Tales from the Help Desk.

If you’ve ever had to call for technical support for your computer repeatedly because none of the ‘experts’ seem capable of solving your problem then the following snippit from an article at Slashdot may strike a chord with you.

Orwellian Tech Support

Ken is standing in the aisle, tethered to his cube by the spiraled umbilical of his headset, holding an unlit cigarette, and yelling. Ken is always yelling, and that’s why we love him. Lots of us jot down Ken’s more memorable tirades and compare notes on our breaks. Now, standing near my cube, screaming in the urgent and gravelly tones of a mid-40s chain smoker trapped in a non-smoking building, Ken tells a customer, “Quit whining and go get a damn screwdriver. I don’t have time for this bullshit.”

None of us is sure how he gets away with it, especially considering that Ken saves his real anger for dealing with management. His conversations with the higher-ups all end with Ken screaming, “This is bullshit! Total bullshit!” and hanging up.

We all understand why Ken is angry. We’ve been tech-support representatives for six weeks and already a third of our training class has left. A new crop of techs hit the floor last week, and two of them are already gone. It might be tempting to believe that the customers are driving the techs away, that they just can’t take the stress of dealing with endless complaints and callers driven to near madness by interminable holds. But the callers just want answers. Ken, and those of us who are left, are angry because for the most part we don’t have them.

The story it tells is all too common and my own experiences with tech support at Compaq back in 1996 has pretty much ensured I’ll avoid their products like the plague for ever more. Course it helps that I build my own PCs these days and can fix most of the problems that come along that don’t require re-writing crappy drivers myself.

Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered why the help-line you just called seems so… helpless, then you may want to go read that article. It’d be funny as hell if it weren’t so true.

6 thoughts on “Tales from the Help Desk.

  1. I’m glad I have the technical skills so I can avoid calling support, with few exceptions. 

    I sympathize with tech support since in my experience I’ve had to deal with people who threw away all of their CDs once everything was installed b/c they didn’t “need” them anymore, or understood few computer terms making a five minute phone call turn into 30 minutes for a prob I could fix at the keyboard in less than 2, along with the “It’s broke - fix it” crowd.  I have to say it’s the clueless people who use up my patience.  The ones who scream about losing their 3 months worth of work they never backed up from a drive crash are more amusing than tiring.

    Coversely, I’ve had tech support (2nd level) get huffy with me over the phone even though I declined to call him out on his incorrect directory instructions(I knew where he was trying to go and quietly typed in the correct dirs) while testing a printer port under DOS.  Or the engineer who didn’t know that the version of their software you’re using has a known bug that’s causing your problem(which has been fixed by the next version written to fix said problem).  Instead, I spent a hour running back and forth trying “fixes” until the engineer finally said she’d look into it further at their end.  And never called me back.  Our vender, however, knew exactly what it was as soon as I mentioned it to him, and got me the new version.

    I’ve had problem resolved in less than 10 minutes via IM with HP/Compaq support. (Sorry Les - I’m SURE it was a tech on the HP side )

  2. I sympathize with them, too. I am always very careful to be extra nice and polite on the phone with tech support because if I had their job I am quite sure I would blow my brains out…or someone else’s.

    I have a good relationship (which means I pay extra) with my two main tech support lines…Apple and Adobe. I call, and I get put through to level 2 or 3 immediately. And gee, they are much nicer and more knowledgable at level 2 or 3. But I can see why, they don’t have to be the first line of defense against the relentless onslaught of angry dimwits.

    I can’t think of a single unpleasant experience I’ve had with either of those tech support lines in years. They don’t rush me, they seem to want to spend more time on things than I do, hell sometimes we even just chat about extraneous stuff. Then again, I’m paying them to talk to me. And until 2006 or so, they have to listen to anything I feel like calling them about.

    I used to scoff at “support plans”. But no more.

  3. I use tech support so rarely that paying isn’t feasable for me.  Dell wanted me to renew my default service contract last fall.  The saleman asks (after I declined) if something broke, would I be able to get it fixed for free… I said yes.   My labor’s free, the system’s been fine for the past year, so it’s unlikely something will go out for the next couple years, and most replacement parts would cost me what the service plan would.  Not to mention the main reason I replace parts is for bigger/faster.

    The only thing that broke recently was my monitor I’ve had since 1999.  Come to think of it, of individual components, I’ve had more monitors go out than anything else.  Most of which were due to age.

  4. I don’t have much in the way of hardware issues, mostly software. And I seem to be the poster child for finding brand new bugs and problems that have not been encountered before.

  5. I don’t consider myself to have many hardware issues.  Mine mostly consist of either it doesn’t work from the start, or it just wears out after a few years. 

    I’ve had the occasional app crash, then when I try to run it again, it won’t work right.  Power off and boot, everything’s fine.  Doesn’t happen enough to be an issue - in fact, I’m not even sure what apps have done that, though I’m pretty sure IE was one.  Maybe OE, too.  I have known people who would bitch and complain about things like that, wanting their machine fixed b/c they just didn’t want to power off/power on. 

    I find it amusing when people complain about how Windows is unreliable for 24/7 operation, but yet insist on leaving their computer ON 24/7 when it doesn’t need to be.

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