|Calling tech support doesn't have to |
ruin your day. Really.
Technical Account Manager, MasterControl
Life hacks, which are practical tips or shortcuts that help you get things done faster and more efficiently, are all the rage these days. A quick Google search reveals hacks for overcoming many of life’s pesky obstacles or frustrations—from how to keep a pot of water from boiling over (place a wooden spoon across the top it) to how to light a candle wick without burning your fingers (use a dried spaghetti noodle).
For some users, calling tech support is considered to be one of those hack-worthy frustrations. With this in mind, I’d like to suggest some handy hacks to make your interactions with tech support, whether you’re calling about software, hardware, or technology in general, smooth and less stressful. They may help you avoid having to call at all.
1. Keep your tech support contact information close at hand. This first hack seems like a given, but, if you’re like most people, you have no idea how to reach your technology vendors’ tech support teams. You probably don’t give it a second thought, until something goes wrong. Let’s face it, tech support emergencies always seem to happen at the most inopportune times. Do yourself a favor and take ten minutes to program the contact information for your critical technology vendors into your phone BEFORE you need them. Most vendors give you the option of contacting them either online or by telephone, so jot down both.
Don’t waste time, or stress yourself out, scrambling to find contact information when you’re in the middle of a support issue or emergency. (Do not, however, save confidential information, such as your user name and password, on your computer, smart phone, or device. Store them on a removable USB drive or consider using a password tracking tool, as described in tip two.)
2. Use a Password Tracking Tool to Manage Multiple Logins. When you contact tech support, you will be expected to provide your login information, which is usually your user name and password. (Don’t expect your provider to know this!) We all know how important it is to use strong and unique passwords for each site, but this is easier said than done. A study of Web users by Microsoft Research found that the average user has 6.5 Web passwords, each of which is shared across almost four different websites. In addition, each user has about 25 accounts that require passwords, and types an average of 8 passwords per day (1). That’s a lot of information to remember, why is probably why 34% of all calls to tech support are related to forgotten passwords.
Fortunately, there are some great tools and services available to help you keep your passwords secure and accessible from multiple computers or web browsers—some are even free. LastPass is a popular password manager that will help you generate safe and secure passwords for each site, and then automatically fill in your user name and password every time return to the site. LastPass is free, but you can upgrade to its Premium version, which offers unlimited access to many mobile apps and added multifactor authentication options, for $12.00 per year. An enterprise version for businesses is also available. Some other password tracking tools to check out are 1Password and KeePass.
Now you’ll never be at a loss when your tech support representative asks you for your login information, or have to call tech support because you’ve forgotten your password.
3. Restart, Reboot, Reset. If you receive an error message, your first line of attack should be to restart your computer. Sometimes computers get confused or overwhelmed. Working in several different applications throughout the day, but neglecting to close them once you’ve finished using them, takes up valuable memory, and might cause your computer to crash. Often times, you can save yourself a call by simply rebooting.
4. Gather Some Information BEFORE You Call for Help. You’ll avoid a lot of needless confusion and frustration by familiarizing yourself with the components of your computer and/or system before contacting tech support. For example, you should be able to tell the tech support rep what type of operating system you’re running on, how much memory you have, the exact error message you received, and what you were trying to do when it occurred. If you’re calling about a more sophisticated system, such as an ERP or QMS, make sure you know the names of your servers, server paths, and understand the components that are installed on each server. As a general rule, the better prepared you are, the faster your issue will be resolved.
5. Keep Lines of Communication Open. Tech support is a team effort. Your support representative wants to help, but he or she will need some help from you, too. Try to be as descriptive as possible when explaining the problem; it’s better to provide too much information rather than not enough. However, try to avoid using words like “whatchamacallit” when you are referring to a pop-up window or mouse cursor. Also, fess up if you’ve done anything that may have caused the issue, such as opening up a strange email attachment. Trust me, the tech support rep has heard it all before and is probably going to figure it out eventually anyway. Above all, be patient. An effective tech support rep should be able to pare down the list of possible causes of a problem, but expect some trial an error before the culprit is uncovered and you’re back in business.
(1) Thomas Wailgum, PC World (online),”Too Many Passwords or Not Enough Brain Power?,” September 9, 2008. Available from the Internet: http://www.pcworld.com/article/150874/password_brain_power.html
Eric Weeks joined MasterControl in 2005, bringing with him extensive experience in technical support, on-site support, and on-call 24-hour support. Prior to joining MasterControl, he has worked for medical billing software companies and resellers in Arizona, California, and Utah. He has served four years on active duty in the U.S. Army.