remember that it is highly unlikely that whomever you are talking to caused whatever problem you have.
I find the problem is often with the tech manuals themselvesColnagoFE
Aug 16, 2002 2:13 PM
They appear to be written by a random group of monkeys set loose on a word processor. Ever try to solve a problem using a Microsoft manual? Or the online "help" menus? Hopeless. Usually I just surf the developers forums until I find what I'm looking for.
End User RantSkip
Aug 16, 2002 7:46 PM
I wholeheartedly admit that when I bought my first (and unfortunately, still my only) computer in 1995, I was a total newbie. I had absolutely no knowledge whatsoever about computers. It was, at the time, the top of the line, state of art (until the day I bought it), Pentium 133.

But what bugged me the most, was, that after waiting the 30 mins. on hold, until I could coverse with a live body (even though I had their gold premium service, with their "special" direct hotline in to their ace support team),they would walk me through minutes, sometimes an hour of "well, let's try............."," let me check with someone else/supervisor/etc. (then more waiting), to the point that it was late and I needed to go home, they would give me an event number, so that I could (supposedly) call back and start back in at this point. Next day, I would call back, hoping to resume and resolve the problem, only to hear "Geee, I don't know why they had you do that, that would never work, that only complicated your problem; let's start over, do you have your system disc?" Over, and over, the same senario. Was I the only unfortunate person to get connected to these hacks (sorry Kristin, this is not directed at you), but at the time,I knew zilch, and assumed (ya know what they say......), that the person that I would reach knew more than I did, but it sure did make you wonder.

People wanting me to delete ALL files, everything from my computer (everything on there at this time was only original, pre-loaded stuff from "Gateway"), and these guys & gals wanted me to delete it all & then reload them from the individual discs. Thankfully, I never did, and every once in a while I'd get a pleasant, and knowledgeable tech that would solve my miniscle problem in minutes (what had taken others, hours to screw up).

There has been, and still is lots I don't understand in the computer world (still have lots of problems trying to load DOS based software - even if you follow their manuals step by step, entering every //, \\, etc. - copying it verbatum, still won't work; I have several flight sims, shuttle landers, etc. collecting dust from eons ago); but hey, I can click my mouse pretty well - Ha! Enough of my rant.
Oh, Tarwheel, this wasn't aimed at youKristin
Aug 16, 2002 11:05 AM
Just a rant, nothing more. I thought it would be fun to present the "other" side of the fence.

~K
no offense takentarwheel
Aug 16, 2002 12:06 PM
My gripe isn't with the tech support, it's against the companies that are too cheap to keep them adequately staffed. I waited on hold last night for 30 minutes until I finally had to go somewhere and hung up. At work, I just called and left my phone on speaker. I was on hold for another 30 minutes, and when they finally picked up I had gone to use the bathroom. I just managed to grab the phone when I ran back to my office. Also, we paid extra money when we bought our computer to have tech support for 5 years, I think. With a car under warranty, I can just drop it off at the dealership to get something fixed. But with my computer, I am at the mercy of their ridiculous voicemail and website mazes.
LOL - Well, you drop the car off right? The tech support guyKristin
Aug 16, 2002 1:29 PM
would love it if you dropped off your PC with him. I think I speak for ALL tech support people when I say that we'd much rather have our hands on the offending hardware than on the user. When I get to work directly on your PC, I remove the single greatest obstacle to support--you. Again, no offense, that's just the way it is.

Imagine how frustrated you would be if you had to walk someone through removing a stem and fork and checking a headset for trouble over the phone. To top it off, the guy on the other end of the phone didn't even know what a headset was when he called you. When you answered the initial call, he simply said theirs a squeak and my handle bars move around.

I GOT IT!!!! I'm going to open a PC tech support center in Chicago. I will have trained, certified A+ techs and network engineers who will bill out at $60/hour. When someone has a PC problem they can't fix, they don't need a special contract, they just bring their computer by to us. I'll run it just like any other repair shop. Of course I'll do house calls too, but bill at $85/hour then. Hmmm....
I've been doing that for the past yearLO McDuff
Aug 18, 2002 12:01 PM
It all got started helping my mother-in-law and father-in-law setting up their computers, fixing their cable modem after AT&T really f'd it up, setting up a home network, etc, etc. They turned me on to an number of their friends where I would do work for $75/hour (there are services here in town where the normal going rate is $100/hr).

I have almost enough saved up for my Team SC.
Press Any Key - Where's the Any key? I don't see any ANY key!jose_Tex_mex
Aug 16, 2002 1:51 PM
The episode where Homer was computer "hacking" pretty much sums up my view of the average computer end user.
Did you get your problem resolved, by the way?Kristin
Aug 17, 2002 8:32 AM
If not, perhaps all that bike advice you've given will pay off! You know, you scratch your back, I'll scratch mine...or something like that. So tell me your probelems daahling, and I'll see what I can do.
partlytarwheel
Aug 19, 2002 4:53 AM
Well, part of the problem was that MSN cut off our service because they didn't have a valid credit card number. I got them to reestablish the service but it is still doing some wierd things. Unfortunately, it is hard for me to find the time to sit on the phone at night for that long. And since it seems to be an internet software problem, I can't talk to them on the phone while I've got browser running (since I still have a modem with 1 phone line).

To clarify again, I have no gripes with tech support guys in general. The tec staff where I work are great and always fix any problem I have very promptly. My gripes were aimed at the telephone/internet help lines where they run you through mazes and then put you on hold forever. We specifically bought a Dell computer because they are supposed to have good tech support, but I don't consider it good service to put people on hold for extended periods. In retrospect, I probably should have bought a computer from a store because I am not good at figuring out this sort of thing and don't really want to invest the time and energy it would take to learn. I use a computer all day at work, so the last thing I want to do at home is spend hours trying to fix my computer.
Dellslongfellow68
Aug 19, 2002 6:50 AM
They have tag numbers located on the box. Use that number and go to their main web page and find/click support. Enter that number for system specific info. You can do this from any machine. Then check the support forums and leave an email.

I've never worked in tech support, but I've done/seen about everything relating to computer problems and would never recommend a Dell computer, just because the guy in the commercial is starting to annoy me...
the truth about computer technical supportDougSloan
Aug 21, 2002 8:06 AM
No way. I don't have nearly so much hair under my arms (nm)Kristin
Aug 21, 2002 10:09 AM