My tech support wish list

Don Reisinger is fed up with tech support and he has a list for companies to follow to improve their customer service.

Microsoft
Are you listening Microsoft tech support?

Like practically everyone, I've been the victim of poor customer service. I've talked to people who didn't know what they were doing, or how they were going to help me. I've talked to people I couldn't understand at all. It's easy to get frustrated.

Things need to change. Apple has stayed on top of the customer service game , while Dell, which once held that crown, has customer support quality issues that simply shock me . Suffice it to say that when you contact most tech companies, you simply don't know what you will get. A knowledgeable, understandable tech support agent? Maybe. An agent that sticks to a script and doesn't really listen to you? Unfortunately, too likely.

Here's my tech support wishlist:

24-hour support
There's nothing more frustrating than getting home after dinner and finding my computer or other tech gadget in a coma. My first reaction is to fix it on my own. If I can't or it seems too risky, I immediately reach for my phone, find the appropriate tech support number, and give it a ring.

Filled with consternation, I wait for the phone to be answered, only to hear the robotic voice of a woman who says, "We're sorry, but our customer care office is closed. Please call again during normal business hours."

When those two sentences are uttered, I practically lose it. With technology becoming such an important force in the economy, and competition more fierce than ever, how can a company not employ a 24-hour phone support staff? Maybe it's financial or maybe it's pure laziness, but whatever it is, it's ridiculous.

Online chat support
I'll be the first to admit that at times, I have difficulty understanding the representative's accent. It has been so bad in the past that I was forced to politely tell the person that I would need to call back and I hung up. After all, if I can't understand them, how can they help me?

It's nothing personal, but as companies continue to outsource their phone support, I desire more chat support. Some companies (my ISP, for one) offer chat support and I've found that it's an outstanding way to get through a help session quickly. We both understand each other and we both can address the issues at hand.

Unfortunately, few companies actually have online chat support, forcing you instead, to call. That annoys me. It doesn't take that much to deploy a chat applet and I think it would immediately improve any company's standing in tech support satisfaction surveys. Where's the downside?

Free access to software updates
Nothing annoys me more than when I want a software update and I can only get it after signing up for the site and waiting for a confirmation e-mail. What a crock.

Tech support is all about making things easier and addressing your issues as quickly as possible, right? If that's true, then why should we be forced to register for a site just to get a lousy software update? Oh, that's right, because your company wants to send us e-mail announcements. Uh, no thanks.

When I'm forced to register, I only do so if I definitely need that update. If not, I won't even consider it. Maybe one day these companies will catch on.

Direct e-mail, phone numbers, IM to agents
How annoying is it when you call and speak to a really helpful tech support agent and when you call back to find out why something still isn't right, you're forced to speak to someone else who asks you to walk them through the entire process one more time?

Once we call a customer support agent, I think we should be given their direct phone number, e-mail, and any appropriate IM handles so we can quickly and efficiently get back in to touch with them so they can help us with our issue. That would be an ideal way to improve customer satisfaction and it would make it easier for us to get our problems solved.

I don't want to waste my time going over my problem with a new customer support agent. I want my problem fixed as quickly as possible by the person who already knows what happened.

Put your manuals online
It's a little gripe to some, but it's a major issue for me: I want all manuals, every single manual a company has ever released, made available on their site.

I don't understand the logic behind keeping manuals off Web sites. I'm sure there's some genius who thought it was a great idea five years ago, but today, we want instant access to the best information available to us. What better way to get that than with online manuals?

Sure, every gadget comes with a manual and maybe I'm not organized enough to keep them in one place, but that's not the point. Having a manual available to me online ensures that no matter what goes wrong, I don't need to look around the house to find it; I know that I can go to a company's Web site and have everything I need at my disposal immediately.

We're not all tech illiterate
I realize that tech support is the place where people who don't know how to fix an issue call to speak to someone who does know how to fix that issue, but believe it or not, Mr. Customer Support Agent, we're not all confused when it comes to technology.

I can't stand when I call a customer support agent for help on a connection issue and they say, "Please press Start, then move your mouse over to run, type 'cmd'..." More often than not, I cut them off right there and ask if they want me to display my TCP/IP configuration with 'ipconfig' and ask them if they want me to set certain parameters. There's usually a pause and then, almost every single time I've said that, they've continued to drone on about what the next step is after "cmd."

Look, I understand that there are more people who don't "get" technology than those who do, but when someone calls who actually knows what they're talking about, their time shouldn't be wasted by running through every step. The agent should recognize they know what they're talking about and say, "run an ipconfig diagnostic." That would cut down on support time and satisfy those callers who don't want to have their hand held.

Unfortunately, the list could go on. There are so many issues with customer support nowadays that I'm left wondering what can be done. Have any others I missed? Let's hear about them in the comments.

Check out Don's Digital Home podcast, Twitter feed, and FriendFeed.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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