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PC Call Centers Garner Lowest Satisfaction Score

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the ouch-worse-than-cable-service-that's-harsh dept.

Communications 223

Lucas123 writes "The University of Michigan took its first American Customer Satisfaction survey and found that of six industries measured for the Customers' Call Center Satisfaction Index, the PC industry received the lowest score, according to a Computerworld story. 'According to the survey, nearly 73% of the people who have bad experiences with their PC companies' call centers said they will consider purchasing their next PCs from another company, while 85% of customers who had their problems resolved by calling a PC call center said they would continue doing business with the company. Other calls centers included in the survey included banking, cell phone service, cable and satellite television, and insurance.'"

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223 comments

Profit! (4, Funny)

slapout (93640) | more than 6 years ago | (#19511969)


1. Start computer company
2. Have good tech support
3. Profit!!!

Wait, somethings not right ...

Re:Profit! (4, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512073)

That a great start, but then.

1)want to make more money
2) cut back on call center
3) profit!....this quarter.

Re:Profit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512079)

It's been done. The company is called Apple.

Re:Profit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512217)

4. Get brought out by a chain store that sells computers and completely lose track of the "good" part of #2.

Re:Profit! (4, Insightful)

KillerCow (213458) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512227)

The problem is that the margins in the PC industry are razor thin, and with the number of people needed to man those phones, they have to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Retail customers aren't willing to pay for quality tech support. [Corporates are though.]

Even if they were able to pay them more (which they aren't), you aren't going to get good people who know what they are doing to sit on a phone all day every day dealing with angry/frustrated customers. No one ever calls tech support to tell them how happy they are with their purchase. I was a tech for a year, and it was horrible. You only get angry/upset people talking to you, and most of the problems can be resolved by following a script.

Add to this the PHBs who measure your performance based on average call times (not in actually resolving issues) and you get yourself micro-managed into mediocrity. Good people don't like being told to do a shitty job, and they will leave.

If you've got the skills to be a good tech, you can make more money doing a job that is more satisfying somewhere else.

Re:Profit! (2, Interesting)

corifornia (995298) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512911)

I think you could cut through calls a lot faster if you hired a set of good PC techs. Instead a lot of companies hire people with little to no skill and you sit on the phone while you hear them typing your problem into Google or something.

The worst is when you call into Dell and you have a hard drive that is clunking like a 1987 civic and you have to walk through all the possible fixes before they go, "It sounds like you have a bad hard drive." Really? Is that what the smoke and burning electronics smell is?
Me: Hi, my hard drive crashed, the disk is making a clunking noise, I need to get my hard drive replaced
Them: Are you sure your PC is plugged in
Me: Its on, its making a banging noise
Them: Did you try rebooting?
Me: What, yes er, no, its smoking, rebooting won't help.
Them: Did you try re-installing windows?
Me: I run Linux
Them: Ok, get your windows disk and put it in the CD Drive
Me: What? I need to get the disk replaced
Them: We need to try all possible scenarios to fix the disk before we can send a replacement


I have actually heard that line multiple times from Dell. Which translates too, "Im sorry, we have to waste your time just in case you are wrong"

No, the problem is... (3, Insightful)

sterno (16320) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512941)

The reality is that PC support is inherently more complex. There are more moving parts in a PC. The end user has far more ability to alter the proper operation of the system but changing software and components. There's a hell of a lot more that can go wrong in a PC, it's much harder to diagnose, and that is why customer satisfaction is low.

When was the last time you installed more memory on your cable box, or upgraded the operating system? Cell phones are getting more complex, but by and large they are self contained systems that don't get modified much either. I'm sure that customer satisfaction will decline, the more phones become like PC's.

It's just the nature of the beast.

Re:Profit! (1)

TrippTDF (513419) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513039)

Good people don't like being told to do a shitty job, and they will leave.


Amen to that! I'm getting ready to leave my current gig for just that reason! There's only so many times you can be directed to do sub-par work before you start looking for something else.

Re:Profit! (1)

slugstone (307678) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513279)

I have to agree with you. Just think if you called Ford for help on fixing you car.

Customer: Hello, I have a problem with my car.
Ford: What is the problem sir?
Customer: It is not working.
Ford: What does not work?
Customer: Not sure just get my car working again.

Re:Profit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512253)

It actually *can* work. We've done that with our small medical software company. Goodwill is our strongest advertising. Don't get me wrong, our tech support is expensive to provide. We go far our of the way for our customers, well beyond our responsibility. It's frustrating sometimes, but it really is worth it at the end.

Re:Profit! (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512317)

2. Have good tech support

The problem is that good tech support is costly. In order to provide it, you need to pass the cost onto the customer. Customers will compare your computer to a Dell and purchase the Dell for its mildly lower cost.

FWIW, I've always thought it would be neat to find ways of improving computer packages up front rather than relying on tech support calls. For example, POD (Print On Demand) is getting advanced enough to where you could literally print a custom manual for each computer that ships. Thus the manual can exclude features that don't apply to the hardware configuration, display the EXACT memory, disk size, file system format, video card manufacturer, motherboard manufacturer, CPU, speed, etc., and give precise instructions on how to operate each piece of bundled software.

With any luck, this would do wonders to reduce the number of support calls. Even better, it would allow for a company to more cost-effectively pre-install alternative OSes like Linux, FreeBSD, or Solaris as the instruction manual could be tailored to the requested configuration. No more (or at least fewer) support calls on, "How do I do install software?" or "I can't figure out how to switch between booting Windows and Linux." Such items would be listed in the manual. At the very least the support staff could quickly refer the user back to their manual rather than diagnosing their computer's configuration. (It would be even better is said staff had a PDF copy on hand.)

Even Walmart "boxed" computers would benefit from this as the manuals would reflect that configuration rather than mentioning features that exist in the model you didn't buy. (Anyone else get annoyed when their car manual says "if equipped"? It's that much more fun when your TV Capture Card manual discusses all the features you don't have with nothing more than "TV Card 2000" vs. "TV Card 2000 Deluxe" to clue you in to whether it applies to you or not.)

Of course, I'm assuming a lot to think that users would read their manuals. Still, it could be an interesting selling point. Especially if it was advertised correctly.

Re:Profit! (3, Insightful)

EggyToast (858951) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512441)

That's the thing -- people DO read manuals if they're good manuals. if they flip through it and it's just page after page of "Thank you for purchasing one of our products" with a list of all possible specs and languages, they're going to assume it's crap.

If it was actually relevant to their computer and covered the basics, they would know it was a reference. Sadly, good documentation (and I mean good, not just "listing everything") is usually one of the first things cut, despite the amount of money it can potentially save.

Re:Profit! (1)

bronzey214 (997574) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512997)

Actually documentation at all is one of the first things cut.

I bought a new computer and the CD-ROM didn't work and the manual was, ha, on a CD-ROM.

I was begging the tech to ask me why I didn't RTFM.

Re:Profit! (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513199)

what burns me is they could just as well include a REAL REINSTALL media set (okay they might have to use DVD DL platters but..) and then save some hard drive space instead of the normal
marketing size of the drive - real size of the drive - formatting overhead - diagnostics partition - [redacted]ware - WinStupidity - Windows itself = open space

i dare an OEM to give stats on how much drive space is actually open after the loadout

Re:Profit! (1)

Ucklak (755284) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513083)

The early Microsoft manuals actually had useful information. Now they're thick books of marketing information.
Not a single page of how to setup an email address using Outlook Express or how to write a document with Wordpad.

By phone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19511971)

Most likely caused by the customer wanting to fix their computer problem by phone - damn near impossible, I say.

Re:By phone? (1)

N3WBI3 (595976) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512125)

Especially when you cant understand the person on the other side because they moved the support jobs to India. No offense intended to people working tech support in India I am sure if I had to speak Hindi to help you fix your PC I would do a far worse job then you are doing.

Re:By phone? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513531)

and then you layer in the "im so stupid i can't provide tech support for a spoon" type folks (i actually in my former job talked to a guy that found that one out)

sometime the problem is an IQ barrier not a Language barrier.

OEMs need to have online the following
1 a way to download the restore dvd(s) (if not in the box)
2 a detailed tech sheet (make/model and subspecs on all the bits) or maybe just include a copy of Belarc advisor or similar
3 a simple page with any updates

yea by phone.. (2, Insightful)

tempest69 (572798) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512283)

ok, I ate some troll bait here.

Having done some tech support over the phone a decade ago, I know that some things can actually be done over the phone. ISP support for one isnt too bad if you have a decent technician. The problem is that they dont pay the price for a technician, so they force a script down the throats of the support personel, and caos ensues.

Your best bet is to call tech support BEFORE YOU BUY... call the line, wait a few minutes on hold, if they dont pick up with a real person in a timely fasion, skip the purchase.... your not being treated right. If the voice on the other end is hard to understand, skip it again... if they pause when you ask a reasonable question like "I have a pixel in the middle of my screen that is always red, is that normal" run like mad..

Unless you have no need for warranty work or tech support check the support out, your paying for it.

Storm

When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (4, Insightful)

lena_10326 (1100441) | more than 6 years ago | (#19511987)

...I don't even try. It's pointless.

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (1, Insightful)

Shimdaddy2 (1110199) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512083)

Where's the -1 Racist mod when you need it...

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (4, Insightful)

N3WBI3 (595976) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512215)

Its not racist its damn hard to understand people through an accent *especially* if you dont know what you're doing looking for help.

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (4, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512483)

Its not racist its damn hard to understand people through an accent *especially* if you dont know what you're doing looking for help.

Damn skippy. I am horrible at math (dyslexia related to numbers or something, they just run away from me, I have a hard time adding two three-digit numbers together even when you don't have to carry) and when I took pre-algebra in college, I had some kind of asian guy (sorry, I'm a typical dumb american in this regard [alllooksame.com]) as an instructor and his accent was more or less impenetrable. I had no idea what the hell I was doing and certainly couldn't learn anything from him. I ended up dropping out and to this day I still have never passed a single class in algebra (although I do utilize it in a limited fashion occasionally. I mean even to use ohm's law you need that, unless you want to draw a triangle every time you want to do that.)

When you're talking about something you know well, it's easier to hear through someone's accent because you're more used to the words and concepts being expressed. When you are trying to learn something you don't know jack about, it becomes substantially harder. Most people don't know shit about computers and most tech support employees are no exception, so it's no wonder that many of us have a spectacularly hard time understanding the Indian tech on the other end of the shit phone connection.

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512531)

Thank you, come again!

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (1)

phantomlord (38815) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512985)

We had to take m68k assembly as part of my degree program. The class was taught by a professor who had just come back from spending the summer in India. Since I already knew x86 assembly, I was able to grasp the concepts fairly easily since I had a pretty good idea of what we were talking about to start with. A good portion of my class had absolutely no idea what they were being told and it really showed up in the lab portion where people would spend a week trying to write a simple program (perhaps to count from 1 to 10 on a LED by blinking it a corresponding number of times) and would come in with a 20 page program (had to submit a printout of our program for grading) that didn't work at all in comparison to my 2 page program.

The guy was a smart guy but he just couldn't efficiently pass that knowledge on to the inexperienced in the class. I remember one time when he spent more than a minute trying to get out the word "mailbox" as an analogy when we were talking about registers. Being freshly back from India had rethickened his accent as well, making it harder for him to enunciate(if you know someone who grew up somewhere with a distinct accent (like the south) and then lost it, try talking to them after they spend some time back home... you'll notice that they regained a good portion of their accent, especially immediately after returning). The guy definitely wasn't an idiot or inferior, he simply didn't have the ability to communicate in his non-native language to students to convey his understanding. That's not racism (superiority of one race over another), it's simply reality. He probably would have been a great teacher to a class full of people who's language he natively spoke.

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (1)

CthulhuDreamer (844223) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513171)

I had to drop out of a Chemistry program because the instructors (or rather the grad students they had filling in for them) were unintelligible. Not only could be not understand what they were speaking, but none of us could read their chalkboard writing (half of which was in Chinese). We did figure out that "fus" meant "phosphorous", but we couldn't match up most of the others. After the first few weeks, the instructor was talking to an empty room. It doesn't matter how many PhD's a person has, they're useless if they can't pass the information on (and it's doubly aggravating when you are paying them for it).

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512719)

The best is to just start asking the people where they are from. Xerox recently moved all of their tech support to jamaica, so when i called them last time, i finally just said "Out of curiosity, where are you located? It sounds like your accent is from somewhere in the bahamas" The girl started laughing and said Jamaica. After a few more jokes and stuff, it was "Let me transfer you to level 2 tech support"

win :-D

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (1)

WidescreenFreak (830043) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513263)

Another point on that is that there is an assumption anymore (and understandably so) that the accent is always Indian. That's definitely not always the case, especially on enterprise-level support calls. Fortunately, I'm quite adept at deciphering even the thickest accents; however, I know people who have a hell of a time understanding the person on the other end when the call gets routed to England or Ireland! I remember once when I had to be called over to work with an Irish tech support because the other admin couldn't understand what he was saying!

A dislike for thick accents != racism (unless Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton hear about it, of course).

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (3, Interesting)

ehrichweiss (706417) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512303)

Unfortunately I don't think this is necessarily under the racist umbrella this time. There are several factors in delivering tech support and one of them is for the customer to be able to understand the tech. If that weren't enough, try calling tech support and finding one of the smarmy mofos who think they are engineers instead of peon techs reading from a script. I've seriously had some guy, who I'll only say was from the middle east by the sound of his accent, try to tell me repeatedly that Windows was running out of resources and that's the reason I was having problems with my internet connection; I was using an SGI and was trying to report a router that was failing and told him this no less than 25 times. I blame it on their culture that they think that being in any position of power "over" you means they know everything you do not about that subject; I don't know where it comes from but it's prevalent. That doesn't mean I hate the person, but I understand fully why someone might want to talk to someone who'll actually LISTEN(and understand what you're saying) for a change. Besides, I don't need something petty like a person's accent or skin color to hate them when there are so many other good reasons to hate everyone.

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512443)

unfortunately? does the racist umbrella keep you dry or something??

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513295)

yeah, we could put it next to the "raising racism as a smokescreen instead of discussing real issue" mod. Today I received a call from a recruiter in S. asia, could not understand him at all, even though I work with people from S. asia with heavy accents. If I had called for help with an urgent IT problem and been connected to someone speaking as he did, I'd be an unhappy customer.

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (1)

mackyrae (999347) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513313)

1. Racism is the wrong word. It'd be xenophobia because being Chinese-American doesn't mean you understand a Chinese guy trying to pronounce technical words correctly in English.

2. The problem with accents is that they can be unintelligible. If your accent is really really thick, I might not know what word you're saying. It could be any of a number of things. They might be trying to name a kind of RAM. That'd be hard to understand. "PC2400? PC400? Peezee Thundered? What did they say?"

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512095)

Or maybe they stop trying when they hear your "thick foreign accent" :)

Exactly! (2, Insightful)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512457)

Or maybe they stop trying when they hear your "thick foreign accent" :)

Exactly! You know, folks got so pissed at me when I did customer support in China. They couldn't understand a word I said - even though I speak perfect English! Go figure! I was hired as a support person by management. But nooooooooo, the Chinese are so racist they refuse to learn and take the time to understand me! After all, they're the customer and they should adjust to me because they are giving me!

Isn't that the attitude with a lot of companies these days?

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (1)

megaditto (982598) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512737)

Here is a fun factoid for you: 5% of your user population will consume 95% of your support services (give or take).

Are those 5% also the ones who are easily hamstrung by a 'thick foreign accent?' If so, hiring foreigners might actually save the company some serious cash.

Re:When I call and hear a thick foreign accent (1)

xero314 (722674) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513149)

When I call and hear a thick foreign accent
I just key hitting the 1 key on my phone hoping eventually it will acknowledge and get me someone that speaks english.

Your call is important to us (4, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 6 years ago | (#19511991)

I'd leave a better comment but I'm still on hold with Dell...

Re:Your call is important to us (1)

RedElf (249078) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512347)

I'd leave a better comment but I'm still on hold with Dell...
How many hours has it been now?

Complexity (3, Insightful)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512007)

Wow, worse than cable service call centers? That's sad. I bet it's because of all the industries included, the PC industry has the most complex product and the most complex problems. Banking, television, insurance, and even cell phone service are all pretty straightforward. But PCs are such general purpose devices that the issues are bound to be more complex.

Of course there's the other obvious problems of poor call center training, etc. But that just compounds the issue.

Re:Complexity (1)

freedumb2000 (966222) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512069)

Agreed, and it is very easy to just buy from someone else on the next purchase of a PC as well. Easier than switching Banks or the insurance provider.

Re:Complexity (2, Insightful)

Jarjarthejedi (996957) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512105)

I think you may have hit part of the problem there. It's hard enough to fix someone's computer problem when you have their computer in your hands, fixing it over the phone, especially when dealing with people who are, ahem, less than adept at computer use is exceedingly difficult. Combine that with the fact that many people think errors are simple on/off ordeals, "oh it's broken? hit a. problem solved" type things, and you have a very frustrating experience for both sides.

Re:Complexity (1)

UbuntuDupe (970646) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512247)

Yeah, but it also helps when you don't tell them to unnecessarily install GRUB, taking down all the other precautions they had set up, and locking them out of their computer. :-/

Re:Complexity (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512345)

No offense man... But seriously, let it go. Just let. it. go.

Re:Complexity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19513327)

My Ubuntu experience was better, at least. All I got was a "sync out of range" message on my monitor, and when I asked for help, everything involved entering commands and editing files.

The concept that THERE WAS NO UI TO USE TO ENTER THESE COMMANDS never took. Everyone would give random commands which couldn't be entered because there was nothing on the screen.

So I was never able to even run the LiveCD, let alone brick my computer.

By I don't doubt that it would, given that Ubuntu users apparently don't understand the concept of no UI.

Rude reps. (2, Insightful)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512081)

Customer service reps located outside of the U.S. are rated lower on communication skills.

I was once on a service call with a company's service rep and he was giving me instructions rather quickly and with a thick accent. When I asked him to repeat what he said, sometimes more than once, he became very irate and somewhat rude.

I had to call in because because of their lame website wouldn't activate their damned product. I no longer do business with them nor will I ever.

Re:Rude reps. (1)

iibenyayaii (1115609) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512239)

I also encountered some rep from cellphone call centres with thick accent. Just hang up and call them again. computer problems are much complicated, and computer is very widely used. Usually, u cannot solve your problems only with help from the service rep. you need to know some computer skill yourself. Those people already works hard.

Nonsense (1)

iknownuttin (1099999) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512381)

Usually, u cannot solve your problems only with help from the service rep. you need to know some computer skill yourself.

I agree. But when it's activation codes and other nonsense that they the company force on me, that's their fault. I've learned - that's why I don't do business with them.

Those people already works hard.

So? Working hard doesn't give one license to treat the customer rudely. Otherwise, customers will leave, like me, and if enough customers get mad and leave, then those "customer service" people will be out of a job. Which is their problem. I vote with my money. I've given up a long time ago complaining and arguing with "customer service" people. Their job is to make me go away so that their management can keep their margins up.

Well, lets look at this a bit closer (2, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512085)

Other calls centers included in the survey included banking, cell phone service, cable and satellite television, and insurance.'"

Desktop computers and their attendant problems just might be more complex than:

- What's my bank balance?

- What are all of these calls to Bangladore doing on my cell phone bill and where is the damn ON button?

- What channel is Bugs Bunny on?

- Where's the lizard?

Not like Dell tech support is on my friends list (until you get to the server folks, they've seemed decent), but we're talking about a complex system in the hands of well, just about anybody.

Re:Well, lets look at this a bit closer (1)

jguthrie (57467) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513297)

I don't buy it. Not for a second. Oh, I'm sure that the computers people are using are more complicated than their bank accounts, I just don't buy that the problems can all be laid at the feet of that complexity.


Instead, I think that the problem lies in the attitude of the people who provide the tech support. When tech support is viewed as a "cost center" to be minimized rather than an opportunity to gather data about the products that you provide, everybody loses. Outsourcing is always a bad idea because the goal of whoever you outsource to is never going to be your goal. They're trying to maximize their profits by gaming their compensation. You (assuming you have a clue, for mutual benefit is the essence of trade) are trying to maximize your profits by maximizing the value of your products. The easiest way of gaming the system is not going to be actually solving problems. That doesn't add any value to your products.

As a matter of fact, Joel Spolky has an article on providing customer service [joelonsoftware.com] and while I disagree with one of the points (I think that vendors should be judged based on how often problems happen in addition to how well they resolve the problem--if it always takes six tries for an organization to get something right, I don't care all that much if they admit it's their problem and fix it for free, I'm still not going to think they're doing a good job) I think his direction is right. The feedback you get through your customer service folks gives you a direct window into what's happening with them and an opportunity to improve everybody's experience. It's just that nobody seems to realize the value of that information.

Three types of support people (1)

toddbu (748790) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512093)

I've found that there are three types of support people who answer helpdesk calls:

1. The guy who is clueless and couldn't care less about his job,
2. The guy who thinks he knows everything but doesn't really have a clue, and
3. The guy who really knows a fair amount and cares about the customer.

#1 will be working at McDonald's next week and knows it. #2 will also be working at McDonald's next week, but doesn't see it coming. In the intervening days, he'll be posting comments on Slashdot about how everything is the customer's fault. #3 will have a long, successful stay at his company, which will reap the rewards of his hard work.

Re:Three types of support people (4, Insightful)

tazbert (824165) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512149)

No - #3 will have a short stay at his company, moving on when it becomes obvious that all his management chain cares about is his average handle time, not the quality of his support.

Re:Three types of support people (2, Insightful)

kentmartin (244833) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512219)

[i]#3 will have a long, successful stay at his company, which will reap the rewards of his hard work.[/i]

Will the fairies on his planet help him? Your idea of reaping the rewards gives us all the warm fuzzies, but such ideals sadly belong to the generation before us.

Seriously, part of the problem is it is no longer seen as cost effective to hold onto good employees. Take the UK, sometimes people can wheedle(sp?) an extra couple of grand from their employer every year or 3, but, a 10 grand pay rise doesn't even raise an eyebrow when someone changes company.

Re:Three types of support people (1)

toddbu (748790) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512413)

Will the fairies on his planet help him? Your idea of reaping the rewards gives us all the warm fuzzies, but such ideals sadly belong to the generation before us.
If you had read the summary, it said "... 85% of customers who had their problems resolved by calling a PC call center said they would continue doing business with the company." I agree that many managers may not realize that these numbers exist, but your comment about ideals belonging to the generation before us is clearly untrue.

Re:Three types of support people (1)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512733)

you think any of that repeat business money will go to a pay rise for the techsupport guy on phone? I think it will go for a bonus to the very PHB who was trying to make techsupport guy answer calls faster with no regard to quality. Meanwhile techsupport guy, stays on minimum wage.

Re:Three types of support people (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512523)

Seriously, part of the problem is it is no longer seen as cost effective to hold onto good employees. Take the UK, sometimes people can wheedle(sp?) an extra couple of grand from their employer every year or 3, but, a 10 grand pay rise doesn't even raise an eyebrow when someone changes company.

This has been true in tech in the USA at least as long as I've been in it (some twelve years now or so.) Getting a raise is like pulling teeth unless you are a) a big ass-kisser and b) very lucky. Not or, but and. But when you change jobs it's easy, unless you got your ass fired or something.

You Sir, Are Misinformed. (4, Insightful)

asphaltjesus (978804) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512299)

When you become a part of the average big soul-sucking support center, what passes as productivity is **precisely** tracked.

Read the following carefully.

-No caring.
-Know nothing. They provide scripts. Don't _ever_ deviate from the scripts.

If you are with me so far, read on carefully.

Call center productivity is *NEVER* measured by customer satisfaction. It is measured as calls per unit of time. Period.

Take a moment to comprehend the implications of the previous statement before moving on.

If you meet/exceed the calls per hour (or whatever) then another component of your productivity is the number of parts shipped. More parts bad, less parts gets you an atta-boy from your manager and maybe even a shiny nickel.

Finally, a call center is most profitable when there is a queue. Fewer support people processing more calls per hour = profit & productivity.

Re:You Sir, Are Misinformed. (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512567)

Bingo!

I worked phone support for a financial firm (via a contracted company) one summer as temp work. They would get mad at me if I was too quick in helping customers because the call had to be a minimum time length for them to bill the firm. So I had to purposefully slow down and delay the customer.

Re:You Sir, Are Misinformed. (1)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512785)

Yea, this could be solved by your employer having a statement in the contract that "Each support call will have a 10 minute duration, minimum" or some similar legalese. Like if AT&T has to go onsite...sure, they're there 15 minutes, but they bill you 4 hours minimum or something insane...

Re:You Sir, Are Misinformed. (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513551)

Call center productivity is *NEVER* measured by customer satisfaction

only if the call center sucks (and most do).

i know. my day job is ISP tech support (Sasktel). average call times are tracked, though pretty much for trivia purposes.

our main stat is the resolve rate. basically, when you solve a problem and close the case, does the customer call back about the same problem within 3 days? if they do, it evidently wasn't fixed and you missed something or made a faulty assumption or something else. we shoot for 80%+ on this.

another is our wrap time. basically, once you finish a call, how long until you're back in the queue and ready for another?

another of the guys around here worked at other places before. once place mandated a call time of 10 minutes and they did PC support, meaning calls ranging from 2 minute "where is the internet" calls to 4-hour "format, reinstall, reconfigure" calls, so they were firing people left, right, and center for violating that policy (dunno if they got a clue yet, as he left that job 4 years ago)

Re:You Sir, Are Misinformed. (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513589)

Call center productivity is *NEVER* measured by customer satisfaction. It is measured as calls per unit of time. Period.

As someone who likes my units to have snazzy names, I propose that "Calls per unit time" be forthwith referred to as a "Dell".

Wrong (4, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512309)

2 stays because management believes that the person has a clue. And if 1 has a nice enough personality, they will stay as well. 3 will normally move on.

Re:Three types of support people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512509)

"#3 will have a long, successful stay at his company, which will reap the rewards of his hard work."

Too bad this isn't true. Support people are rarely promoted and companies are always trying to outsource these staff because they consider them overhead and not part of the core business.

Re:Three types of support people (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512617)

I worked at a phone support company for a while to try and get on my feet right after college. I knew what I was talking about and I wanted to help. Those are not the ones that have "long, successful stay" at the companies. The ones that try and get a quick fix to get call times downs are the ones that screw you over. Nothing better than getting one of those calling back and it takes you 10 minutes to fix the issue when the other guy just told them to try something and call back if it didn't work. Guess which one gets praised by the company? Guess which one ends up with heartburn because of trying to help some of these people. The worst ones are the ones that called up telling me they had some cert or degrees and were convinced they knew more about the system than I did. I wanted to ask them why the hell they were calling me then...

Almost correct (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512709)

#3 gets their job outsourced to India because he costs more than #1

Then the complaints begin and customer satisfaction plummets.

Re:Three types of support people (1)

MoneyT (548795) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513191)

You've never been number 3 have you? Let me tell you how that works. You have management down your back because you're taking up a lot of time with each customer (good quality tech support takes time) and making more work for other people, plus you're not getting through enough people and so the company is spending more on each person who you're helping.

As if that wasn't bad enough, every other customer starts every conversation with you bitching about how long they had to wait for service (remember good quality tech support takes time). Inevitably half of them have no clue what they're talking about, and are so jaded from other tech support experiences they don't belive you.

On top of all of that, at least 5% of your customers will have entirely unreasonable demands, where even after speding every reasonable effort to resolve their problem they're still not satisfied. These people will take up the most of your time and generate more problems from paragraph 1 and 2.

Good, quality, fast and efficient tech support can be had. But until people are willing to pay what a business pays for business class support, tech support for consumers will always be shit.

Re:Three types of support people (1)

Adambomb (118938) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513213)

I do not know about callcenters you have seen but having worked in cellphone customer service, tech support, and now insurance sales. What i've seen is the quality requirements of most HR departments depends entirely on the possibilities of liability.

The company i worked with for celphone customer service did NOT want #3's. #3's lead to long handling times, people noticing the spin on marketing, and setups that are efficient (read: low margin). The #1's are perfect so long as they meet statistics requirements, as the clueless and "care less" rarely suggest the most efficient setups.

In this industry we were basically a liability buffer to keep customers busy for as close to 90 days as possible in the event of any billing error (thanks to Canada's Consumer "Protection" Act, which states that once 90 days have gone by from an invoicing date the charges can be considered valid regardless. Now I dont know if this has even been challenged in court as of yet myself, as I still don't understand how a service providor can force one to pay for a service it can be PROVEN they did not use. This was what we had to tell our clients though)

In tech support, you could be correct. From people I've spoken with, and the company I worked with, it seems to vary quite a bit. The peril here was that I worked for a subcontractor who was publicly traded. This led to one goal for the company: Meet or Beat the contract requirements, or else (as they would pay punitive amounts if they failed to meet the metrics). This led to the most horrible practices amongst other reps to find ways to dump callers, give easy answers, etc. #3's are especially hated here as doing the job RIGHT is failing to meet the metrics.

In both of the above cases, the company had a clause disclaiming all liability of the agents on the phones actions (unsure if that had been tested in court here in canada either). In both cases, the bottom of the barrel is perfect, so long as the scrapings keep up with the metrics. Indecipherable accents[1] or poor attitudes are pretty much an ASSET in these situations as they indirectly lower your average handling times significantly (people hanging up angry, people giving up in general, etc).

In insurance sales however, it seems to be the exact opposite. The sold policies are audited every which way from tuesday, and any imprecision is immediately coached. The particular company I work for seems to be aware that Insurance companies going to court against a client is NEVER going to be in a favorable light, so everyone HAS to know a fair a mount and HAS to care about the customer. You still run into average handling time type issues but its a secondary concern to accuracy (unless you cant become accurate AND reasonably quick).

I really do not know how anyone can compare these types of call centers "qualities" either, as they all perform VERY different tasks. Tech support has to be the biggest shot in the dark in the history of support (see the various posts about complex general purpose systems).

Phone Support for PCs are a Bad Idea (1)

roseanne (541833) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512099)

It's easy to laugh at PC call centres, but I think the problem is in the nature of the PC itself. It does many things and isn't quite an appliance. There are just too many failure points in software, especially on a system administered by novices.

That said, PC support over the phone is a ridiculous idea. If PC vendors really wanted to improve customer service experience, they should add screenshare software into their BIOS (with an obvious hardware kill switch). When you can actually *see* the other desktop, lots of problems become easy. (And if the network is fubar-ed so this BIOS-based screen share doesn't work, give the customer an onsite visit (charge for it if it's not in the service plan).

Re:Phone Support for PCs are a Bad Idea (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512277)

With the low wages and thankless bosses/customers and high churn rate of tech support?! Are you crazy? I'm sure those passwords will stay secure for about a day. Not to mention you would open up a HUGE channel for phishing. "Hello, we are from Dell and need to use your screen to run a few commands to check the status of your computer. We have been getting some cases of broken computers giving out data they shouldn't and we want to make sure yours isn't corrupted"

Re:Phone Support for PCs are a Bad Idea (1)

roseanne (541833) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512447)

Well, there are ways to securely log in remotely without requiring passwords (you could always make the customer read out a number which would be a one-time token), limit the software to accepting connections from specific IP blocks only -- I'm sure security pros can flesh those issues out. However, yes, if you don't trust someone, you shouldn't let them see your screen, esp since you might have things like your tax returns on your PC (or, um, photos you'd rather keep private).

But the fact remains that thousands of on-phone support reps ask tens of thousands of novices to run EXEs, alter their registry, etc everyday (even run things like LogMeIn and Webex); and it hasn't become a big phishing channel. Most call centers know that they need to ensure their employees are on the up and up -- or go out of business.

Perhaps It's the Users (3, Insightful)

BlueMikey (1112869) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512135)

I had a friend who once worked at an AOL call center in the Mac division. Real transcript: AOL: "What type of Mac do you have?" Caller: "Uh...tangerine?" Maybe the callers think the service is so shitty because they don't know that the problem is fixed or because they can't provide good enough information to the agent to get it fixed. I've had 10 times the problems with cable company call centers than I have with any other, including PC manufacturers.

Re:Perhaps It's the Users (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512293)

Real transcript: AOL: "What type of Mac do you have?" Caller: "Uh...tangerine?"

Having done Mac support, I have to say that getting a response of "tangerine" out of a customer is better than just getting "an iMac" as an answer. At least with the tangerine ones, there were only two or three models made, and they were all very similar. While I certainly see the humor in the post, it was actually a very informative answer.

Re:Perhaps It's the Users (2, Informative)

Mattintosh (758112) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512377)

"Tangerine" tells a good Mac tech exactly what type of Mac that user has. It's a "tangerine" iMac with a 266 or 333MHz G3 processor (PPC750, IBM-style, with copper tracing instead of aluminum), between 64 (most likely) and 256 (max) MB of RAM (PC66 168-pin DIMM), a 24x CD-ROM drive, a 4 or 6 GB HDD (ATA/33), 10/100 Ethernet, an ATI Rage Pro LT 8MB video accelerator, and a 17" CRT screen.

But your point stands for other, less-distinctive types of hardware.

Re:Perhaps It's the Users (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512679)

Ok, how about if it is a beige PC? ;)

Re:Perhaps It's the Users (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19513383)

If it's any sort of name-brand machine, then chances are good that it was made before 2001 and is thus obsolete. : p

No Surprise (1)

Frenchy_2001 (659163) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512167)

Call centers are cost centers. Support is part of the purchase cost and with razor thin margins, you can only get bottom support.
Compound the low pay with the high technical expectations and you get a recipe for a disaster. Doing it over the phone makes it even worse.

In summary, PCs are complex, the customers are for the most part not very good with it to start with, problems can be very complex, interface is so rich that it is difficult to describe over the phone and tech level needs to be high to diagnose problems when the pay needs to be low to keep margins.

It is an impossible situation. In a few years (yeah, right...), with more savvy customers and maybe video conferencing, you may reach a point where you can diagnose remotely. Or remote access to the computer (hello, security breach).

For those of you that have had the pleasure to diagnose computer problems remotely for your family, you know what i am talking about. This is what the people on the other end of the phone face every day...

Partly depends on customer's abilities (3, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512175)

As anyone who's done any kind of support knows, a significant chunk of troubleshooting/support depends on the customer's ability to follow directions. When the support person says "I need you to click here and do this. Now read to me EXACTLY what the window that opens up says," they expect the person to do that. It doesn't help when the person on the other end does something else then says "It's not opening a window that says anything" or they say "It's giving me an error message" [duh, that was the point!] rather than "It says 'Program terminated. Error code: PEBKAC'". Yes, some companies have abysmal support. But sometimes the people asking for support don't help the problem either.

Could the people be at fault? (1)

cyberianpan (975767) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512185)

nearly 73% of the people who have bad experiences
Possiby those people may not be very good with computers & would have had problems with any helpdesk.

Too many companies treat call centers as cost centers rather than seeing them as an opportunity to solidify the customer relationship, resulting in increased loyalty and retention
Also how many computer users need to ring heldesks ? Might not more bad, cranky & mad users ring the desks ? I'm not convinced that helpdesk callers are repesentative of users.

any reason to be pissed off (0, Flamebait)

jhutchens (1115547) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512245)

Americans these days jump at any opertunity to be un-happy with just about anything, and asking if their unhappy only permits them to be more un-happy and express it loudly.

Re:any reason to be pissed off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512821)

asking if their unhappy

It's "they're", not "their".

YOU FUCKING IDIOT!!!!

Re:any reason to be pissed off (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19513065)

AC, you missed the opportunity to apply spelling-nazi skills on "opertunity".

your rediculous.

Any reason to act superior... (1)

MoeDrippins (769977) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513115)

> Americans these days jump at any opertunity [sic] to be un-happy [sic] with just about anything, and asking if their [sic] unhappy only permits them to be more un-happy [sic] and express it loudly.

Self important Europeans these days jump at any opportunity to denigrate Americans for just about anything, and asking if why they're so pompous only permits them to be more pretentious and express it loudly.

Sale Call Center Work (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512257)

I did some work inbound call sales work (that means I didn't call people, they called us) and signed them up for PeoplePC... Wow... eventually, I quit, and when I was asked why, I told my boss's boss that $8.50 an hour wasn't worth my time, when he asked why, I said I have a bachelor's degree. Then the idiot had the nerve to say "Well, I have a bachelor's degree, too!" It's like... uh, but you don't earn $8.50 an hour now do you?

Now I work for a large software company and probably make 2 or 3 times his salary... :)

My good experience (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19512321)

Trying to decide on a RAM upgrade many years ago, I call the tech support of a major manufacturer to get some information on the motherboard.

Me: Does this motherboard require parity RAM?
Tech Support: Yes, the RAM needs to be installed in pairs.

Completely unfair comparison! (2, Insightful)

burnttoy (754394) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512329)

Banking, insurance even cable can be sorted out over the phone (unless your cable box has HCF'd). If a PC goes wrong then phone support is never going to be useful unless resetting does actually fix things. Even navigating your way through to a potentially incorrect setting is incredibly hard over the phone. Users don't listen properly, get frustrated and confused when they see the control panel for the first time if the machine is actually dead then it'll need to be RMA'd.

Both myself and the bank, cable company, insurance firm can get their hands on my account and/or their hardware (f'nar f'nar) and fix things if broken.

Many times I've tried to help people with their computers over the phone but when the problem is "I hit the power button and nothing happens" there's precious little I can do (other than get them to check connections) unless I can actually get there with a screwdriver.

Much as I hate computer as car analogues I wouldn't phone BMW and ask them to help me fix my Mini's engine over the phone! It just wouldn't work especially as I, like the poor broken computer users, I am no mechanic.

Ah well. My Mum bought a (pretty crap) PC a few years back but she deliberately bought it from a shop about 5 miles away. If it blows up instead of having to post the thing back or arrange pick up a bloke comes out with a screwdriver set and some spares. She paid more for that service but it was invaluable when lightning fried the modem.

Dunder-Mifflin Ranked High (1)

no_pets (881013) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512399)

This reminds me of the episode of The Office (U.S.) where Dwight and Jim go on a sales call. Jim is working on making the sale while Dwight calls up the support line for their competitor and lands in an automated system. Meanwhile Jim calls up Dunder-Mifflin and gets Pam immediately.

Of course this is just fiction and Dunder-Mifflin is quite the screwed up company (why we love it so much) but they have one thing right - human contact on the phones.

Re:Dunder-Mifflin Ranked High (1)

bhmit1 (2270) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512685)

they have one thing right - human contact on the phones.
And they have one thing wrong, they can't compete on price because of the high overhead. If independent organizations ranked computers based on support, quality, etc, and placed that rank right next to the price tag, things might be different. But until then, the uneducated consumer will buy based on the one piece of data they have there.

Expectations out of whack (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512429)

Computers are becoming like automobiles in terms of the cost and effort to maintain and fix. People want instant solutions on the cheap, which is unrealistic. The problem is that cars cost dozens of thousands of dollars such that people *expect* service to expensive. The retail price of PC's might be much lower than a car, but the maintenance and repair cost is not. If PC's would stop changing, then they would settle and become a commodity to fix or replace; but change pace prevents that. (MS-Windows being goofy doesn't help.) If people knew the real costs, they'd probably buy a Mac.

Re:Expectations out of whack (1)

Udderdude (257795) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513379)

Unfortunately, most people only look at the up-front cost. Not the cost when they have to send the PC back to Circuit City 4 times a year to clean out the badware it's collected.

significance? (1)

binarybum (468664) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512499)

The clustering of scores for different industries sound pretty tight with a range of 64-77. I dug around just a little, but didn't find any descriptives. Anyone able to figure out what the confidence intervals are? I'm a little skeptical about there being a real difference between some of these ratings.

customers are partly to blame (1)

mo (2873) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512607)

It would be unfortunate to lay all of the blame for this on the corporations providing the support. When you combine an incredibly complex piece of machinery such as a computer and it's OS with a customer base that refuses to pay extra for support, this is what happens. The field of questions that a general PC tech support rep is expected to answer is insanely broad. You can't pay the bare minimum for tech-support staff and expect them to be able to field these questions with any competancy, and scripting will only get you so far. But consumers have a lot of trouble paying for intangibles like "good support". So retailers have to bake-in the support costs into their product and only provide the bare minimum of help.

This is especially evident in the open-source world. Even when people get the software for free, they feel entitled to help from the project owners. However, when people try to charge for support services, customers balk at paying. Only when you get to very-large corporations with very deep support requirements does the support/services gig become profitable.

Too many potential problems (2, Insightful)

gilesjuk (604902) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512627)

PCs have so many problems, so many different causes of problems. Hardware can cause crashes and problems, software can cause crashes and problems.

Before the Internet you wouldn't have so many different patch levels.

PC Tech support is hard, no mistake.

reason (4, Insightful)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512635)

This is because computer tech support is actually a pretty specialized skill. It isn't something like calling visa where they have a flowchart of 5 problems in front of them.

Unfortunately, the people running the call centers don't realize this. They give their employees the same sort of flow charts that are given in "non-specialized" fields.

There are people out there with the skills required to to these jobs very very well. Some companies, like intermec (mobile computer manufacturer), zebra (industrial printer manufacturer), or CLI (provider of dumb terminals for As/400 systems) hire very very good people. I have even gotten the same person on multiple calls who recognized me "Hey RYAN! did you get that battery charger replacement i sent you?"

Unfortunately, it hurts the bottom line to pay skilled labor, so the end user ends up suffering.

I was unsatisfied too (1)

Ranger (1783) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512657)

I worked in a call center that supported PC's and other electronic gadgets for a office supply store chain. I worked for an outsourcing call center. I switched from supporting a cell phone carrier which sucked major ass. The PC support side was a little better because if the EU (end user/customer) didn't want to co-operate I didn't have to help them. I know why most customers were unsatisfied because the majority of solutions with PC's were doing a system restore. This usually meant losing all those family pics.

And if they had to get their printer replaced with their extended warranty, the replacement came from yet another third party and we no longer supported the replacement. They had to get support from a third party for a third party.

the travel industry is worse (1)

FredGray (305594) | more than 6 years ago | (#19512913)

I would have to say that the airlines and online travel agencies are far worse than any of the industries mentioned here. Most of the people in the India (etc.) based call centers have never been on a trip by plane, and they simply don't understand the realities of travel.

The customer is always wrong (1)

ylikone (589264) | more than 6 years ago | (#19513181)

Here is the difference between computer tech support and banking, cell phone service, cable and satellite television, and insurance support. When people are dealing with their computers, they suddenly become imbeciles. It's like some sort of magic curse that is placed upon them. Tech support is extremely nerve grating... because the customers are idiots. I did phone tech support for an ISP for a year... worst job I ever had. And I was the one that repeat call-ins requested because I was the nicest to them.

really? no kidding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#19513207)

- i never would have guessed!
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