Blame clients for service they don’t get

Where’s the help in the help desks? It’s been there without fail, and it’s the customer who doesn’t know how to use it properly. If only customers read their manuals. Way too often, they don’t even know they’ve got them. Sometimes, a customer does bring up a real issue, to be fair, but, unfortunately, it’s the bad memories that persevere. We tend to forget good experiences, there are so few of them. Life consists of answering moronic customers’ questions, trying to meet their crazy demands, and keeping stiff upper lip at all times.

Of course, it all depends on the perspective. Customers will still insist that it’s the help desk technicians who are close to being morons, all of them: they patronize us, speaking in techno-babble to make sure we simply can’t understand what they’re saying. Technicians retort by saying that if only the customer listened to the explanations and, perhaps – is it too much to ask? – jotted them down, everything would be just fine and splendid, thank you very much.

So, let’s look at the service provider – customer relationship in greater detail, and let’s check out both points of view.

Technician scenarios

OK, let’s start by first getting the usual stories out of the way.

  • PEBKAC – problem exists between keyboard and chair
  • ID 10T Error – spell it out – id10t, coffee holders, why are there two power buttons, my computer isn’t working … let me get a flashlight to see why etc.
  • ‘MOVE!’ as Nick Burns from the Saturday Night Live skits used to say.

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

How many calls have you taken in a case like this? The customer says, well, I was looking through my programs and uninstalled everything I didn’t need. You, of course, roll your eyes, and wonder where this is going. Of course, under your breath, you have to ask why?

If your car is working fine, do you start removing parts? So, now the caller wants you to help them repair everything. Of course, this can go several ways – is the computer even in warranty, is it your company’s product, what exactly is wrong with it and so on.

It takes a special gift to be able to repair something without seeing it. Think about that next time you need technical support.

Your error messages are unique

Windows is known for some of the most ridiculous and useless error messages (with apologies to all the programmers out there, but it’s true). Fatal Error. Fatal Exception. Illegal Operation, and so on. SWAT or the ETF should be here any minute. Callers have no idea what they are or how to fix them, so they call for support. Of course, they have to read every single word of the error message, or worse yet, the terms and conditions of a End-User License Agreement (EULA). (Tip: stop them before they start, politely say no need to read the entire message.) The consumer feels that they are helping you, and the company makes a better product, and you NEED to know this information.

Why do I have to give you my information?

Ever had a customer raise a fuss about giving their information, or even the machine information? Why is that, got something to hide? They don’t realize that everything needs to be tracked in the call centre’s tools and utilities. You need the information to call up history, case numbers, and previous calls. Technicians could care less about your personal information. They want to see the technical details to get the problem fixed.

I want your name and extension

Yeah right, you bought a laptop computer and that earns you the right to call me whenever you need? I’ve purchased cars and homes with not even an extension number.

I’m not referring to security and information privacy, but rather customer expectations.

As far as privacy and security concerns go, each country is different, of course. In Canada, where I live, we are not required to give first and last names. As long as you can give the customer a way to refer to your case, or to you with an alias, or an employee number or a reference number, that is good enough. I’ve actually had customers look me up in the phone book and call me at home. This was when I first started in technical support at IBM. You learn real quickly after that happens!

Salesman will say anything to close the deal!

The customer calls to say he bought this computer because it would include X-ray vision. More often than not, big box-store salespeople work on commission. They need the money just as much as you do. Their employers don’t want to pay for product training and – considering how quickly technology changes – it’s next to impossible to keep up. Sales staff often have to learn products on their own time. They may have made an honest mistake, or did what they had to – to get the deal done. Of course, this leaves the customer with false information and you are a representative of the company that makes these products – whether you like it or not. Fix the problem, make it do what was promised or bear the wrath of the misinformed customer. Your only recourse is tell the truth and set the record straight, or pass it up to Customer Care. Of course, you get dinged for the escalation, or for telling the customer their laptop can’t make ice cubes.

You know everything about software

The customer complains that his computer won’t sync with his digital camera, or his home design software doesn’t work. Of course, it’s your fault. You’re supposed to know about these things. The customer has no idea that there are support limitations. If it connects to your product, you have to support it. Customer Entitlement is not clearly defined. Sorry, marketing and sales teams, this falls on you. As a technician, you’d love to say: Does the computer turn on and operate properly? Thank you for calling our company, have a nice day – but you can’t. You have to at least try to offer some sort of assistance – without knowing a thing about the product. Like a Honda mechanic working on a photocopier.

Is it fair? Who said life was fair?

Of course, the customer will tell you, oh yeah? I’ve got this box, and you’re called the help desk. You’re paid to do it, so do it. There.

But if it’s real help you need, there’s always