Why is it that people would rather wait 5-10 minutes on the phone to ask tech support "Is there an outage in my area?" than try something as simple as rebooting their equipment (modem, router, computer, etc)? I just don't get it! This last guy said:
Mr. Customer: Is there an outage in my area?
Me: No I am not showing one
Mr. Customer: Well, the last time this happened there was.
Me: Have you tried rebooting your modem yet?
Mr. Customer: No, that didn't work last time
Me: Well, lets try that.
OK, so it didn't work this time either, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try that first before calling! If for no other reason than to save yourself some time on the phone.
Problem: Can't Open attachments in Outlook Express 6.
Solution: Tools>Options>Security tab > uncheck the box that says "Do not allow attachments to be opened or saved that could potentially contain a virus" (or something like that.)
Record time! Didn't even have to restart Outlook Express!
Customer said he has had this firewall on his computer but was adamant that it could not be the problem. He was pingable but couldn't view web pages using any browser. When I asked him what firewall he was using, I was surpised that it wasn't Zone Alarm. He called it System Suit 4, but later corrected himself with it's correct pronunciation, System (sweet) 4....
Problem: Customer is unable to get online. She can get an IP address, release and renew it, but is not pingable from the outside, and cannot view webpages or connect to any Internet related software (Email, AIM, etc...)
It took all of 30 seconds for me to figure out what her problem was ... FIREWALL!
Solution: Disable or turn down the settings in the firewall.
Here was the dialogue:
Me: Do you have any kind of home network setup?
Mrs. Customer: No
Me: What about a firewall?
Mrs. Customer: Yes
Me: Which one?
Mrs. Customer: McAfee
(pronounced Mack-uh-Fee, as in to charge a fee... LOL)
Me: Oh, well, there is your problem. You can get an IP address from us, and I can see your modem and computer, but you cannot access anything outside your computer. Let's try and disable it. Do you know how to do that?
I had her set the program to not load at startup (not sure on the screenshots... and I don't feel like Googlizing it right now...) and then reboot. Miracle of miracles she was able to get online after rebooting (and of course I could ping her once she rebooted.)
Mrs. Customer: That was.. I was... I couldn't....
Me: Did you spend like all day trying to figure that out?
Mrs. Customer: Yeah.
Me: Well, it looks like your back online, was there anything else?
Mrs. Customer: Nope. Thanks!
I kind of like it when they yell at me because it gives me a chance to step back and put them in their place because at least 9 out of ten are the fault of the customer, not the ISP. I freely admit when we have an outage and we have a board which we can post trends to, so I can tell if there is a wider problem. However, once I put them back in their place I am in control of the call ... they ask "right or left" with a vocal tremble, when I tell them to click on something. Even if 3 minutes prior they were foaming at the mouth with their vitriol, I can have them eating out of the palm of my hand very shortly after I 'splain it all to them... Bwahahahaha
Mr. Customer: What's faster the USBS or the phone jack?
Me: The USB uses the same bus as any other USB device, so if you have a USB printer or mouse or keyboard then it can slow you down if you are using them at the same time it can be slower. And if you have Windows 98, then USB is not the best choice. Not a great implementation of USB in that OS...
Mr. Customer: So is USBS faster?
Geez dude, it's USB, not USBS!!!! Stands for Universal Serial Bus
Me: Thank you for calling < ISP >, this is Haywood, I can help you.
Mr. Customer: This is Haywood?
Me: No, this is Haywood, you are the customer.
This was a weird one, the customer's modem showed as offline in my toolset but it was actually online in her house (as evidenced by all the lights being solid.) The customer even had one of our IP addresses and could release and renew it. The weird thing was that for the most part she was not pingable. However, a couple pings did get thru while we were checking network related settings. That got me thinking... there has to be something getting messed up here... She told me she had a router which led me to the next line of questioning...
Me: "Are you currently connected directly to the cable modem?"
Mrs. Customer: "Yes, I am"
Me: "No router involved?"
Mrs. Customer: "Yes, no router"
Me: "Are you using your computer as a router?"
Mrs. Customer: "I don't know what you mean"
Me: "Do you connect other computers to the Internet thru this one?"
Mrs. Customer: "No"
Well, we then checked for a network bridge (in Control Panel>Network and Internet Connections>Network Connections and looked for anything called Bridge) and sure enough there was her "router". She even called it that! "There is my router." I love how customers lie! She was totally using the computer like a router and it was not sure which way to go. Of course, we fixed the problem after disabling the "router" (right click and select "Disable" or just drag to the trash).
Ahhh, it's gonna be a good day. That call only took 15 minutes. Not bad...
I often find myself beating my forehead against the closest wooden board or metal post... It is especially frustrating to have to deal with people who have no clue how things work. Prime example... Guy I was talking to the other day was getting frustrated with troubleshooting.
Me: OK, let's go ahead and click on Start and then Run.
Mr. Customer: (*sigh*) OK
Me: And now type in the word "command". That should open the DOS window, did it?
Mr. Customer: (*sigh*) Yes.
Me: Now type in ping, space, www.yahoo.com
Mr. Customer: God damnit! Do I have to type all that in?
Uh, yes you do, since I can't do it and there ain't nobody over there that's gonna help you!
Geez! How the Hell am I supposed to fix this problem if you won't work with me!?!?!?! We are supposed to be a team... I tell you what to do and you do it! How *^*%*$# hard is that??? Why the hell are you getting frustrated with me when the PROBLEM IS ON YOUR COMPUTER??
And if I remember correctly, as soon as we finished getting him back online, he immediatly hung up without so much as a "Fare ye well"! Hrrumph!
When you do tech support for a company, that company will have limits to what it supports and what it doesn't. This support position must be reflected by the entire tech support team or else there will be an inconsistant message ("The last guy helped with set up Outlook and my Linksys router. He was so helpful... How come you can't help me?"). Some aspects of the computer are just not supported. Period. We cannot support the entire computer or even the home network if we only provide the customer with a connection.
It's comparable to expecting the government (or the Dept of Transportation, for that matter) to fix your car when it breaks, since they provided you with the roads on which you drive it. It just ain't gonna happen. That is what auto repair shops are for. Same goes for ISPs. We are not computer repair shops. That is what Dell/Gateway/Compaq/HP are. We provide the highway, you bring the car. If you have problems with the car, you take it to the repair shop.
When you work for the company that I work for, your annual raise is determined by a matrix which considers the time spent talking on the phone (talk time), accuracy in note taking (i.e. did you document the call?), how much time you spend in idle (signed on to the phone but not in available, presumably taking notes, etc) and lastly call monitoring (I am almost always at 100% on this one). My biggest obstacle has always been getting my talk time down to within a reasonable range to get the maximum annual bonus.
Sometimes my calls would run a little long because I somehow got roped into helping the customer with something that isn't necessarily supported, such as troubleshooting Windows or gently helping them with the router they just bought or tuirning off their Antivirus software. We don't troubleshoot Windows. We don't help with Antivirus software and we don't support home networks. Period. If the operating system is having problems, we refer them to PC Repair shop or computer manufacturer. Likewise for the other examples...
Some of the best advice I ever received on this was from a Team Leader who is very good with computers and networking and such. He said "I don't care how much you know about computers or routers, the customer doesn't have to know that. Just tell 'em what I used to say : 'I really don't know too much about Windows.' or 'I don't know much about routers/home networks.' and they will not be able to go any further with that."
I tell you what... That works like a charm!!! All I have to say is "I am not really that good with Windows. And if I was to troubleshoot it, I would probably be wasting your time." This takes the blame off of the big, bad ISP and puts it on me. When the customer thinks that their time will be wasted talking to some schlub, they can't get off the phone quick enough! What's even better is that the customer has no idea that I know Windows pretty damn well (MCP certified and will be MCSA and A+ soon). And if he/she were to challenge me on it, I could say "Well, I only know enough about Windows to help our customers with settings that are relevant to their Internet connections. I don't know much more than that."
And if they mention that they have a router (not supported), all I have to do is say that I really don't know much about routers except that they do work in our system. They almost always are more willing to contact the right support people when I play dumb. If they knew I was a CCNA, I would never get off the phone. Don't get me wrong, I love helping people, but I am not being paid to support someone else's hardware/software/ISP, so if it doesn't relate to me, I will plead ignorance and play dumb. Even if I know the solution to the problem. Especially if the person on the other end of the line is being a jerk and demanding we support it. When I put our "non-support policy" into my terms, he is off my phone within 2 minutes (allows time for him to rant and for me to deprogram him).
All in all its a good way to lower the talk time while having fun at the expense of the customer...
Some of the great mysteries of tech support... From the other side
I have a few questions that maybe you can help me with...
1) Why do people confuse download with install? They are 2 very different concepts and procedures. You install software from a CD, you don't download it from the CD, you install it. What is so confusing???
2) Where do people get the idea that they can change their password or sign up for a new email account when they are merely setting up the account in their email program of choice? The program merely asks you for the settings and configurations, it cannot change things on the ISP's side of things. For that you need to actually log in to their Customer/Member Support site, not change things in the email program setup... Ugh!
3) Where is the source of confusion in this statement: "OK, let's go ahead and restart the computer." Nine times out of 10 the customer will ask me "Restart or shutdown?" Did I say shutdown? No, I said Restart. If I wanted you to shut the computer down, I would have said "Let's shut the computer down". But I didn't. I said "Let's restart the computer..." Hmmm... Maybe it's the whole clicking on "Start" to shut the computer down thingee... I dunno...
Every so often I actually need to find out what version of what Operating System the customer is using (or abusing...) Some of my favorite answers to the question (and these are all REAL answers) are below:
Me: And what operating system are you using?
Mr./Mrs. Customer: What is that? An operating what? I have a Dell/Gateway/Sony...
Mr./Mrs. Customer: Windows 2000/ME
Mr./Mrs. Customer: I think its Windows '97
Mr./Mrs. Customer: I think its Version 2
Mr. Customer: Do you ever think about sailing when you're in the middle of troubleshooting a tough computer problem?
Me: Yeah, sometimes.
Mr. Customer: Where do you imagine yourself?
Me: I dunno, I never get that far.... Just kinda somewhere out on the ocean...
Mr. Customer: Oh, I was just wondering cause I am planning a sailing trip and can't decide where to go...
I have to admit that occasionally, in my line of work, I will run across a customer who actually knows what they are doing (*gasp!*) and what they are talking about (*never!*). Usually when these customers talk to me on the phone, I can tell if they know what they are doing, and if I ask them what they are showing for an IP address they don't get all uppity with me and say "it's not a problem on my computer, I am a network engineer, I know what I am doing".
Case in point, this lady I spoke with was having a problem pulling an IP and she didn't have to tell me that she was an IT tech for the school district. I could just tell that she knew what she was doing. In fact at one point, she got ahead of me and I would normally admonish a person for doing that, but she caught it before I did and she said
Mrs. Customer: Oops, I'm getting ahead of you, let's start that over, OK, go ahead.... What do you want me to do?
Me (beaming): OK.... Let's try this...
So anyway, later on she tells me about her costume she wore on Halloween... I have never heard of anyone with such a clever idea... She went as the Blue Screen of Death! Complete with a Blue Screen on her shirt and a monitor on her head with a FATAL EXCEPTION ERROR 00x00230a33000aa0 blah blah blah....
Unfortunately, she wasn't one of our customers... She was helping a friend who is! So I guess I may have to retract my earlier statement....