Computer Talk Radio weekly show for the broadcast week starting December 15th, 2012. Benjamin Rockwell, our expert on technical support, leads us through the jungles of technical support, guiding us on our path towards problem resolution. Benjamin’s experience on both sides of the phone calls with technical support, leads to an expanded understanding of how the system works, and how to be more effective. He introduces the characters on your journey, how to prepare for the support call ahead of time, and the things you need to know before the call to ensure success. He then tells you how to spend the call time towards your goal, and explains the tricks and the traps that come from call escalation. Finally, he rounds out with describing what you can do after the call to help yourself, and others. The show website includes the full “script” and notes, including a special cheat sheet for you to use when you call technical support.

Word Document – SUPERSHOW – Navigating Tech Support.doc (Contact me via email, and I’ll send it!)
Below is the text for the Word document, for those who are considered about opening Word documents from online…

Text from the Word document…

• I use technical support all of the time. I’ve been accustomed to tech support calls since long before I started in the industry. Since there are a variety of areas of expertise, even I need help sometimes.
• One technical support call was in regards to a computer virus that I had received on my BBS many years ago. A friendly guy in the San Francisco Bay area helped me out with figuring out the problem, and earned me as a friend. His name, John, still sticks in my mind to this day, and he had only a handful, perhaps about 8 people working for him at the time. His company has since been sold, but John McAfee, yes, the man behind McAfee, really made my day, or rather late evening, back in 1990.
• Still, not all of the phone calls that I have made have been so wonderful, and that’s what this hour is about… it’s surviving the call, and making it to resolution without pain.
• You can have some great calls throughout your life, or each one can be miserable. These tips and tricks are set in place for a multitude of reasons, from making life easy, to getting what you need.
• The tips and tricks that I present over this show can be used in other kinds of customer service calls, whether it’s to your credit card company or bank, or to a government agency.
• The key issue for all of this, however, is in regards to technical support… people dread this the most.
• I’ve divided this up into special segments, being as follows:
o Introduction of the characters you’ll meet on this long journey
o Preparing for the support call and due diligence to ensure success
o How to spend time during the support call to optimize resolution
o Escalation to new levels when the current path is not working
o After the call to help yourself, and others with greater success
• First and foremost, I want you to keep calm through the entire call.
• Remember the old adage that you get more flies with honey than with vinegar. Be nice, friendly, and by all means, apologize for any outbursts. Your demeanor is being noted, and if you’re hostile, you’ll be escalated to someone who is equally hostile, which is counterproductive to your needs.
• Let’s cover the different folks that you may meet on the phone call.
• I call this one the Bruiser. This person is the one that says “Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200”. If you have a major problem call anyway, you may wind up there, but the goal is to avoid them ahead of time.
• Script Reader – Self Explanatory, the technician who doesn’t know troubleshooting, and has very specific guidelines to go by. No, they don’t know how to process the information critically. They will pass you along as needed, however, your goal is Tier 2, not the Bruiser.
• Tier 2 Tech – This person has been a Script Reader, but has expressed a genuine knowledge of the material. They know how to think outside of the script, and have a desire to fix, but they sometimes fail.
• Tier 3 Tech – This person either wrote the script, or was consulted during the authorship. You’ll spend at least an hour getting to them, and if it’s simple troubleshooting, they’ll hate you… but if it’s a genuine problem , and you’ve exhausted the other levels, this person will love your challenge.
• Supervisors – Yes, the pencil pusher at each level. This person can be a bruiser or a bonus… the bruiser you already know. The bonus is someone who you can reason gently with, schmooze, and use to get to the person who will solve the problem.
• The VIP – If you ever get this high, and you do it nicely, you’ll be in a position to be puzzled, and puzzle the Vice President, CEO, or whatever, into wondering why you weren’t cared for in the first place. This gets you onto a special list which gives you VIP status on future calls, if handled right.
• Introduction of the characters
• Preparing for the support call
• How to spend time during the support call
• Escalation to new levels
• After the call
• Let’s create a checklist, and I’m going to place this checklist up on-line for before your call… I’ve created a Word Document that’s perfect for this, and it’s posted on-line at Computer Talk This entire set of show notes is also attached to it to give you a heads up on how it works.
• First, have the specifics of your computer problem documented out… specific error messages, problems that are occurring, and so forth. You want to document the problem carefully for the person on the other end. They make money by getting your solution fast, so help them help you. If they have to wait for you, they’ll be less enthusiastic about helping you.
• Next, let’s note down everything that you’ve done already, using an appropriate amount of detail, so that you might prepare them if asked.
• You’ll need to document your items make, model, serial number and/or service tag number, and have that ready to give, rather than hunting for it.
• I want you to document if you have a reason for urgency, and this needs to be legitimate. Don’t make up stuff for this, but at least note it down in writing if you’ve got something urgent going on.
• List on the sheet the specific date of the call, and we’ll go on in a few minutes to note the time.
• You’ll also want to document the tech support number that you called, as well as each digit that you entered afterward, to speed things along. That Interactive Voice Response is a killer, but if you have the shortcuts noted, when you call back tomorrow, you’ll be through it in no time at all.
• You should have noted all of this down on my cheat sheet (from Computer Talk, and have a pad of paper handy by your side. The pad of paper is to expand on the cheat sheet.
• Next… Please, by all means, use the restroom, then take 2 minutes to calm down and relax. I like to say a prayer, not only for the computer, but for the technician on the other end of the phone, but whatever works for you. It’s about being in the right frame of mind and keeping your wits about you as well.
• I want you to prepare to empathize with these folks. It’s hard to do, but you have to put yourself there.
• You need to understand that many of these numbers are going to far off lands, where the folks are dealing with many calls similar to yours. They are working on getting through each call quickly to move to the next one… or they’ll get in trouble.
• You may have called 4 times before, but you have to give the person on the other end a chance to fix the problem or escalate without you being irate.
• These folks are the grunts, the front line, and usually can only do two things.
o Fix your problem from a script, or escalate your call.
o Still, if you’ve already done a particular task, see if they’ll allow you to skip instead of repeat.
o Escalation is fine, but if you are not calm and forgiving at this stage, you may be escalated to a bruiser, rather than a solutions expert. The bruiser deals with the hard cases, and is hard back.

• Introduction of the characters
• Preparing for the support call
• How to spend time during the support call
• Escalation to new levels
• After the call
• When the person answers, you need to perform the same kind of charm that you would with someone you want a favor from. This tact and diplomacy may be dropped later, but is needed for at least the first three levels, and at the beginning of each brand new level.
• Calmly, advise them of your name, and give your call back number immediately.
• Ask them kindly for their name, and repeat it back at each chance you get. Ask for their title, as well as an operator or employee ID number for your files, and ask if they have a direct local line in case you get disconnected. You may not get all items, but try (kindly) to get everything you can. Through this, you’re establishing your reliance upon them for fixing the problem or guiding you in the right direction.
• They may have a series of questions to establish you as a customer, but then they’ll move to their script.
• If you get a chance to ask for a case number now, by all means do so. This helps you save time if you accidentally lose connection.
• When you get to this point, as needed, advise them that you have performed certain tasks already, or at least establish your skill level to them. If you say you are a novice, they’ll treat you differently if you ask for their patience. If you are an expert, you might advise that you’ve tried many of the standard things, and ask them to be more up front on their intentions from the script…. which may or may not happen.
• If you have to repeat tasks, please do them willingly for a short while. Sometimes the first level, the script reader, can’t handle much more than this. Humor them and yourself to ensure due diligence.
• Document the steps on the cheat sheet, or that pad of paper. If you run out of room on the cheat sheet, grab that pad, and write “Tech 1” “Tech 2” or whatever on the top of the page. Don’t put two techs on the same page, but keep your notes simple and succinct.
• Record keeping is crucial at all stages, and will help you as well. You’re making notes, and it’s better to be quick for the technician, than document word for word. Use a shorthand of some sort, but somehow be responsive to the technician. You can make your notes during those times when you are on hold, waiting for the computer to reboot or start a program, or whatever.
• Every chance you get, write something nice about the technician on your pad. It’s worth it!
• The technician at this level will try a number of things, as they are responsible for another statistic, called first call resolution. They are hoping to keep that number high, as well as the length of resolution, in order to keep their very job.
• At a certain point, you’ll be presented with one of two paths to the same destination. The next portion will cover exactly that.

• Introduction of the characters
• Preparing for the support call
• How to spend time during the support call
• Escalation to new levels
• After the call
• This transition from your current person to the next one requires patience and polite attitude.
• Abusive language should be avoided, as well as any words that you wouldn’t want to hear from a 6yr old
o Once you venture down the road of screaming, cursing, and abuse, they can hang up, and once they do, you’re marked as a “DNH” – Do Not Help… the curse of being cancelled
• You may be escalated to a new level, or you may decide that you need to be escalated to the next level.
• Escalation to the next level on their part is great, but we need to also address getting to the next level.
• Never be afraid to ask for the next level, if the technician is not helping. Be very nice, and calm, and advise your concerns, covering the fact that you know their time is valuable.
• Two things can happen here… you can be escalated, which is good, or they’ll resist. Many times I meet with resistance, but I slowly build a case for escalation. I establish that I’ve already tried many things that they have suggested. I explain errors in logic, but in a kind manner, and I explain that my problem appears to be beyond a script. You may have to establish something different.
• DON’T ALLOW A CALL BACK. This is usually the kiss of death, and does not fill your needs.
o Supervisors are always in some “important meeting”… and so are their bosses. Ask for escalation to their bosses as needed. (Night-time is a little different, but usually workable)
o Explain that you want a resolution now, as you have lost faith in the promises of return calls.
o If you must, insist on a call within a specific time frame, and request point of escalation if no return call is made.
• Your goal at a certain point, if you’re not longer gaining resolution, is to work the cost numbers in your favor. Remember that DNH… well, until you are abusive or foul, they shouldn’t hang up.
• So how can you use leverage to get to that next level from a stubborn operator?
o Yes, I know that you’ve noted their names already, but ask them to confirm their name again.
o Ask why you aren’t being escalated when you’ve asked for escalation. Surely they aren’t refusing a reasonable request?
o Make a plea, explaining that you understand that it’s not their fault, but they have the power to help you. Empower them to transfer your call.
o Calmly repeat your desire for escalation… Lather, rinse, repeat!
o Yep, work this again and again… giving up is a win for them in the game.
• After escalation, confirm names and titles, as they sometimes play games by fake escalation to a peer.
• Now, you calmly repeat the process again. You need to ignore the previous levels, don’t beat up the next level for the previous levels inadequacies… These are last resorts until the CEO.
• Document the names, the actions, and after a while, calmly request escalation again.
• Save your righteous indignation for Tier 3 supervisors and above when they fail you, but still remain calm and collected.
• Introduction of the characters
• Preparing for the support call
• How to spend time during the support call
• Escalation to new levels
• After the call
• This is it… you’ve made it thus far. Your problem hopefully has been resolved in one way or another.
• Following this path usually results in success, and rarely in failure…
o If failure, shrug your shoulders, and move on…
• You may have topped my past levels, and been on the phone for the better part of a day.
• Your goal is not to end now… but to ensure that future calls are handled better… if not for you, then for someone else.
• You have a detailed account, and now it’s time to thank the persons who helped you thus far. Send an e-mail if you have their addresses, or someones address.
• Remember those nice things you wrote? Place them down, and build bridges.
• This is the time to apologize for any wrongs you may have done along the way.
• You also have a track record in case the problem comes back, or was never resolved in the first place.
• Remember, patience, virtue, and kindness got you this far.
• Go that extra mile for your next phone call, and you’ll be amazed.
• Send in a letter documenting your success, and your thanks for people who solved the problem.
• John McAfee may not remember me this many years later, but I remember him. I want you to remember the technicians in that same way… with kindness of thought.