Tech Supports' Job: Getting You Off The Phone

from the not-well dept

Salon has quite the story of an insider's view of being at a call center that does tech support for a major computer maker. Many of us know already that these call centers (run by outside companies) are often paid based on how many calls they take - not on how many people they actually help. As you might imagine, that means that these call centers have incentive to get people off the phone quickly - not to actually help them. The author describes a variety of "strategies" that people within the center (many of whom don't know much about the technology they're supposed to be supporting) use to get people off the phone quickly. If you've ever dealt with tech support, you'll probably recognize all of these people: the punter (who passes you off to someone else saying it's their problem), the giver (who just has the company send out a repair part - even if it's not what's needed) and the dreaded "formatter" who tells you the only possible solution is to format your hard drive. Apparently, this is often a bluff to convince callers that they're better off just living with whatever problem they have than erasing their hard drive. Of course, the real damage being done is to the computer companies who hire these companies - and who end up with angry customers who will never by another machine from them. Considering all the stories of dreadful tech support, you would think these companies would try to work on alternative compensation systems with these companies. However, it appears many of them have made the decision that it's okay to piss off their customers (and give up future revenue and live with people telling all their friends how much certain computer companies suck) as long as their support costs are a bit less.

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  1. identicon
    data64, Feb 23rd, 2004 @ 2:31pm

    that's because everyone sucks

    it appears many of them have made the decision that it's okay to piss off their customers (and give up future revenue and live with people telling all their friends how much certain computer companies suck) as long as their support costs are a bit less.

    I guess the reasoning is, since everyone's techsupport sucks the customer really does not have a choice. [rant]Most customers would rather pay less than go to a company that charges a bit more but provides good support. I guess the customers are voting with their money on which they would rather have.[/rant]

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Rob, Feb 23rd, 2004 @ 4:16pm

    Re: that's because everyone sucks

    I totally agree with the prior comment. Tech support sucks because people always choose a product based solely on price. If company A sells a product for $99 with good support and company B sells the product for $89 with lousy support, 99.9% of the American public will buy from B, and A will be forced to lower their price and "cut costs" (destroy their good support). This is happening in practically every segment of the market, not just computers. Americans are getting exactly what they are willing to pay for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    thecaptain, Feb 23rd, 2004 @ 4:27pm

    Re: that's because everyone sucks

    The problem is that this isn't cheap or even bad tech support.

    This account, if its accurate, and I have no doubt it is, is bordering on fraud. Legal fraud unfortunately, but fraud nonetheless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Andreas Dorn, Feb 23rd, 2004 @ 8:36pm

    Support Service and Offshoring

    I guess there are a lot of reasons behind this:
    1.) Customers are no longer (were never?) used to good service – so they just bear with existing customer service.
    2.) Customers just hope that their product will “stay alive” for a year or two when they purchase it and after that, hey would just buy another one anyway. So they don't look that much for service needed during the lifetime of a product in the first place – do you? Did any of you ever thought of thinking about aftersales service when buying a product and that one actually needs to call someone to get things done?
    3.) Companies are all the same, feel the same, look the same - years of benchmarking and cost cutting take their toll. And, companies are not able or don't see sense in serving a customer well, since customers have no choice to go anywhere else anyway
    4.) I wonder how customers are treated when a company calls who has a couple of 100 or 1,000 computers. What is described might just be the result of customer segmentation and/ or the famous 80/20 rule - get rid of those that don't generate revenues for the company.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Jeremiah, Feb 24th, 2004 @ 2:48am

    Re: that's because everyone sucks

    Sure does make for a lot of work for those of us who handle the occasional PC help call from our friends. I can't tell you how often I've heard folks tell me "I tried tech support but just couldn't........."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    thecaptain, Feb 24th, 2004 @ 4:03am

    Re: Support Service and Offshoring

    re: 4)

    I can tell you first hand that Dell treats you EXACTLY the same. I was on hand at my SO's company (waiting for her to finish up) when I heard a call from one of their guys to Dell about a faulty laptop. They had just purchased a few thousand of them.

    The FIRST...I mean, the VERY first reply was:
    "Well sir, you'll have to put in your restore CDs and that will format and restore your Windows XP and will absolutely fix the problem"

    The guy didn't even let the caller get TO the actual problem...

    I went over, knew what the solution was, told the caller, and to my delight the caller got mad, stayed on the line and pushed until he GOT the same solution from the tech support wienie..took 35 mins.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    EnglishSteve, Feb 24th, 2004 @ 8:41am

    Re: Support Service and Offshoring

    re: 2)

    It depends on the product. I build my own computer systems from commodity (i.e. not leading edge) components that are fairly cheap and replace them as necessary (which isn't often) - in these cases I don't care about support at all.

    With 'systems' that are too complex for me to build or accurately fix myself, such as a modern car, service *does* come into my decision process. Length of warranty, loaner cars, the dealership's attitude all come into play.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    PjuzzyLogic, Feb 24th, 2004 @ 1:25pm

    Well, I work a helpdesk..

    I work a helpdesk at the current time. I suppose I am one of the few that loves dealing with the systems just as much as I enjoy working with others to correct the problem.

    I like to resolve the problems users are having, even if I have to call them back to research the problem.

    However where I work, I was told that "We should be the first and final place people have to call to resolve their problem.". And yes, that is very rare to come across now days, most people truely do not care about the person on the other end.

    Call me an old hippy. (and thanks to)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Blair P. Houghton, Mar 29th, 2004 @ 8:27pm


    The queue is the queue. What goes in comes out.
    But if they actually *help* someone, they're likely to want to call *back* next time they have a minor problem.
    That will *increase* call volumes, hence revenues.
    So either the reportage behind this story is apocryphal, or the real story--that call-center management is even dumber than it is greedy--is going unreported.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    James, May 21st, 2004 @ 7:08am

    Re: Self-defeating

    Computers suck, that's all. If we treated computers like cars, 99% of us would be returning them because using the state's "no lemon" policy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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