Monday, April 21, 2014

What to know BEFORE you call Tech Support

Eventually something will happen, and you will have to call tech support for some type of computer issue.  In this article, I provide a few tips and tricks for you to know before you contact them to help your issue get resolved more smoothly.


Caveat: This article is intended to provide general guidelines that, in my experience, are the most common causes of delays when dealing with tech support.  Specific technical support groups will likely have slightly differing requirements, especially if you are contacting the internal tech support group for your employer.

When contacting tech support:
  • If there was a specific error message that was displayed, have the EXACT wording available.
    • The technician on the other end won't have much to go on if all you can say is that there was "an error message".  Being able to say that the system displayed a message stating "Error 1327. Invalid Drive: D:\" provides the technician with something that can be more easily translated into a solution for you.
    • When writing down an error message, be sure to include everything on the message.  Something that may look like a random string of meaningless numbers may actually be part of an error code that could directly translate into a quick solution to your issue.
    • A good way to capture all of the information in an error message is to take a picture of the message.  For example, if the error is on your laptop, you could take a picture of the error with your smartphone.
  • Know as much as you can about what you were doing when the problem occurred.
    • If there wasn't an error message displayed, or if you were using a device that has no method of relaying error information to you, a support technician can usually get quite a bit of information just from the events surrounding the error.
    • There may be certain specific sequences of events that will always result in a problem.  Tech support will generally know this and may be able to provide you with a work around.
  • Be patient!
    • Most tech support is much easier in person where the technician can see the error occur.  You are likely calling someone or using an online chat feature.  This makes the work of diagnosing your issue a few orders of magnitude harder.  It will take longer than you think it should.
    • The technician wants to get your issue resolved at least as much as you want it resolved, and likely even more so.  Tech support personnel are usually under performance requirements. Sometimes it even affects their pay.  Getting your issue resolved quickly has direct benefits for them.
As I said before, this list is just a few suggestions based on my experience over the last decade and a half as a tech support employee.  If you have any other suggestions that you think should be part of this list, please let me know in the comments!