Fight for your right to better tech support

Editors note: This is one of several columns that I wrote for the Columbia Missourian. They were originally called Your Digital World

Just recently, my soon-to-be mother-in-law had to call her computer manufacturer because her taskbar, the gray bar along the bottom of most Windows screens that includes the Start menu and the clock, had disappeared.

The company told her to try a few simple techniques to get it back. When those failed, they told her to use their system restore CD to fix the problem.

The tech support person she talked to didn’t know – or didn’t care – about the fact that the program on the CD reformatted her hard drive in the process. She had her taskbar back, but she lost every bit of data on her computer.

I don’t know what caused her taskbar to disappear. But even if the problem necessitated a system wipe, the technician could have had her install over the existing operating system first. (This often restores missing or corrupted files while not harming your data.) Assuming that her computer did need a complete reformatting, they could have at least warned her and maybe walked her through copying data to a Zip disk.

I know there are plenty of people manning the phones out there who know their stuff. But a great many companies hire people with little to no tech knowledge, and plop them down with a phone and a manual. These people are trained to tell customers that when all else fails use the system restore disk, or reboot or countless other fallback options.

So I’m here to tell you to run to your phones, to run to your e-mails and I want you to tell the tech support department that you’re mad as hell, and you’re not going to take it anymore!

Well, not really. But you should have that kind of an attitude. Let me leave you with a few tips for getting tech support:

They are there to work for you – if they’re talking too fast, or you don’t understand what they want you to do, tell them to slow down and explain it. Don’t let them push you around.

Don’t take no for an answer – if you don’t get the information you need, or don’t like the way a tech support person is treating you, bump it upstairs … ask to speak to his or her supervisor. If the same thing happens, keep going (if you get a response from Bill Gates, e-mail me a transcript for posterity).

When all else fails – make sure to check manuals and Web sites for help before calling because you just might find the answer you need and you’ll get it without the hassle of a phone call.

Don’t pay for it – there are too many people like me walking around to have to pay for an answer. If your product or program requires you to pay for help, give your local tech guru (or “geek” if they prefer) a call.

Good places to start are at your company’s information technology department; ask a friend or neighbor where to get help; finally feel free to e-mail, I’ll answer all the e-mails I get. And if I don’t have it, I’ll find someone who does – I know where people like me hang out.

About Chris

Python developer, Agile practitioner trying desperately not to be a pointy haired boss.
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