How to call tech support
By: Scott Hendison   �   December 2001 -

updated November 2005

 I've been on the receiving end of hundreds, maybe thousands, of tech support calls for hardware and software issues, and it�s clear to me that what�s needed are some general guidelines for calling tech support. So here they are. While you may chuckle at some of them, I assure you, each item on this list is dealt with daily by thousands of tech support people all over the world.

General rules to follow when calling for help�

1. Before you call anyone for any reason, make sure all of your devices are plugged in, and have electrical power to the monitor AND the computer.

2. Before you call anyone for any reason, reboot (restart) your computer, and power cycle (turn off and on) any devices that may be giving you trouble, like printers, scanners, cable modems, etc. Many times this will fix things. Turn them all off, let rest 30 seconds, then turn them all on again in this order...
  • Internet device (DSL or cable modem)
  • Router - (assuming you have more than one computer) sometimes they are combined with the modem, and can be wired or wireless or both.
  • Server - Again, assuming you have one.
  • Individual computers
  • Any peripheral devices

3. Know what your computers� general speed, memory, and Operating System are (right click My Computer � select properties - Go to Gewneral tab). Also know the version numbers of any software you are having trouble with. (to determine the software version in 98% of all software, open the software, go to help - about �your software name�. 

4. Know the problem you�re having and if necessary, have it written down. Calls describing �some sort of error message but I didn�t write it down� are frustrating for both parties. Know exactly what happens and when it happens so you can let the support person try to figure out WHY it happens and help you instantly.

5. Don�t bother calling when you�re in a big hurry. The wait will seem longer, and you�ll just get frustrated. Be sure you have time to spend on hold with large companies.

6. Disable (dial *70), or ignore your call waiting. If this problem is important enough to call for, then it�s important enough to prioritize. Putting tech support people on hold, might get you �accidentally disconnected�. ;)

7. Call for help only while you are in the same building as your computer and have the power on the computer already turned on, and you're already on the internet. Preferably, be seated in front of your computer with the time to solve the problem once they answer. 

8. If the support problem with a telephone modem, or dialup ISP connection, then try to phone for help from a cel phone or secondary phone line that is not used by your computer to dial out on. There is no way to fix a dialup connection if you are speaking on that phone line.

9. After your problem is understood, and they start directing you, try to simply follow the directions of the support person the best you can with a minimum of interaction. If he says �open My Computer� don�t tell him �Okay, now I see  �A floppy drive�, a �C hard drive and D : CDRW" etc. The support person knows what you see, and that�s why he told you to go there in the first place. (No offense intended, Dad!)

10. Before the end of your conversation, even if they have completely fixed the problem, ask for an �incident number� or �case number� . Once you get it, put it by their name and keep track of it. Log all of your support calls on your computer. This will be a reference in your permanent record for your next call, should it become necessary.

Telephone tech support is a grueling job to do all day long. As a support tech, nobody is ever glad to talk to you, and everyone has a problem they expect fixed immediately. So often though, the problem is just due to simple user error and the support techs become pretty jaded. Being an informed caller, with these points above covered, will give you (and your support person) a more rewarding experience with a minimum amount of frustration.

E-mailing tech support

IE-mail support has become the way things get done. The best way to keep a support ticket alive or keep track of any  information is in a chain of email replies. Back and forth emails keep a full record to easily reference for both parties.

It's frustrating to have to sift through 10 emails you've sent to find something said earlier about the same subject. An e-mail reply that quotes all the previous text is a great way to keep two or more parties up to date about any specific issue, not just tech support.  If you have your case ID or incident number in the subject line, you'll always have it when you need it.


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Scott is the CEO of Search Commander, Inc. and owner of Portland Technology Consultants, MPH computing, and Get WordPressed. He is a on the Board of Directors for the Oregon Computer Consultants Association, and an active member of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce.

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