Tips for Tech Support

posted by on 29th September 2011, at 3:49pm

Tech support is something that most everyone has required at one point, the need to solve an urgent problem that we don’t know how to fix. Tech support may seem simple but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In order for tech support to be successful both sides must know what they are doing to a degree. If one side is completely clueless tech support will be very painful. Today we’re going to talk about how exactly the tech support experience can be enhanced.

The portion of tech support that most readers will be familiar with is asking for tech support. Asking for tech support can range from an inexperienced user posting a cryptic error message that no one can diagnose or someone providing a detailed explanation of what’s been tried and why it hasn’t worked. Asking for tech support requires a specific way of asking the question, information needs to be given, and everyone can’t expect a miracle answer.

In asking for tech support how the question is asked is key. If a question is not asked in the right way it may be mis-interpreted which could result in a different problem being interpreted. The key is to use simple language to enable the problem to become apparent. If there’s an error message preventing the launch of an application say when the error message appears and what application triggers it. Also, if your computer is displaying an error message and then shutting down don’t just say your computer is shutting down randomly, tell the truth and mention the error message.

Along with phrasing your question with simple language and telling the truth more information is often required. As stated previously it’s important to include the application triggering the message or if it’s an operating system error what the error message says. Extra information is always helpful, the more that can be provided is always better. Here’s some extra information you may want to include with future queries:

  • The chain of events leading to the error.
  • Core details such as operating system or web browser if an error with a website.
  • Extra applications installed or in the case of application errors, extensions (if possible).
  • Any strange anomalies with your system.
  • Any modifications made recently to the application or operating system including configuration files and drivers if applicable.
  • Previously attempts at resolution (if any).

Do not expect miracles. Solving issues which require troubleshooting is never an exact science. It’s often very hard to solve an issue with an operating system on the first try if dealing with a cryptic error like a blue screen of death (BSOD). Solving problems takes time, with the nature of the internet it’s not likely an answer will be provided within the hour. It’s important to remember that the people helping you are volunteering their time, respect them, know that they are trying their best. Finally, it’s not good to expect a solution to be fed to you in great detail, this rarely happens. Most times you will have to do the fixing on your own and interpret steps given.

Providing tech support is as hard if not harder than receiving it. Anyone can provide tech support, the only question is how good that support will be. A person who provides good tech support is usually one who can solve most problems relating to a particular platform on their own. They are also usually able to parse the problem into smaller pieces in order to better figure out which portion is actually causing the problem. Finally, the person must have patience which translates nicely into my next point.

Attitude. Having the right attitude towards those you support is crucial. If the attitude of the person providing support is not welcoming the experience will not go over smoothly. As a tech support provider you must be willing to work with people of all skill levels and not project a sense of arrogance in relation to what you are working on. Attitude can be a hindrance to tech support both towards the person with the issue and the problem itself. A person must remember that they are providing tech support as a free service and if their attitude is not kept in check their reputation will be at stake.

There’s a rule that I always follow in tech support that some people do not. If you don’t use the piece of software or hardware don’t offer support for it. I’ve seen far too many people attempt to offer support for software or hardware they’ve never used. This can make the problem worse and if it does solve the issue the solution is not optimal. If you don’t use a Mac or iPod don’t offer support for that kind of product. And one final piece of advice for this rule, don’t give solutions such as “Macs suck, get a PC” or “PCs are idiotic, get a Mac” or “[x] browser is dumb, try [y]”.

One of the most important results of this article will be that if followed it will help to set trends around the internet. Most often tech support communities aren’t that great with users having questions going unanswered which is never a good thing. There are also communities where the reverse is also true, a user is plagued with irrelevant answers and bad tech support in general. I hope that those of you reading this who either need tech support or offer tech support semi-regularly will share it and make the tech support community a better place. One final note about tech support is that it’s a learning experience for both sides that can often provide better lessons than a technical manual.

As always if you have any questions about the article feel free to discuss them on the forums. If you have ideas for future articles feel free to send me a pm on the forums.

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