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
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
- 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
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
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
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.
Client & Web