Tech Support Rarely Solves Problems

from the no-surprise-there dept

Having just completed a rather unsatisfying series of phone calls with tech support, I’d say it’s no surprise that most people think software tech support sucks, and 1 in 3 callers go away without their problem being resolved by the support staff. Consumer Reports claims that the problem is increasingly flawed software, combined with tech support cutbacks. It even says, in many cases, it’s the customers who end up helping the software companies fix their own problems for them. Not very encouraging.

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Comments on “Tech Support Rarely Solves Problems”

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thecaptain says:

that's dead on

In most smaller firms, the pressure to release from management is intense. 6 years ago, I worked tech support in a firm making one industry specialized app. It was relatively stable, selling for about 5000$-15000$ per contract.
We were bought out by a big firm in the states, a CEO was flown in from the states along with a cadre of VPs (all salesguys) to bring us up to speed for an IPO.
Within 2 months, the prices for contracts became anywhere from 50000$ to 500000$ per. We were instructed to drop to the end of the support line our old “poor” customers and fasttrack all the new ones.
In the contracts, a new version was GUARANTEED, every SIX months. Instructions came down to ignore beta testing, Q&A was cut in half and this was explicitly stated: “Let tech support handle it”
In tech support, “efficiency” was measured in “closed calls” not resolved calls. Which made things worse…the focus was on closing a call at any cost, for any reason (failure for a customer to call back within an alloted time was reason number one…never mind that our cues were busy as hell)…no call was to ever be left “open” for more than a day or two, regardless of the outcome…no more following up on a problem until resolution.
In short, the company made a huge IPO, the CEO and VPs got rich, the company went out of business 6 months after (I got out 4 months early) and the CEOs and VPs are with the company that their stuff was sold off to, along with a couple of people I know and as of today, the practices I described above are still the same.
As long as companies see tech support as a place for low paid, high-turnover employees, as a drag on profits and as a dumping ground for beta testing…we will continue to see this with all commercial software.
Personally, I figure if I’m gonna wrestle with bugs and help anyone fix them, I’ll play more and more with open-source, at least I’ll get something out of it.

Bill says:


I’m a quasi-techie who’s primariily a freelancer. Not a programmer or sysadmin, just somebody who’s not afraid of my equipment. In a lot of small offices without an IT dept., I tend to find myself labeled the alpha geek. I will troubleshoot on my own for a significant amount of time before I call tech support and given the opportunity, I will have pertinent facts about the situation ready.

I don’t want to blame the support personel too much. — more like their passive-aggressive bosses (see above comment) and/or the other customers who apparently couldn’t find their ass with both hands.

That said, there must be something about troubleshooting over the phone that makes support people all sound like condescending asshats. I didn’t spent the last 1/2 hour on hold so you could ask me if I tried rebooting. Yes I did, several times. I also tried X,Y, & Z. Maybe your product just blows.

VonSkippy says:

Ya get what ya pay for

Several factors lead to poor tech support, but the bottom line is the general public are morons. First they want the moon for $19.95 meaning profit from the sale is zip, hence where is the money to fund good tech support. Second they don’t take the time to learn basic computer skills. Both lead to a lose lose situation. Most of the vocal “tech support sucks” people are the few users that have a brain (or at least common sense) but have the misfortune to be caller number 500. Put yourself in the tech support persons shoes – after dealing with 100’s of morons that need to be hand-held thru the tedious process of inserting a CD into the drive and you might have a “asshat” attitude as well. The solution – stop buying from companies with poor support track records – in this biz, money talks.

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course - tech support is the dumping ground

It all comes down to money. Tech support is a cost, so companies want to minimize the money spent. That means low paid workers, little training, and crappy equipment. Combine that with buggy software, and idiot customers, and you get a mess.

Support folk come in two varietys: a) the customer service type, who is good on the phone, stays calm, pleasant speaking voice, and willing to work for cheap. They like their jobs and are willing to stay there. Problem is, most have little tech knowledge, no internal product knowledge, and few skills like troubleshooting.
Often they are not interested in getting those skills either.
They basically work thru a script and if they hit the end of the script (or anything off script) its all over. They’ll bump it up to next level support, and have a nice day.

Your type b support people are tech knowledgeable, curious, experimental, and like to tinker. They want to get their MCSE or CCIE or whatever they can get their hands on.
Usually they have poor phone (or customer management ) skills, and come off as aggresive, patronizing, bored, asshats, or whatever. These people’s
main goal in life is to move up and out of tech support as fast as possible.

Then you have your customers. First (usually the
majority) who have few computer skills and who seldom need more than a reboot to fix their problem. Most of the time, following the tech repair script will fix most of these issues.
Then there are the techie callers, who have already tried most of the simple fixes. The problem with them is that they usually have run into the insoluable problems – real hard software bugs – that tech support just can’t do anything about. They are going to need a patch or upgrade.
If they are unfortunate enough to get matched up with a type a employee, then they are just miserable.

Its a lose lose situation for almost all involved.

aNonMooseCowherd says:

some truth to both sides

There’s some truth to both sides. A lot of people do seem to expect computers to read their minds and figure out what they want to do, even when they themselves don’t have a very clear idea. On the other hand, some tech support departments are staffed by people who don’t know how to do much more than read from a list of scripted answers. If your question isn’t on their list, they try to reinterpret it as a question that is on the list and give you the canned answer.

SB says:

Tech Support Rarely Solves Problems

Tech support is a part of the business plan like everything else for most companies. As such it must be managed (read measured and controlled). Some of us Tech Support types have more answers than we’re allowed to provide. Our calls are recorded and monitored. The company is concerned (rightfully so) with being help financially responsible if something goes wrong. Helping someone correct a problem they caused (or at least we didn’t cause) can and often does have negative consequences for us. Between customers often treating us like dirt, managers ready to “coach us” when we go to far, and the lack of pay, is it any wonder the good ones move on asap?

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