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Tech Support Getting Even Worse

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the you-mean-it-was-useful-once dept.

Technology 529

ehiris writes: "Came across an article on CNN about tech support falling out of the useful category. The interesting quote: 'In part, the problem can be blamed on tech companies' attempts to cope with shrinking profit margins and a bad business environment.' Bad tech support makes life hard and new technology becomes undesirable to the general public. Which company has the best support? What are they doing well? What would you like to see improve about tech support?"

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Things To Do Today (-1)

Ralph Malph Alpha (551824) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425177)

1. Have sex with a black woman

2. Have sex with a white woman

Re:Things To Do Today (-1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425352)

I've had sex with women women, but I've never had sex with a black woman.

I doubt it would any different, but nevertheless it would be interesting.

Not First Post! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425179)

This is not the first post! Oh yeah!

first post, carolyn!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425182)

yo! you rule

Hey (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425184)

ACs suck.

Oh, wait.

Word of the Day for Slashdot (-1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425185)

The Word of the Day for April 28 is: kakistocracy \kak-uh-STAH-kruh-see\ (noun) : government by the worst people Example sentence: A political exile forced to emigrate from her homeland, Dalia remains convinced that the government of her native country is a corrupt kakistocracy. Did you know? A reader of _Time_ magazine was once so surprised to find this rare and unusual word in the pages of that publication that he decided the occasion warranted a letter to the editor. "Where in the name of Semanticus, did your writer come up with that word 'kakistocracy,'" he wrote in a letter dated February 6, 1956. "Is it a government of parrots?" (A "kaka" is a New Zealand parrot.) Good guess, but "kakistocracy" actually originated as a combination of the Greek "kakistos" (superlative of "kakos," which means "bad") and the English suffix "-cracy," meaning "form of government." NOTE: Today's Word of the Day is taken from _Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged_. You can find this word and many other uncommon words on our new site, Merriam-Webster unabridged. Sign up now for your 14-day free trial!

Re:Word of the Day for Slashdot (-1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425204)

The Word of the Day for April 28 is:

kakistocracy \kak-uh-STAH-kruh-see\ (noun) : government by the worst people []

Example sentence:

A political exile forced to emigrate from her homeland, Dalia remains convinced that the government of her native country is a corrupt kakistocracy.

Did you know?

A reader of _Time_ magazine was once so surprised to find this rare and unusual word in the pages of that publication that he decided the occasion warranted a letter to the editor. "Where in the name of Semanticus, did your writer come up with that word 'kakistocracy,'" he wrote in a letter dated February 6, 1956. "Is it a government of parrots?" (A "kaka" is a New Zealand parrot.) Good guess, but "kakistocracy" actually originated as a combination of the Greek "kakistos" (superlative of "kakos," which means "bad") and the English suffix "-cracy," meaning "form of government."

NOTE: Today's Word of the Day is taken from _Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged_. You can find this word and many other uncommon words on our new site, Merriam-Webster unabridged. Sign up now for your 14-day free trial!

Grr (0, Flamebait)

KanSer (558891) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425186)

I hate all manners of tech support. They don't usually know what they are talking about and then theres crap involving restrictions and frankly, the best tech support are your geek buddies and the guy at the local computer place. They know there shit. I don't like calling my tech support company because they are in Quebec and are such assholes that they insist on french. Lousy frogs... :P (Pirst Fost?)

sigh... (2, Troll)

adam613 (449819) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425188)

Yet another thing Microsoft has forced the world to get used to...

Re:sigh... (1)

koreth (409849) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425235)

What does this have to do with Microsoft? Reducing support costs is an industrywide -- no, make that societywide -- trend. Microsoft may be doing the same thing, but to my mind it's ludicrous to blame them for other companies' perception of tech support as an expense they need to reduce to be (more) profitable. In what sense do you think Microsoft is behind it?

Re:sigh... (2, Insightful)

adam613 (449819) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425250)

Because Microsoft has forced us to accept the fact that computers don't work and need to be rebooted/reformatted/whatever several times per day. Since people are used to the fact that computers break, companies can have bad tech support, and it won't reflect poorly on them because computers naturally can't be expected to function well.

My original post was not intending to be funny or a troll; I was completely serious.

I agree (1)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425286)

I strongly agree with the above comment. Unfortunately I don't have moderation points.

Companies are following Microsoft's lead in being abusive.

As they say (2, Funny)

The Smith (305645) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425196)

Those who can, do

Those who almost can, support

Those who can't, teach

Those who really can't, manage.

Re:As they say (1)

ramdac (302865) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425232)

Those who really can't, manage Tech-Support groups

Re:As they say (1)

chenzhen (532755) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425236)

Pretty sure it's actually "Those who can do more, teach."

Re:As they say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425320)

A variation which I've found to be true - at least before the era of grade inflation:

The A students teach. The B students end up working for the C students.

Re:As they say (1)

adam613 (449819) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425264)

If those who can't are teaching, how do we ever train new people who can??

Re:As they say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425301)

Someone must have a very low opinion of their professors.

how about

Those who can, do
Those who did, teach
Those who almost can, support
Those who really can't, manage.

Re:As they say (5, Insightful)

Knobby (71829) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425317)

Those who can't, teach

As a university professor, I can assure you that there are a large number of folks in academia who could, but prefer the freedom of not having to. Personally, I'm pretty happy about being able to get up at 9am, go for a nice long bike ride, take a shower, wander in to the office, work on a grant proposal for the afternoon, kick around a few ideas with my graduate students, lecture, and then wrap up the day with a glass of wine and a few eager to please co-eds. How can you beat a life like that?.. Did I forget to mention that consulting gigs pay $75 - $150 an hour.. What a life..

Bill The Company (0)

Alt_Cognito (462081) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425197)

I spent hours on the phone with ATI trying to get it to work with my computer, and ended up sending back the equipment. The vendor (AccessMicro) was nice enough not to charge me a re-stocking fee, but I've decided to invoice ATI for the shipping costs. I haven't gotten anything back yet from them, but I'm guessing they'll just pay the chump change rather than continue to process the bill.

Sure not Verizon! (5, Funny)

MissMyNewton (521420) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425203)

True story.

Last year I had a data T1 fail, so I called the Business Support Group. Got a tech on the line and explained the trouble. He asked if he could put me on hold and look into it; I agreed and he put me on hold.

After 5 minutes or so, my phone rings, so I park the line on hold and pick up the second call.

It's the same tech from Verizon calling to let us know that our circuit was down! I explained that *I* was the one who just called him and he became extremely confused (as if he wasn't before).

That was something else, lemme tell ya!

Re:Sure not Verizon! (1)

SPiKe (19306) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425209)

Ouch. That's what one gets when one has a circuit from Verizon.

Re:Sure not Verizon! (1)

56ker (566853) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425322)

At least that's better than the techs - who just have their flow-chart script - and woe-betide a user having a problem not covered by it! Generally tech support is considered the lowliest of low IT jobs - just used a springboard to better jobs where users aren't hastling you every five minutes!

It's because solving technical problems is hard (3, Insightful)

Otto (17870) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425206)

They make a good point in that article. If you know your stuff, you ain't gonna be working on phone tech support. Quite often, the guy on the other end of the phone knows no more (usually less) than you do about the product. They have a wide selection of resources on the product that might help though.

Putting those resources online to let you solve your own problems really is the better solution.

Re:It's because solving technical problems is hard (2)

interiot (50685) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425248)

Putting those resources online to let you solve your own problems really is the better solution.

Oooooh, don't say that, don't even whisper that. The only way for OSS to make money is via support, remember?

how to solve Windows problems (0, Flamebait)

MrSloth (544065) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425208)

Everyone who has touched a computer has a problem with Windows.

what I do whenever I have a problem that I can't fix in less thgan twenty minutes is re-install. That usually clears it right up, nut you still have that nasty Windows problem. But now it IS Microsofts fault.

Re:how to solve Windows problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425310)

That's real interesting, Captain Obvious. Please enlighten us with more shit we dont care about.

It's the comsumer's fault (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425211)

Quite simply many people won't pay for a quality, well supported product. If they can save $5 they will buy from an irreputable company with lousy support. Maybe you are one of these people. Do you have an Intel or 3Com NIC in your computer or a Realtek? You get what you pay for.

Re:It's the comsumer's fault (-1)

October_30th (531777) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425224)

Do you have an Intel or 3Com NIC in your computer or a Realtek?

That is an excellent point.

I don't usually advocate buying brandname hardware but when it comes to NICs I do. Realtek in particular is a nightmare.

Re:It's the comsumer's fault (2, Informative)

swv3752 (187722) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425289)

I've had a realtek nic for over 2 years. Never a problem with it. I support realtek, 3com and intel nics for a living (in addtion to other things). I have seen many problems with intel and 3com nics. i rarely see a problem with a realtek. the few problems I do see with a realtek are probably user error as the physical port gets burned out. The computer detects the ethernet adapter ok, but the hub does not detect a connection. Hmm, wonder how that happens... try maybe plugging a phoneline into the nic.

To much things can go wrong. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425215)

I mean, all more complicated systems, like PC+OS can go wrong in a million different way depending on hardware, third-part software etc etc.

Most tech support only manages to answer easy things, like how do I open a file in Word.

Most doesn't have a clue what to do when someone put in that new joystick-port-card and the menu-shadow (XP shadows) flickers on the screen from time to time all of a sudden (for example, it happened to me :).

Marketing Eats Support (5, Insightful)

Artagel (114272) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425216)

All of these companies have lots of money to trumpet their products. They roll out new ones every few months, and spend a lot of money to keep them rolling.

I remember when I used to buy computers from DEC in the mid-80s. You would get a genuinely impressive series of well-indexed and comprehensive manuals. When you couldn't find the answer there, you could call technical support and talk to a technically capable person. If that person could not help you, they would put you through to an engineer.

I also remember the first day that I got put through to a clueless, script reading, customer support representative at some anonymous call center when I called DEC. After that, I bought PC clones from Gateway or PCs Unlimited (eventually Dell). The only point of ponying up the big bucks was for the extensive documentation and support.

DEC tried to become a different company via changed marketing and survive. It died. You cannot abandon your customers and survive.

Re:Marketing Eats Support (1)

indiigo (121714) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425327)

And now Dell outsources to Canada and India, where you can just barely understand through often *thick* accents. While technically competant, their outsourced support is a sign of things getting worse before better in the tech support industry...

Re:Marketing Eats Support (2)

Webmonger (24302) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425337)

Hey! Us Canadians don't have thick accents! It's Southern Americans that do!

Re:Marketing Eats Support (2, Insightful)

swv3752 (187722) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425339)

Most of the bad tech support can be traced to Marketing pushing engineering too fast and then not supporting the tech support guys with enough money. I see it often where Q&A fails to catch a number of bugs because they try to be to market first. Tech support gets overwhelmed with calls. When your calls go from 10% of owners to 50%, something has to give.

Microsoft Tech Support vs Psychic Friends Network (1)

stevenbee (227371) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425218)

A great piece of satire/research dealing with the "usefulness" of Tech Support can be found HERE []

A collection of stories before you post them here (2)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425222)

Check out the good old Rinkworks at []

Of course, most of the Computer stupidities [] deal with stupid users (and they have some really funny stories), but the above page is about "role reversal" and stupid tech support being a pain for a computer-literate user seeking help.

There is a section about stupid salespeople as well :)

Main Problems of tech Support. (1)

ramdac (302865) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425225)

This is a rant.

The problem with most our tech support people is that they cannot possibly familiarize themselves with all of our environments my company has. On top of that we release new systems and come out with so many different projects that frankly the systems they use to track environments are never up-to-date. It's quite ironic that a story such as this be posted now. I'm here on a Sunday on hold with the Tech Support people while they're trying to track down who my "trouble-ticket" is supposed to be assigned to. That's right, I work on a new system that's not in their trouble-ticket tracking system so they have no idea who's supposed to work on my problem.

I suggest the following when you start working in an environment:

1. Get to know your DBA's and their telephone numbers (pagers, cellphones, etc).

2. Get to know your DBA's bosses names and phone numbers. You never know when one of your DBAs' bosses may have gone to the same college as you and you can sit around discussing all the 'needs' your system may have.

3. Learn the political nuances of your company and more specifically the groups that support your systems.

Additionaly, use these tech-support poeple as sparingly as possible. They don't know what your Oracle Error messages mean anyway. It's also likely they'll put fautly information in the trouble ticket. If you have to use them, make sure you tell them to write YOUR telephone number and name in the ticket as a contact person.

This way, maybe the DBA, or unix guru you need will call you first before taking action.

Always review with the tech-support person on the phone (or in person) and make sure they understand the importance of your problem.

It's only karma..

Re:Main Problems of tech Support. (2)

lewp (95638) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425349)

Always review with the tech-support person on the phone (or in person) and make sure they understand the importance of your problem.

Everyone who calls into a call center has an "important" problem. Trying to play the "this is important" card is the surest way to get your issue slammed to the back of the queue to rot. I hear five dozen times a day how important someone's problem is (and only take about 15 calls). Have enough sense to realize that the people in the queue ahead of you have problems that are important to them as well.

Improvements. (5, Informative)

saintlupus (227599) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425226)

What would you like to see improve about tech support?

How about some training and a fair wage for the poor bastards that work in the call centers?

I used to work as a support whore for Verizon DSL -- that is, until my entire call center was laid off. The jobs were moved to another center in Canada, where Customer Service employees were handed a database full of canned answers and told that they had to start handling tech support calls.

In the meantime, the actual trained techs like myself were all out of a job. And the other center that was on the same level as us - same training, same subcontractor, same call queues - took a savage pay cut.

The technology economy of today is based on some seriously thin margins - and frankly, once a company has your money, they are happy to screw you out of decent support to save a few bucks.


If you're willing to pay a little, (2, Interesting)

jesser (77961) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425227)

Google Answers [] has reasonably good [] tech support for popular programs. It's even possible [] to get an answer without losing $4, since other users who are unsure that their solution will work may add a comment rather than claiming to have the answer. In that case, you're only out the 50-cent listing fee.

Another advantage of Google Answers is that you get to vent your frustration publicly instead of to a poor tech support worker.

best tech support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425230)

I've found HP support to helpful (for printers anyways) they say they offer phone support for warranty customers only but I've regularly called in on products 2-3 yrs out of warranty. Even though it's not an 1-800 number, their agents are usually very knowledgable and have helped me get my products back up and running (or replaced if in warranty) in a reasonable amount of time. I've also had good experiences with Microsoft support even though it was via e-mail, they replaced my Intellimouse Explorer when it stopped working, within a week, with very little hassle. A lot of other companies out there, however, do give you the run-around and make you wait on hold forever (I waited 4 hours once for @home) But the first two examples are the exception in the industry and I think a lot more can be done to make most support experiences a lot better.

Dell isn't all that great (0)

beefstu01 (520880) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425233)

I bought a Inspiron 8000 preloaded with linx, and tech support couldn't help my any. In short, they sold something that they couldn't support.

Oh, but it gets better!

I called up once because the laptop would randomly turn itself on, make a bunch of noises, then turn off. What did I get from the tech support guy? "Wow, never heard of that one before."

My friend has another Inspiron. His problem occours when you start up the computer, the computer screetches until an OS is loaded. Dell doesn't believe him.

The only good thing I've heard from any tech support was from IBM. Another pal has a Thinkpad, and when he had a problem, IBM just sent him an empty padded box with shipping paid for, he sent off his Thinkpad, and within 4 days he was working on his repaired laptop.

Re:Dell isn't all that great (2)

Knobby (71829) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425275)

The only good thing I've heard from any tech support was from IBM. Another pal has a Thinkpad, and when he had a problem, IBM just sent him an empty padded box with shipping paid for, he sent off his Thinkpad, and within 4 days he was working on his repaired laptop.

Apple will do this too. I have a colleague with a Powerbook. The poor guy's kind of a clumsy dolt and only marginally computer literate. Anyway, he ran into a hardware problem (a bad ribbon-cable connection to the monitor) and Apple had his machine back to him within a week..

Is this an Ask Slashdot by the industry? (2)

rhizome (115711) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425234)

There used to be a time when you could call up the phone company and get a person on the other end. No so anymore. Software companies are falling into line with other industries who have realized that fixed-costs are the easiest to trim. As profits gets slim, customer service gets slashed. Charming to the least.

What I hate: (0, Offtopic)

Joel Ironstone (161342) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425237)

Damn I hate calling tech support and giving the people on the other end a lesson on whatever it is they are supposed to help me out with. Whose providing the tech support? They caller or the call center!!!!

as a Computer Supporter (1)

quinto2000 (211211) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425238)

I've worked for computer support in the past, and I can tell you that there are some key things that consumers should do to get good support:

  • Make sure your cables are all solidly connected (this includes the power cable) before you call.
  • Know what kind of computer you're using, and the version of your software.
  • Describe your problem clearly and succinctly. We can ask for more detail if needed.
  • Don't get upset if I can't answer your problem, or if we can't send you new equipment without being thorough. We have strict policies that are in place to protect against people who are trying to cheat us.
Of course, most of these shouldn't ever be necessary. But with support centers being as understaffed as they are now, and pay being so low, these are the tips that will help make your support experience more enjoyable.

Re:as a Computer Supporter (5, Insightful)

Incongruity (70416) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425323)

Might I add another tip that always works for me? Note: I have never worked phone support. I've worked retail jobs and in-house tech support for a smaller company, but I am decidedly viewing this from a consumer point of view.

Be kind, courteous and respectful of the tech support person with whom you are dealing.

It's a really simple thing but it does a few things...first, it makes the tech support person actually feel like a person and that gives them more incentive to help you or help you find someone who can help you. Second, and this is often overlooked, if you are nice to the person on the other end of the phone it will often make the experience less stressful and less negative for you, as the caller.

I know these are simple things and most everyone would realize them on their own, but I also know it's easy to forget these when dealing with tech support that in general sucks and is difficult to get in touch with.

IT Hiring standards change? (2, Informative)

jaritsu (543231) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425239)

Im surprised many places function as well as they do, to answer the question "What would you like to see improve about tech support?" I would like to see less dependence on Contracting agencies, more direct hire and less middle-men between the person inside the company or department who needs a tech and the person getting in contact with the potential. Anymore if you dont already know someone on the inside of a company your chances of getting hired are slim-to-none. This is especially true when it comes to tech support, anywhere from call center work to desktop support guys. This is not good for the company's or the techs cause it can create such a lack of compatibility between skill-sets and needs. If more company's were willing to go out of thier way and direct hire instead of relying on a contracting agency, whos primary concern is usually the margin they will earn from getting thier tech hired and is going to feed said company anything they want to hear to make that happen. Misrepresentation is the bane of contracting agencies, and the standard practice in most cases.

Glory days of tech support (1)

kyoko21 (198413) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425241)

I think the only times I called for tech support is to attempt to get RMAs. Except for one time when I called IBM because my old Valuepoint DX-2/66 was being upgraded to an overdrive 83 and that their mother board needed an 'interposer' chip that went between the motherboard and the actual board itself. The technician knew exactly right away when I mentioned my Valuepoint 66 and an overdrive chip and told me that he would ship the interposer chip out right away. I spent more time waiting in the queue than talking with him. The interposer chip came within 3 days. Talk about fast! :-) But this was like in 1997, aka the glory days of tech support.

tech support DOES suck (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425245)

i work for the help desk of a major canadian ISP and i can tell you for certain, tech support is getting a back seat to upselling and cross selling. 2 years ago when i started there, it was actually about fixing problems. they had staffed at least somewhat knowledgeable people and gave a decent training. since then, things have changed drastically, it's all about customer service and trying to make users upgrade to the next level or service. i mean, when calls are listened to by quality control, they don't even check for technical acuracy any more, they just make sure you branded the company about 7 billion times, tried to sell them some crap and made sure they knew about the company's website. and it's probably about 85% scripted! oh well. i guess things will change once everyone has the highest level of service and things STILL don't work :)

The Reason Tech Support Sucks ... (4, Informative)

citizenc (60589) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425246)

... is that the hiring process, in most cases, doesn't include determining if the candidate can actually DO THE JOB. (That is, do they have enough experience?)

Case in point: Here in Winnipeg is a company called "Convergys" -- they do tech support for several ISPs throughout North America. One of my friends recently got a job there doing phone-based technical support for Shaw. Now, this individual knows computer basics, but has NO clue what a router is, what IP tables are, DNS servers...

Most places hire people based on "can you read from this script?", which simply isn't adequate.

The Real Reason Tech Support Sucks ... (2)

interiot (50685) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425270)

... is that the people hiring, in most cases, don't want to pay tech support people an engineer's salary. If the person can do much more than read from a script, they're overqualified, and won't be happy with the job or the salary.

The Service Industry (1)

Thenomain (537937) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425247)

This problem is all over the service industry and can probably be linked to both Americans' expectations of standard of living (I want TIVO too, some day), and corporate greed.

I personally blame this on the "me" mentality of most corporations and the bad decisions made in the early to mid 90s. (Yes, this problem started long before the Dot Com boom/bust.) In order to bring more money to me, I must throw my weight around, which costs a lot of money, but according to the current business model, I will be making all this money back in spades within ten years.

(Five years of speculation spending later:) Oh no! I am not making the money I thought I would! Something has to go. I can't sell off property without seriously alarming stockholders and other investors, and technology spending can only increase throughput and therefore profits. What's left? The people.

I've watched this happen first-hand. Service-oriented industries' upper management talking themselves into a position where the most reducable liability is the service!

In a way this makes sense, but in a kind of "fake an injury to get out of trouble" way. It's not a way that will help for long. And, imagine that, it doesn't.

Tell me about it (2)

Com2Kid (142006) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425251)

I had a horrid issue with a motherboard, lets just say I am now short one RAM chip and am in the possession of 80GB of data with a corrupt parition table in the front.

Couldn't get ahold of anybody who spoke sufficent english who was able to understand that I wanted anything outside of the regular RMA. . . .

d*mn fucking offshore tech banks. . . . >: |

MS Tech's (3, Interesting)

Ridgelift (228977) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425252)

Being a transitioning tech from Windows to Linux, I do rely on Microsoft's tech support from time to time. I have noticed a steady decline in quality of service over the last couple of years.

For example, I have an ongoing issue with a client that is bordering on insane. They're running Windows 2000 Small Business Server, and twice they've had a blue screen of death while rebooting the server.

Having talked over the issue with 7 different technicians, not only do we not have a solution, but there's conflicting advice. Also there are patches that are not available to the public because they're still not "prime time" (took 7 months for a hot fix to be made available for another problem with licensing. Seems that if Windows 2000 Pro workstations connect to SBS 2000 server, the licenses get gobbled up until no one else can connect, even though there's only 7 computers connecting to a 10-licensed server. The patch still doesn't work properly).

It's a scary thing when a client is afraid to reboot the server in fear that they will be down an entire day. Thankfully in North America Microsoft will fix business servers that are down for free (MS Business Critical Support 10888-455-7422), so at least their weakening support is on their dime.

Maybe we'll solve the problem next time the server BSOD's (8th tech's a charm!?!?) Or maybe the customer will let me move them to Linux.

Re:MS Tech's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425282)

You got a case #?

My experience (1)

IWantMoreSpamPlease (571972) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425255)

I work for a small computer firm that (among other duties) repairs name brand computers. In my experience, Gateway has always gone the extra mile to ensure that the problem has either been identified and an work around found, or fixed entirely. Now also, in my opinion, their home machine are some of the biggest pieces of junk on the market, but at least they support them. Compaq, on the other hand, has never even been polite when I've contacted them for tech support (driver issues) and as fas as I know, are the only firm out there who charge for drivers (this is a sore point with me when I attempted to obtain drivers for a notebook modem, only to find they weren't listed on their website, and I would have to pay for a 'system restore' disk to get the needed driver) which in my eyes is patently absurd.

Re:My experience (1)

GammaStorm (221702) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425335)

I don't know about your experience, but I work at a company that is a Compaq reseller and in my experience they are far easier to deal with than people at either Dell, Gateway or HP. As a reseller we don't even have to call in for a part replacement, we do it all on the web, and the part is shipped UPS by the next day.

Plus I've found that their server support is pretty kickass when I've talked to them on the phone. As they now support RedHat, Caldera, MS, and Netware I see that as a plus to be able to confidently tell a customer to buy a Linux box with Compaq since it is supported officially.

I might be biased as a reseller, but dealing with them was much less pain than dealing with Gateway, or better yet, Dell technicians to run through a troubleshooting session that was already done after being in the queue for an hour. :p And yes, we even went through the hoops to be Dell certified only to learn there are no extra perks unless you're selling a gazillion units a month. We still had to wait on hold like every other end user.

A true story from me and my DSL provider (4, Funny)

skurk (78980) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425256)

This is an actual quote from my phone call to NextGenTel (Norwegian DSL providers) hotline:

Me: "Hi, I'm having problems getting online here. The router WAN lamp flashes, it can't connect"
Her: "Do you have the correct settings?"
Me: "What kind of settings, it comes with a Cisco router, shouldn't it be preconfigured?"
Her: "Yes, but you have to do some adjustments on you computer as well."
Me: "Yeah, the TCP settings, I know".
Her: "Amongst others, yes. Now click on the start button, and go to Settings.."
Me: (interrupting) "Uh, wait, I don't use Windows."
Her: "What.. Do you have a Macintosh?!"
Me: "No, I use another operating system.. OpenBSD."
Her: "Huh!" (silence)
Me: "UNIX."
Her: "Well, then I can't help. You must send our support group an email describing your problems in detail."
Me: "I would if I could, but I can't get online!"
Her: "Oh, yeah.. that's right.."

Later on I discovered that the problem was their fault: The didn't have enough capacity for all the new users, so I had to wait 14 days (felt like ten thousand years) before my ping requests finally received some echoes.

Maybe a bit OT, but I had to get it out.


Expect it to get better soon (1, Informative)

Rampant Atrocity (559341) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425260)

Many companies have outsourced tech support and thereby cut costs and improved quality. But, apparently, that's still not enough: tech support still sucks because companies simply can't afford to pump more money or resources into it.

So what companies are looking to do *now* is outsource their tech support to companies who, in turn, export the entire operation abroad. Middle-men companies (like spherenomics [] - no affiliation) are building call centers in countries where labor and construction costs are low (like India). Lower base costs lead to better tech support. This really simple idea has birthed a burgeoning industry - lots of big-name companies are catching on.

By this model, the consumer benefits. There's absolutely no degradation in tech support quality, and, in most cases, it gets better. These call center outfits are really top notch - you definitely won't be stuck speaking to some foreigner with broken English. In fact, next time you call a big company for tech support, ask the attendant where he or she is speaking from - chances are you'll be surprised by the answer.

Re:Expect it to get better soon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425291)


There's a reason outsourcing is cheaper...because the outsource techs don't know jack!

I really wish I could tell (1)

xenocide2 (231786) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425345)

Whether you were kidding or not. While I've heard of this kind of thing before, phrases like "theres absolutely no degredation in tech support quality" feel more like a potshot at the current state of affairs within the US.

But I can see the reasoning if you truely agree with it. The only downside is the increased lag time between parties. Its bad enough when dealing with telemarketers that wait five seconds before saying hello.

closed software causes most of the problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425262)

I asked this question many years ago when I was tearing out my hair at support desks trying to support crazy problems, and bullshitting to disguise the fact that the company I worked for decided that it's product sucked - so they put a bunch of support people on the front line to take the beating and free up their programmers to do more profitable things?

The answer I came up with was - that with closed software the customer does not have the option of going to someone else without changing their entire system, so basically companies are free to screw them over after they get them hooked. Ever since then I've started using more UNIX and Linux and tryied very hard to aviod dealing with closed source software in my career. It's been hard, but I'm glad I did because at least I won't get stuck like those people in dead-end careers, who after awhile simply have too much troubble relearning everything from scratch every few years, they inevitabley get stuck in some dead end field with some dead end technology.

The nature of the tech support 'crisis' (1)

JonathanF (532591) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425263)

Seeing as how I'm a tech support rep, I'm the line of fire of this one... and I actually think that the overriding problem with providing truly effective tech support is manpower (or womanpower, of course).

Quite simply, many ISPs and other tech companies have a hard time recruiting enough people to keep in line with increasing volumes of customers. That prevents them from choosing people simply based on technical prowess and forces them to treat it more like a regular job. That in turn means that support resources are based more on what the support rep has been taught in training, and any resources they have handy, than a deep-down understanding of how the technology works.

When the demand for Internet access (particularly broadband) finally tapers off, we'll be in the mostlikely position for when tech support will truly leap up in quality. Up until then, what another poster said was right: the best tech support is your own knowledge and that of your tech-savvy friends. If they can't help you, they're either not used to that particular tech or it's something on the company's end.

Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425266)

My major isp dsl service (I am product manager) provides sub-1 minute average speed of answer. So there.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425332)

Oh yeah I forgot all about that, back in '92 or so at MicroWarehouse we used to hang-up on the call queues all the time too. It really drives the averages down to keep management happy.

All I can tell any of you, phone support is the most aggravating experience you can ever have. Chained to a desk by a headset cable in a call center. Management on an elevated platform so they can see if you even get up to go to the bathroom. It was the only job I had that made me feel appreciation for the plight of the boiler-rooms in Bangalore.

I'm surprised there aren't more 'postal' incidents in call centers.

Good Tech Support != Microsoft (1)

hex1848 (182881) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425267)

I work for a company which provides streaming media for its clients. One of our biggest headaches has been providing support for to windows media technologies up and running for many of our customers. Netscape users, AOL, users, even many IE users cant get it to work a large percent of the time. Have you ever tried to support a non-power user over the phone? Its a daunting task. It makes us look bad when we cant fix Microsoft's problems 100% of the time.

Microsoft's website has a horrible design, try to look up a kb article and you get junk you cant comprehend half the time, how is a non-power user going to find out how to fix common Windows problems for themselves? many times we end up searching for the problem/error using google and send along the results to the customer. This costs our company allot of money in unneeded support costs.

We are currently looking towards other solutions that don't involve supporting Microsoft.

Thank Outsourcing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425271)

I'm a knowledgeable guy in his early 20's who needed a foot in the door, so I took a job with Cow Computer tech support. I had no certifications and only 1 year of professional experience, therefore I was nieve and surprised that I was even hired.
Well the surprise soon wore off. During the first weeks of orientation and training, it struck me as quite odd that the majority of other new-hires had minimal computer knowledge, it just absolutely floored me.

Eventually they closed us up and shifted the majority of tech support to outsource companies, which are an absolute joke (I do know some of the outsource techs are bright people that "get it," but the vast majority are near-min-wage college students, housewives and retirees). Voila, there go your hold times out the roof and the quality of support (although it's not like our call center was full of bright folks).

I guess my point is that these companies are looking more for damage control than support, therefore they just want customer service people. I recently had to call in to request a replacement vid card in my desktop machine, did everything to ensure that it was the card and the tech, who took 7 mins to come back on after I explained the issue, walked me through a couple lame steps and finally I think he just got frustrated and said he would replace it.

Cheaper prices on machines = less money for support = fear = anger = hate = suffering hehe

$12-$48 seems expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425274)

It costs anywhere from $12 to $48 each time a technician picks up a phone, McEvoy said.

At a major ISP I once worked for, the cost per support call was approximately $2.70. I remember because they had a promotional "How can we lower this" competition where you got a prize if they used your suggestion. My suggestion was to give customers access to current outage information on the net and over the phone. This was turned down for potential legal concerns over regional variations in quality of service. At any rate, $12-$48 seems like a deliberately inflated number (unless you are someone like Cisco).

Online Forums (2)

acoustix (123925) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425276)

I have found that online forums like MaximumPC's forum are very helpful. There are many users on there who answer questions just for the fun of it. Any person that posts a question on there usually gets 5-10 responses within half an hour.

I think that it's better than waiting on hold on the phone!

IBM Tech Support (1) (184378) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425281)

I've called IBM tech support several times with questions about my ThinkPad, and they've always been helpful and curteous on the phone. It's also nice when they know the difference between a hardware problem and a software problem...

One time I called Dell about my sister's new laptop and they refused to help me because I had installed Windows 2000 (I removed the existing WinME), but I didn't buy the copy of 2000 from Dell. Thanks Dell, and I thought you won awards for support. (BTW, it was a problem with the CD writer).

When I've spoken with IBM they've never asked me what OS I was running unless that info was actually relevant to the troubleshooting.

In addition, IBM support (for me) has had very fast response times...

Now, I'm sure some of you will have complaints about the infamous Deskstar family, but my comments only apply to the ThinkPad support group.

Tech Support Outsourcing (4, Interesting)

torklugnutz (212328) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425283)

I used to work for a tech support outsourcer, ClientLogic [] . They had tech support for Dell, MicronPC, BellSouth, Logitech, and Sephora Cosmetics in the call center I worked in.

I worked for Dell, and we had a 17 minute Average Handle Time (AHT) goal. If we spent more than 15 minutes with a customer, a flag would go off up at the Supervisor on Duty's desk, and someone would come by and have us put the customer on hold. Several techs were not knowledgable at all, but were so frustrating for the customer to deal with that they would give up. Thus, the worst techs had the best call times. Other techs would focus on getting the cust off the phone by dispatching parts.

One man, about 70 years old, would call in about once or twice a week (looking back through the call logs), and he was simply inept at using the computer. This man had been sent a video card, sound card and motherboard. This was a simple case of techs not wanting to deal with this guy and his lack of aptitude.

ClientLogic is just one outsourcer, there are others. Some companies, like Dell outsource to multiple companies, while maintaining their own base of techs, usually for their more valuable customers. We were given home and small business. Laptops, Servers and larger companies were handled by Dell directly.

ATT/Excite/@home/insightbb tech support (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425285)

Is like having a long nail pppounded into the head, flat side first.

I have some questions for them pending but I am very reluctant to experience that sort of pain, so my questions remain unanswered.

Intra-company tech support (2)

rosewood (99925) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425287)

One company I work with has an intra-company tech support for all the agents. The problem is the tech support sucks POO POO. The hold times are insane. Once you actually get a person, it is just a level one tech who can just look at the 10 page trouble shooting manual. If its not there, you get a problem number and a level two tech will call you back. Sometimes, that can takes DAYS. One time I was told a level 2 tech would call back by 5 our time, we waited till 7, called back and found out everyone had gone home. Teh support also will lie to you as well, which is always fun.

Being tech oriented, I try to avoid calling tech support like the PLAUGE. However, some times I have to and it drives me bonkos. There needs to be a code word that lets the person know, "Okay, he doesnt need to hear: Click Start, Settings, Control Panel."

Tech support for dummies (1)

blueday4 (569939) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425288)

I work in tech support, and I end up wasting my time NOT solving the immediate problem, but rather teaching Windows 101 to many of the callers. I think it should be a pre-req to have at least completed some kind of basic computer knowledge course, or at least have some experience with computers. It is a waste of my time to get a call, "I bought your new video card and I don't know how to change my wallpaper.." Well BOOHOO read your help file.

Examining the tech support issue (3, Interesting)

LordOfYourPants (145342) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425290)

"The 27,000 respondents to the unscientific poll reported longer waits on hold and less knowledgeable technicians. It is also taking longer to find fixes. An increasing number said problems were never solved. "

I wonder why..

On the company side:

Chopping Block Gods are hired to find where the fat in the company lies. Mr/Mrs. Chopping Block plugs a couple of numbers into his/her overpriced calculator and finds that the tech support people are working only 80% of the time and therefore 20% can be cut.

Mr/Mrs. Chopping Block tells management this and says they can probably save the biggest money by getting rid of the more experienced (read: overpaid) techs since everyone is reading from a script anyway.

3 months later you have an overworked call centre with clueless staff. The place is no longer fun to work at and the turnover rate goes up. Big surprise. As morale goes down you find staff taking longer breaks, more sick days, etc. The cycle continues.

On the consumer side:

Mr/Mrs "Informed" Consumer scans all ads in the newspaper looking for the absolute cheapest price for their pocket computer. He/she first finds the cheapest company that offers a pocket computer since they're all the same, then finds the cheapest model made by that company, then the cheapest store to buy it from.

Mr/Mrs "Informed" Consumer does not consider how the prices got so low and may not ever have to as long as a) they don't need tech support, b) their product doesn't break. If either of these happens, they are in for a nightmare experience.

I'm not necessarily saying that the cheapest products have the worst tech support/warranty scams running (some save money on big ad campaigns), but the cuts DO have to come from somewhere. Unfortunately, some of the cuts come from the quality of life for people who have the misfortune of working at one of these companies.

my recent experiences... (2)

rufusdufus (450462) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425292)

Dell: good
At&t: poor
Qwest: criminal

Dell (1)

UTPinky (472296) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425293)

My personal opinion, Dell... That is once you get through to them. The display in my last laptop went bad a few monthes into getting it. I called up, and once I managed to talk to a real person, they scheduled Airborne Express to come to my dorm and pick it up from me the next day. The guy arrived on time, and put the laptop back in my hands in just under 48 hrs. When they made that repair they ended up frying my modem (how i really dont know), which i didnt realize for a few monthes later, I called again, and they sent someone to meet me at work. Again, I had the laptop returned in 48 hours. My experience with their support was very friendly and helpful. The only problem I had was that it would generally take at least a half hour to get off of hold... thank god for speaker phone...

Compaq (1)

Jacer (574383) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425294)

i loved their tech support, we had hardware warranties on all of our equipment for three years, and i'd call in around twice a week for anything from a new mobo to a new slim line cd day will the merger affect the support, i hope to god they don't take on HP's level of support.....

Per-incident support is the only kind that counts (2, Insightful)

darylb (10898) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425295)

The decline in tech support is nothing new. For quite some time, I've argued to management and coworkers that the only kind of technical support worth having is per-incident support, where the company providing support gets paid only if the issue is resolved successfully. "Gold" and "Platinum" support contracts (where you can get help as much as you want) still send you through the same tedious process of explaining your problem, receiving instructions whereby you, the customer, spend even more time diagnosing the problem, following up to the company, receiving still more diagnosis instructions, ad nauseam. Personally, I'm sick of bothering to isolate a test case, telling the company the version of their software I'm using, only to be told to mindlessly upgrade to a newer version that allegedly fixes the problem. The last time I was told this, I asked the company in question if they could try my problem scenario in their environment with the proposed new version. They said "no". Their expectation is that I will take half a day setting up an environment, installing a new version of their software, setting up my test case, and making a determination. Paugh!

I'm willing to bet that if the support vendor got paid when and only when my problem was resolved that I'd have received very different answers and a willingness to actually solve my problem.

The idea that only big companies with high-priced products can offer good support is stupid. The company I've spoken of sells a very expensive database product with even more expensive support. If the support isn't per-incident, there's simply no incentive to do better.

Empeg / Rio Car Team (1)

Zeus305 (104737) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425299)

The best tech I know of anywhere-- online or elsewhere-- comes from the makers of the (now EOL'ed, but availible through other cahnnels) Linux-based Rio Car (formerly Empeg). All questions are personally answered by the people who designed the hardware and software within a few hours. Seriously. They are also very open to third party development and will help anyone with any issues they are having. There is also an incredebly extensive FAQ [] maintained by a member of the community. The user forums [] are also frequented by the hardware and software designers as well as massive number of Linux gurus who jump at the opportunity to answer your questions. Its a tech support dream. John

Compared to Open Source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425300)

A big selling point for closed software is that it comes with "superior" tech support. (A debated point, but anyway...)

Is it the case that open source software support is immune to economic changes? Is one of the dangers with closed source support the notion that economic changes will affect the quality of support?

A responsible person, driven by an interest in science, would see these as open questions, and not rush to state "Of course open source is better; it does not get affected by the economy.".

Which camp are you, the reader in? Are you driven by science or propaganda?

IBM, HP, Cisco (5, Informative)

Sivar (316343) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425302)

A few examples of GOOD customer support experiences, to let people know some companies still care:

I had purchased a copy of OS/2 3.0 from a friend. It was a boxed copy, still had all of the registration cards, manuals, etc. OS/2 did not like my sound card, which was a cheap SB16 clone. I called IBM tech support, and was rather horrified to know that I was a known OS/2 custoemr in their records (despite never using it before, not telling them about it, and my friend never tellng them about me. Odd) Anyway, the support person that I spoke with actually had a clue, and ironically shared a story about how he promised himself he'd never buy IBM again because of bad tech support in the past. Anyway, it two phone calls over two days, but IBM eventually had me download an experiemntal driver from their website and said that if that did not work, they would conference to determine whether they had to fly a tech to my home to solve it, or if there were a way to solve the problem more quickly. All this over a $50 copy of OS/2!

My new HP USB scanner (4100C, I think it was) didn't work in my computer because there were two basic types of USB controller: The Intel one and everyone else. I had everyone else. I called HP tech support who, after about an hour, could not solve it. The tech eventually spoke with someone else and found that it was a known problem with my USB controller. Now, the company that I purchased the scanner from, Future Shop in Boise, ID. (USA), had gone out of business so I was pretty convinced I was SOL and out of $200.
The HP tech then asked me if I had a working parallel port or SCSI controller. I did, so he offered to send next HIGHER scanner to me provided I sent the old one back, and that it would take 6-8 weeks to deliver.
Well, 5 weeks later I called (6-8 weeks is usually a BS figure they give for safety so you don't bug them) and asked where the scanner was. Apparently the last guy had forgotten to ask for my credit card for collateral in case I did not send back the old scanner... So he sent the next higher up scanner after the one they already offered to send. A 6100Cse. So, I was getting a $400 scanner as a replacement for a $200 scanner. Not bad.
The next day the scanner arrived, sent priority overnight and with documents explaining who to call to have my scanner picked up on HP's bill.
That pretty much won me over to HP, other than their crappy PCs. I was very impressed at how far they went to solve the problem.

I have a friend that works for a telco in Pocatello, ID, USA. To make my point clear, let me give you some quick background: Pocatello has a population of about 45,000 people. It is in Idaho, one of the physically largest states in the USA with one of the smallest populations. The total population of the whole state barely exceeds 1 million and there are zero major cities within several hours.
There was a problem with a Cisco router and my friend's work. Bad power supply, IIRC. He called Cisco about it and they had a replacement part to him TWO HOURS LATER! They had actually hired a taxi cab to deliver it that much faster. How they got a part to such a podunk little backwater town in two hours amazes me to this day. The have no offices anywhere near.

DirecTV also has great support (the support guys get in trouble if they don't solve your problem--if they don't, ask to speak to a supervisor).

Vignette (0)

dr_l0v3 (568242) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425303)

Crap product (IMHO). Great technical support. Its web based and you can even raise faults on the tech support system itself.

Canon's the worst so far (0)

GeHa (144811) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425306)

I do helpdesk/network support for a small workgroup, and have been exposed to many supplier's idea of "support", mostly regarding hardware failure within warranty period. Apple, IBM and HP have been absolutely great so far.

I recently bought a Canon scanner, which didn't work out of the box (scanhead's jammed). E-mail support acknowledged straight away that I had done all that's humanly possible to get it to work software-wise, and referred me to phone support line to get an exchange. We're now more than three (3) weeks further down the road, and I still haven't been able to get anyone on the line: perpetual busy signal. I did manage to get through in the weekend once, calling from home, but the support person insisted the e-mail support isn't authorised to make exchanges, and wanted to talk me through troubleshooting the scanner - which I didn't have at home of course, knowing there's no point in re-installing the drivers/what have you not they make newbies go through before admitting it's really their hardware that's the problem.

My conclusion: there's still some companies providing decent support. But buying Canon? Never again.

Compaq server support excellent (1)

vtweb (132332) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425308)

We have several older Compaq servers (1600s), and every time we have called for tech support, we got a tech within a minute or two. Each time the first line tech was first rate, and knew how to fix the problem with patience.

One tech knew Linux well enough to guide us through adding additional parameters to LILO boot to fix the problem, without having to consult a knowledge base (he had installed and played with linux on a 1600 in his office previously!).

If you want great tech support, buy a used (or new) compaq server!

Sun support (1)

gr8fulnded (254977) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425312)

Say what you will, but I've got nothing but good to say about Sun's support. If I needed a engineer, I got an engineer to talk to. If I needed a kernel team person, I got transferred to one. Parts were always delivered on time-- if not before the response window expired, they would call me to followup on issues, ect. All in all, I've had good experiences with 'em.

Early MS support was great (3, Interesting)

dennisr (17484) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425316)

In the early days of MS support was great. Circa 1991-1993 you could call for any product for free. They had a DJ playing music and reporting queue times while you were on hold. I remember I bought a new 14.4 BOCA modem and it was set to com3. My Packard Bell had a com1 but not a com2. Because of this DOS couldn't see the modem. I called MS and the guy on the phone knew exactly what I was talking about then had me write a DEBUG (remember the dos debug command?) script to re-assign com3 to com2 without changing the modem! I was impressed. Another time I called for help on time equations in Excel, again I had a great person that spent about 2 hours with me - basically teaching me Excel over the phone.

Later when I became a MS Exchange consultant (1996) I was calling about a corrupt message store. The guy on the phone didn't know anything. That was the last time I called.

Please Hold, Your call is .... (1)

lcsjk (143581) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425319)

Please Hold, Your call is important to us. (But not your time!!) After dealing with Gateway, Sprint, Mindspring, I don't use customer service unless I have no other choice.
CS at sprint (bless their heart!) did not have computers to view your problem! They could not solve the problem, but they sympathized!
Purchasing? -- If the price is extremely low, I might buy from a company a second time.

The modem was not shipped with my order.
1. Called (waited 30) and was told it would be taken care of.
2. Next week, called again, (waited 45), was told it would be taken care of.
3. Next week, call again, (waited 30)asked for a manager, she corrected and said she was re-starting the order and that I would not be charged shipping (got her direct ph. no!)
4. Four days later I received a memory stick and was charged shipping. (memory was same price as modem.)
5. Called back, told her, If you remove the shipping charge from Master Card, I will keep the memory, and forget the modem.
6. Total time, 3.5 weeks. Over hours on phone -- and still no modem.

I ordered a modem later. ($20.00)
Service like this stinks, but is was the first time in 5 years. They got a second chance due to price only.

You can't get good support guys (2)

vanguard (102038) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425321)

I'm fairly senior tech guy. I can sys admin and I can code. (I'm a better coder but that's besides the point).

I would take a guy in a call center. That job stinks. It's an entry level job that tries to serve senior level people. It's not a surprise that it doesn't work out well. The only way to fix it is to pay very well.

That model works in consulting. You give some comforts when you travel (the job is worse) but you get paid better. In support, you have to deal with more crap but if you get paid better you'll take the job.

Being in the industry for a few years... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425331)

Having worked at various ISPs doing tech support over the last few years, I've got a few interesting insights.

1) Too many companies emphasize quantity over quality. By quantity, I mean the number of calls you take in a day, or average call times. At some places, if you can't resolve an issue within 15 minutes, you're required to end the call, even if you could fix it with a little more time. This is stupid, because customers will call back, get someone else, and have to explain their problem again, which wastes time and costs the company money. Companies need to be less afraid to let go of techs who can answer a lot of calls in a day, but rarely actually solve anything, and more afraid to lose good techs who know what they're doing.

2) Interdepartment communication in most large companies is terrible. Very often, the only way to get something done is to make friends with people in other departments, and ask them personal favors, because following procedure might get the issue brought up at the next manager meeting, but it won't go anywhere from there, because it's not important enough to make a big deal over.

3) Immediate supervisors of tech support agents usually know how to encourage and motivate their teams, because those people were probably promoted from tech support themselves. The manager one level above them may have a general idea what's going on. Anyone above that is absolutely clueless, and has no concept of what's happening on the floor. Immediate supervisors are powerless, and their managers have little actual power. This means the people in power don't know anything about tech support, and people who know about tech support have no power. It's a direct inverse proportion.

4) Management assumes that tech support should be in an isolated box; they don't need to know about what's going on in the rest of the company. Thus, marketing comes up with a new advertising strategy, and tech support doesn't know about it. Engineering releases a new software version that works differently, and tech support doesn't find out until customers tell them. This goes back to the communication issue above, but it's more than just different departments not talking to each other - it never occurs to anybody that tech support needs to know about anything happening outside of tech support. Tech support needs to be given a little more respect - if you respect them, they'll respond to that.

5) What's up with long hold times? If a hold time of over five minutes for any department is not an unusual thing, you need to hire more people! The company is losing customers (or just losing money, as customer service gives away free service to bribe customers so they won't leave) just because the hold times are so long. Sure, you need to take steps to ensure that techs aren't needlessly wasting time, but once those steps have been taken, it's time to increase headcount. Sure, it costs money, but how many customers can you afford to lose? You don't want techs sitting around waiting for a call, but usually there's something productive they could be doing. How about cross-training people so they can be moved between a couple departments as needed, as call volume demands? That way you don't have to keep hiring and firing.

6) Many companies throw techs out on the floor with inadequate training. Usually they'll get a training class, but it's not enough to absorb everything they'll need. As long as it's clear who they can go to for help, this may be OK - it only takes about a month on the floor to figure out what's going on, and as long as the tech isn't spreading misinformation or causing problems, that's fine. New techs should not be held to the same expectations as seasoned techs, though - they should be held to the same standards of quality, but if it takes them longer to get an issue resolved because they have to ask three people for help along the way, there's nothing wrong with that.

7) Monopolies don't have to care about any of this.

yeah... (1)

happyhamster (134378) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425334)

.. and CNN sucks too, btw...

There are several major problems in tech support:

1. It is experiencing essentially the same problems as popular web sites: many non-paying users, high costs of doing business. And before anyone mentions that users did pay for the product, yes, they in most cases did (some can pirate the program and then contact support with angry rants as of why it doesn't work for them), but that often doesn't cover tech support costs. If tech support costs to be covered, product prices would have to be increased, often dramatically. As it curently is, support lives on what remains from other departments, so the service is corresponding.

2. Often unreasonable expectations from users, which is the most common cause of disappointment. ("what you mean you can't tell me exactly and right now why my computer crashes (which was the first computer he built himself, from cheap crappy parts, and is running 40 various utilities on the background). Fixing such issues would require many housr, but lusers only have attention span of 30 seconds. Besides, they didn't pay for 10 hours for the technician, so why should he go out of his way to fix luser's faults?

3. Insufficient capabilities. I still consider phone and email support(most commonly used) to be ridiculous means of resolving technical issues. Anyone who ever tried doing that knows what I mean. ("so now you click Ok""there is no Ok""sir, Ok button is in the lower right corentr of the dialog box""which box??" ... ridiculous" I believe and hope that this sort of crap will eventually go away. We need remove desktp access as in XP. That, or just bring your goddam peecee to local specialist. I mean I don't see Honda or Ford fixing cars over the phone ("ok, ms. jones, now remove transmission..."), so why is it considered that much more complex computers can be fixed while talking to retatded users over the phone?

I believe that to improve things in support:

1. It will have to be paid for by users. As I said, currently retail prices don't cover support. Funny, I recently explored support options at richest of the rich Microsoft, and guess waht, you get 3(three) installation-only questions within 90 days of purchase. THat's all folks. Everything else has to be paid for. Other companies should do the same. Costs should be covered, and a small profit would be nice, too. This is not charity, after all.

2. Myth that you can fix computers over the phone while trying to get a retard to click on the right thing has to go. Lusers should be told that computers are very complex things that they shouldn't be poking around. If it doesn't work, bring it to a specialist so he can see in what way you screwed your computer. He will contact vendor's professional support if really necessary.

Oh, and the last thing, idiots should be fined and banned from wasting support's time again, ever.

The best tech support I know of (5, Informative)

Dominic_Mazzoni (125164) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425336)

I've been using DreamHost [] for two years now, and I think that their tech support is phenomenal. They provide web hosting, with email accounts, shell access, secure transactions, etc.

As a rule, they offer no telephone support. All of their support is via email, or a web form in case your email is down. They usually respond within an hour, and always within 24 hours. The people who respond are actual techs, and they actually have the power to fix things if they're broken.

One of the nicest features about their support web form, though is that after you ask your question, there's a little choice control, with the question: "Please select your general expertise in the area of this request:", with options ranging from "Please explain everything to me carefully" to "I have a good understanding of this stuff" and even "Not to be rude, but I probably know more about this than you!".

What a difference it makes! They don't waste their time reminding me to check my caps lock key when typing in my password, and similarly they don't confuse a newbie by talking about IMAP vs. POP3 (they support both, BTW, which rocks!).

I really like this model - I would be willing to give up phone support from any company if their email support worked this well.

And I highly recommend DreamHost for all of your web-hosting needs. And that's not just because if you say that "dmazzoni" referred you, I'll get a discount!

Compaq has the best .... (0)

bizitch (546406) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425338)

From my experience, short hold times, techs that know their product (shocking!), free overnight crosshipping on busted parts and best of all it's free to their customers. When I call, I don't get the "your an idiot" treatment that Dogbert is famous for. My biggest worry is that this HP deal is going to screw this all up.

From my experience... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425341)

Computers get more popular -> more of the general population uses them -> more calls to tech support from people who are total morons -> tech support gets sick of dealing with these people all the time, quits -> only person willing to take tech support job and deal with morons is also a moron. This is the story of many of my friends who have been tech support people, the good ones can always get a better job somewhere else and not have to deal with it.

The Drill (1)

0spf (574535) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425343)

This has worked well for me and while it increases your hold time initially it works in the long run. When you get through to a human during the initial chat determine if you have a good one or a bad one. If you have a bad one hang up and call again. If you have a good one do your best to get their name, extension and/or email and use that for future contacts with that vendors tech support. In my experience the quality of support depends largely on the individual tech

Lotus Tech Support (1)

Khan (19367) | more than 12 years ago | (#3425346)

IMHO, I have found no better tech support than the fine people at Lotus (and this was before IBM pulled them back in). Everyone I have dealt with knew their stuff or knew how to get ahold of someone that knew the answers. Since their convergence with IBM, the support has gotten even better (hard as that is to believe). It's a damn shame that my employer is going to switch us off of Notes/Domino and onto Outbreak/Exchange. I can't wait to have to call M$ $upport.

Best support is from SGI (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3425351)

We have a large number of different systems (Suse SLES, HP-UX, Solaris 7, AIX, and SGI IRIX). The best support comes from SGI. I have the cell phone number of a very senior support engineer who is willing to help us with any problem we might have. He has been working for SGI for over a decade and so far I have never been able to stump him. He even answers his cell phone on the first ring.

And, SGI servers are the most scalable (up to 1024 CPUs in a CCNUMA SMP configuration) of any system we have found. They even cost less than Sun!

Why we keep buying SGI systems year in and year out:

(1) Amazing hardware, long uptimes, very scalable, huge internal bangwidth, well priced.

(2) Great OS: scales well, lots of features, XFS file system, handles real time scheduling and real time IO.

(3) Great support. See above. Better than any othre company I've ever worked with, bar none.
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