Posted on May 1, 2016 10:30 am

Five Things Tech Support Don't Tell You

Being a Tech Support Guru isn’t an easy job. I should know – I’ve been one at a few companies, at different levels, and it can be rough.

Working in tech support means taking calls, emails, or chat sessions from people who aren’t happy. It’s a lot like a retail customer support job, only without the benefit of body language, eye contact, and other things that make human interaction easier. It’s a unique career with unique challenges.

My ‘How to Talk with Tech Support’ piece was written to help make your overall experience working with them easier, but I think knowing some of this insider information might help too. Remember, Tech Support people, are People too. In most cases we want to help you solve your problems.

These five “secrets” are a mix of things tech support folks would like to tell you but can’t, and a few they’d probably rather not share at all. (Internal lingo)

The last one certainly falls in that second bucket.

“We’re Often Working From a Script, Not Experience”

Unfortunately, many of the people that answer the phone or chat request, or reply to the email you send, aren’t at all personally experienced with what they’re about to help you with, especially in very large support groups like those that operate in big technology companies. cough, India call centers

There’s a good chance he or she hasn’t used the router or device you can’t get to work, ever interacted with the software you’re chatting about, or gone through even the most basic tasks involved in the service that isn’t working as expected.

The “Level 1” or “Tier 1” support agent you’re working with is probably following a flowchart.

 They ask you to check on or do something, and then decide what to talk to you about next based on how you responded.

No doubt some of you may have already guessed this one based on the quality of help you sometimes get, but don’t be too hard on the person on the other end. They haven’t used the product or service you’re talking to them about because the company they work for didn’t think it was important, not because they lack drive or enthusiasm. The good guru’s will branch outside their comfort zone to help determine a close to exact answer for you.

All that said, if you’re having trouble getting the help you need from the person that you first interact with, you do have options.

“We Can Escalate Your Ticket if You Ask Us To”

While it might seem like the person you first talk to in tech support is your first and last option, that’s almost never the case.

Sure, you can ask to talk to a manager if you’re running into an issue where someone isn’t cooperating with you professionally, but they’re not likely to help out much more with your actual technical issue. Managers are just that, they manage, in most cases their experience in “Support”, is next to nothing.

There is, however, another group you can talk to with more skills, and probably more experience, with the thing you need help with. It’s called “Level 2” or “Layer 2” support.

The members of this group usually don’t follow a flow chart or predetermined list of questions. These men and women are usually experienced with the product and may have even be involved in the design or development of it, meaning they’re more likely to have specific advice for your situation.

Don’t take this new information as license to interrupt a Level 1 tech before she starts talking and ask for Level 2. That first layer of support exists in part to not waste the time of higher trained support agents with easy-to-fix problems.

Keep the “Level 2” option in your back pocket for situations where you’re more knowledgeable than the Level 1 person (be honest with yourself about that one, please) or when you’re frustrated with the level of troubleshooting that’s being provided. That next level of support, will have far less patience with your attitude than resolving the issue you are having.

Another “secret”, depending on the size of the support center, there can be “Level 3” people. These people will have little to no interaction with the end user.  Layer 3, people are the people who design, support, and go beyond the devices they provide support for. Often the most experienced, but the least likely to communicate with the end user.  But if you do get a Level 3 person, remember… this person is like a “God”.

“We Have a Number-of-Calls Goal But Also a Strong Incentive To Fix Your Problem Right Now”

Tech support folks sometimes find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They often have metrics to meet on a daily basis – usually a number of calls. The more calls they take, the closer they get to their numbers, and the happier their managers are.

On the other hand, the company pushes something called first call resolution – fixing your problem the first time you call – to save on overall costs. A tech support department doesn’t make a company money. Every call incurs labor and infrastructure costs, so solving your problem quickly and efficiently saves the company money.

You can use this knowledge to your advantage, especially if you’re having a particularly tough time or the issue is clearly with the company’s product or service.

Knowing that they want you in and out quickly, and satisfied, don’t hesitate to ask for replacement hardware, a coupon or discount, or some appropriate upgrade. Ask too early and there’s no incentive on their part, but time it right and you could walk away better off than before the problem started. Most companies have learned that keeping you happy, even at a short term cost, pays off for them in the long run.

Important Note: Beware of the tech support upsell, a relatively common practice these days where tech support agents also act as salespeople, pitching you a higher tier service or an upgraded product, at a cost of course, during your call. Most of the time this is clear and easy to opt out of, but a few companies use this tactic as a way around giving you support – an “upgrade and this problem goes away” sort of thing.

“Sometimes We Have the Answer You Need But Aren’t Allowed to Tell You”

I’ve been in this situation myself, as a tech support guy, on more than one occasion. Someone calls, has a need the product I supported couldn’t satisfy, and I wasn’t allowed to do the right thing and send them elsewhere.

Luckily, more companies are realizing that “doing the right thing” isn’t just the right thing but is also good karma, in a very measurable way. Providing a positive experience, even if it means losing that person as a customer, is something we remember next time we’re in the market for something that company provides.

The lesson for you, then, as a “user” of technical support, is to remember that you may have other options, even if the person on the phone or the other end of the email chain doesn’t let you in on that. If your interaction with tech support is positive, the support person will hint at an ‘outside’ solution, without risking his job in doing so.

Remember, again, this isn’t some cult of cruel tech support folks that decided they didn’t want to help you the right way – these are company policies that the agents have little choice but to follow.

“We Have Some Not-So-Nice Code Words We Use When We’re Frustrated”

Last, but certainly not least, is a “secret” that few outside the tech support world know:you’re sometimes being made fun of, right to your face.

Ever been told that the issue you are having was an ID-10T error, or that the root of the problem was a Layer 8 issue? If so, you’ve been directly insulted and you didn’t even know it. Those are two of many “code words”, Tech Jargon, that imply that the user (that’s you) is… well… inept.

While it’s certainly no excuse, and none of these “jokes” are ever truly deserved to be thrown at your face, they do offer some frustration relief for some people in a very demanding profession.  My direct use of using “code words” when transferring a troubling call to the next ‘victim’ in the support queue, is to inform the next tech support agent know, the person they are about to deal with, has already exhausted basic troubleshooting options. Even possibly notifying the next agent, the customer might not be happy.

Every industry has it’s own “code word” base they use to point out troublesome customers.  Ask your Nurse or Doctor or even a Mechanic, what they use to identify problem customers.