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How many IT techs does it take to change a lightbulb? None, you didn’t submit a help desk ticket for it.

Why does it seem so difficult to get good help from your IT help support these days? Do you feel like you get treated like you’re stupid, or like the person on the other end of the phone is annoyed because you called the help line?

There are a lot of reasons for a bad experience when you’re dealing with tech support. Some of those situations may be due to the personality of the support team member taking the call, but even in those cases, you can greatly improve the likelihood of a good experience if you handle yourself a certain way while making the IT support call.

We’ve covered IT tech support a few times at MakeUseOf, such as how to start an online tech support business How Earn Money By Selling Online PC Support using LiveZilla How Earn Money By Selling Online PC Support using LiveZilla Read More , or support tools you can use to help out your family or friends with PC issues Provide Remote PC Support For Friends & Family With Netviewer Provide Remote PC Support For Friends & Family With Netviewer Read More . From the user perspective, we had Jack Cola explaining where you can find useful tech support websites Top 10 Sites For Computer Troubleshooting & Tech Support Top 10 Sites For Computer Troubleshooting & Tech Support Read More , and Matt Hughes discussing what to do if you’ve falling for an IT support scam What Should You Do After Falling For A Fake IT Support Scam? What Should You Do After Falling For A Fake IT Support Scam? Search for "fake tech support scam" and you will understand how common it is across the world. Some simple precautions after the event could help you feel less of a victim. Read More ,

But what do you do when you’re dealing with your own company’s IT support team, and you just want your problem fixed quickly? The following tips can help.

1. Don’t Blame the Help Desk Technician

According to Logicalis, the IT service desk employee turnover rate is roughly 40 percent. That means almost half of every tech person that decides to take a job helping people like you solve their technical problems end up quitting that job in short order.

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Why? Well, one of the biggest reasons is that people who are having a tech problem tend to take out their frustrations on the first person who answers the phone at the IT help desk.

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The fastest way to get that IT person interested in helping you solve your problem as quickly as possible is by not blaming them for whatever is going wrong. Even if what’s wrong is the system you need to do your job is down, you need to understand that the person you’re talking to is not usually directly responsible for maintaining that system. They just answer the phone and try to figure out how to help you – so don’t get angry with the person who wants to help you!

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Admit You Don’t Understand

Asking for help is difficult. Admitting that you don’t understand something even more so. The irony here is that if you don’t admit that you don’t understand something, it’s that much harder for the IT tech person to help you understand.

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This is especially important if the IT person is explaining things to you step-by-step over the phone, and you don’t say anything if there’s a specific step you don’t understand. If you wait until step 10 to inform the person that you’re still stuck at step 2, you’ve not only wasted everyone’s time, but now the support tech will have walk you all the way through the same steps again!

Trust me, IT support folks are well-trained to explain things as simply as possible, depending on the level of understanding that the user has. Unless you explain that you are very new to computers and don’t know very much, the tech support person may assume you know more than you do, so as not to insult you. Be clear upfront what your extent of tech knowledge, and the call will go much more smoothly.

3. You Can Ask For Someone Else

There are really bad tech support workers out there. We’ve all had some dealings with them. Even having almost two decades of tech experience and understanding the difficulties tech support staff face, I’ve even come across some support folks who are just horrible at troubleshooting problems over the phone.

They may just have poor troubleshooting skills How To Troubleshoot & Repair A Broken Laptop How To Troubleshoot & Repair A Broken Laptop Laptops tend to have a rather short lifetime. They are outdated within weeks of being released, they are notoriously hard to upgrade or repair, and by nature they are subject to gradual decay or fatal... Read More , or a very bad phone personality. It happens – especially with such a high-turnover rate, it can be hard for some companies to hire premium tech support.

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Don’t be afraid to ask for someone else. You don’t even have to have a confrontation, just say something like, “I’m sorry, but I’m just having difficulty working with this style of troubleshooting, is it okay if I work with someone else who may be available?”

If the person still gives you difficulty, or refuses to transfer your call, hang up and call back. You’re likely to receive a new help desk agent. If you get the same person – common for a company that’s short-staffed – then it’s time to just ask to talk to the manager. It’s best to explain the issue so the company can replace that support agent quickly. You certainly aren’t the only person having that bad experience.

4. Don’t Leave Out the Details

One of the most common problems that IT support agents have to deal with is when people who call are not completely forthcoming about what events led up to the problem. You may think that all you have to tell the support person is that your keyboard isn’t working, and eventually they’ll fix the problem. If you leave out the fact that you spilled coffee all over the keyboard, you’re actually doing yourself a disservice.

coffee-spill

What a technician will do is work through a troubleshooting procedure Keep Track Of Customer Problems & Priorities With Close Support Help Desk Software Keep Track Of Customer Problems & Priorities With Close Support Help Desk Software Read More that includes checking the cable connections, checking the USB port, checking the control panel settings for your keyboard, and probably other checks. Why waste your time and the technicians time when you know perfectly well that the most likely cause is the spilled coffee?

This is a simplified (and silly) example, but even in other cases – maybe you uninstalled some software and a USB device stopped working, maybe you dropped your computer and now the hard drive is making a strange sound. Share all of the details so that the technician can jump right to troubleshooting the most likely cause of your issues. You’ll save lots of time that you can use to go get yourself another cup of coffee.

5. Laugh a Little

I can tell you from experience that IT help desk agents hear from disgruntled people all day long. These people are usually frustrated, complaining, and unhappy. Imagine how refreshing it must be for that help desk agent to hear someone who’s actually happy on the other end of the phone – someone who cracks a joke or makes light of the situation.

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Not only is it refreshing, but it will more than likely inspire the tech support agent to work that much harder to solve your problem quickly.

Trust me, they will be so grateful for your positive attitude, that they’ll ask what else they can do for you – and they’ll be more than happy to stay on the phone with you as long as possible. Because the odds are pretty good that the next caller they have to deal with won’t have the wonderful personality that you do.

In the end, a call to your IT tech support can be a positive or a negative experience. As you can see, there are plenty of things that you can do to improve your odds of having a good call. Try them – you’ll be pleasantly surprised how well they work.

Image credits: Female Service Rep via Sean Locke at Shutterstock, Coffee spilled via Paket at Shutterstock, Grumpy Customer Service via Andy Dean at Shutterstock, Unhappy businesswoman via lightwavemedia at Shutterstock, Crazy businessman via Arman Zhenikeyev at Shutterstock

  1. techno
    May 14, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    1. Please, don't assume you're smarter than the technician on the other end of the line, even if you know you are. I've had people argue with me until they are blue in the face, finally do what I say and have it work, and in the meantime waste 5 minutes that I could have been helping other people with.

    2. Bribes work. Cookies and flirting will get you everywhere with IT people. Not because we're mostly men, but because it's really nice to be treated like a human and not a box of answers on demand.

    3. There's almost always a grumpy IT person and a nice IT person. This is by design. It's called a carrot and a stick. If you're always getting the grumpy person, there's probably a reason.

    • Zack McCauley
      May 20, 2014 at 3:50 pm

      YES. THE COOKIES hahahahaha
      Seriously though, sometimes dropping by a box of cookies, snacks, a card, anything really, etc. goes along way. It shows, as techno stated, that you realize we are only human and showing appreciation really helps.

      The people who thank tech's and more usually are well received by said techs same with people who are generally nice to work with (ie: don't argue, listen, pleasantly talk to us, etc.) and will usually get resolved before a ********.

  2. Jerry
    May 14, 2014 at 10:30 am

    If I take the time to give you detailed step by step instructions with screen shots and you choose to do only 5 of the 10 steps, don't call me again and tell me it didn't work

  3. Robert
    May 13, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    Do not call me for help then argue with me when I try to give you that help.

  4. Valis Keogh
    May 13, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    --- Don’t keep telling me what the computer is NOT doing.
    - You called, I know your (whatever) isn’t working. Please stop telling me what the computer is not doing. If I ask you to double click on something, and ask what happened, do not tell me that the computer isn’t working. That the computer isn’t bringing up your application. That the computer isn’t a unicorn. Telling me what the computer is not doing is utterly useless. Tell me what the computer IS doing. An error message popped up. The screen went black. The computer caught fire. all far more useful information.

    --- Don’t give the computer a vindictive personality.
    - Your computer is not skynet. It did not suddenly become self aware and decide that you are beneath it. The computer does not care who is punching the keys and does not alter it’s responses based on who is sitting in the chair. Telling me that ‘It wont LET me log in!” just makes me groan and hate you. Trust me. The computer, if it did have a personality, would probably LOVE for you to log in. your failure to log in properly is not because the computer decided this morning that it’s pissed off at the world and is currently on strike and even when you do EVERYTHING CORRECTLY the computer will NOT LET YOU do something. When you say “the computer will not let me…” what you are actually saying is “I’m doing something horribly incorrectly but still think I’m faultless in this human-computer interaction. Plus, I am incapable of reading “caps lock on” instead of it wont let you, tell me that when you attempted to log in an error message popped up. When you clicked on your application everything went black. When you sat down the computer caught fire. When you say “it wont let me” it means that not only am I going to have to troubleshoot the computer, I’m also going to have to troubleshoot YOU since you obviously don’t know what you are doing wrong.

    • Bruce E
      May 14, 2014 at 5:15 am

      A device that is NOT doing something IS telling you something. Double-clicking on a desktop icon and the application NOT starting is a symptom. Disregarding this information is NOT useful when troubleshooting the issue. A correct diagnosis will sometimes only come when you know what is NOT happening instead of looking only for something else to happen.

      Anyone who has been doing this for even a few months should be able to tell you that you need to look at EVERY symptom. One should be looking for things the computer is doing now that weren't happening before as well as what used to happen before that doesn't happen now. Blinding yourself to half of the equation will almost always give you the wrong result in this job. At the very least, it will result in more time in getting the right answer.

  5. Zack McCauley
    May 13, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    As far as the whole "Didn't submit a tech ticket" mentality towards tech's, you need to re-address your views.

    We have a system that works, you put in a tech ticket, and we help you out. The reason tickets exist in the first place is to be able to track issues with machines/users for patterns or previous issue awareness.

    Also a tip: Google it for more information related, even if it's just for awareness. Often enough on this planet, you are not the first person to encounter this issue. Googling the information related to your problem (error codes, etc.) gives you potentially a limitless source of info for yourself, and possible the tech on the phone.

    • Ryan D
      May 14, 2014 at 4:54 am

      Zack - agreed. I actually get frustrated when people don't use the system that's in place...on the other hand, it's always good to try and view the situation through the eyes of the user. It may seem at times that every little thing requires a help desk ticket, no matter how miniscule (regardless whether it's actually justified on the IT side).

      The funny thing is - this article was intended to help people understand how to use the help desk system and get the most out of it - but the comments area has turned into a free-for-all gripe session from help desk technicians...I guess there's a lot of pent up frustration around here.... :-)

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