Tech Support Tomfoolery

I think that I will put this here, as it may get a little ranty.

See, the thing is that I do tech support for a small software company. Mostly this is nice, as I can actually be responsive to customers and have 0 corporate bullshit to deal with.

However, there is something that I just do not understand. Our software, like most others, can crash. Let me be clear, our software is a good program and it is very stable but if you get 10,000 monkeys fucking around with something for long enough, sooner or later one of them will find a way to break it.

When this happens, I will usually get an email that says “the software crashed, fix it!” Being the good customer service fucknugget that I am, I will call or email to get some details, and see if the crash is a know issue with a work around, some sort of random event, or a new bug. This usually is met with hostility, as if I am wasting their time.

So, can anyone tell me what the deal is here? Do people secretly not want help, and actually just want some phone bitch that they can slap around? Does this happen with other programs? Does Microsoft have folks that call every time they get a blue screen or a lock-up figuring that they will get a new build out of the deal? Do I have any hope of continuing to do this job without eventually becoming a misanthropic bastard?

The problem is that people with more money than brains buy computers so they can e-mail their grandchildren. Therefore, they don’t even have the vocabulary to tell you what their problem is… but you’re the expert, so they just expect you to read their minds and figure out the problem.

For some, I’d say, yes, that is probably the case.

I would guess that is correct as well.

I’m sorry to say, no, I don’t think so. The job will burn you out. However, I am eagerly looking forward to many future rants from you regarding the idiocy and plain ignorance of some of your customers. So every time you get a call like that and think to yourself, “Gee, it sucks to be me,” remember the silver lining: there are hundreds of other Dopers like me who will happily live vicariously through your personal misery.

My grandpa (whom I always believed was ‘on the ball’ and well and trully had all his marbles) believed that because I am good with computer that I can fix his antique VCR (probably the first one ever made - knowing my grandpa) which had quite obviously ‘died’.

I believe he lost a lot of respect for me when I told him I was unable to fix it.

Here’s a taste of what you may be in for. You are a brave man, it’s hard enough figuring out what went wrong in person, let alone over the phone through the mental filter of an idiot.

Hey, give the customers a bit of a break. They purchased something, it is screwed up, they want it made better. Sure, some people are tools about making this point, but that is part of what you get paid to do. The customer doesn’t want to have to sift through fly shit to find the pepper. They usually have sifted through a bit before they called you. By the time you talk to them, they just want new pepper.

Support tech, here.

I hear ya, brother. Sometimes trying to figure out the problem is like pulling teeth, with customer reluctance to even try to explain what’s going on. You’d better start doing tongue exercises and build up the muscle so it won’t hurt so much when you find yourself biting your tongue 500 times a day.

In the miltary they taught us to show calm patience, and when an officer suddenly crashes his malfunctioning radio down on your bench with no more information than “The fucking fucker’s fucked!” you just nod professionally, fix it up and send him on his way.

I had an issue with the programming of a piece of equipment that had to be configered to accept a compatable RF device of the same manufacturer and reccomended for use with this board. After absolutely sifting through both manuals I found absolutely nothing about how to enroll this device into the system. When I called tech support the guy quickly got me through. When he finished I asked him where this procedure was documented in the manual. “oh it isn’t. We can’t tell you everything or I would be out of a job” Assholes.

As someone who has done support (and the software was being developed by myself, so no blaming the programmers ;)), I think the job is a byzantine creation, as it exists in no other field in such a huge manner.

Imagine Mary. She calls tech support for her Caterpiller diesel front-end loader. “K Mary, is the engine running? Well, what do you hear? Alright, sounds ok. Now, look to the left for some levers. Yep…yep… no! Don’t move them yet!. Alright, now, do you know how to steer?..”

Anyhow. Just a fantasy I indulge in after the exceptionally untrained call.

I went from doing phone tech support to teaching eighth graders. It was like moving up four levels in Hell. :smiley:

BinaryDrone, I hate to tell you, but many of your customers hate computers even more than they think they need one. They hate that it’s complicated, they hate that they have to learn new skills to use it, and they hate that it can’t be fixed with one simple little solution.

My dad used to (and still does) bug me about any and all aspects of his computer usage. It got to where as soon as I opened my mouth to explain to him how something worked, he would lose interest and ignore me. He even likened it once to asking me what time it was and having me start to give the history of clock-making.

He hasn’t wised up completely, but he now has a clue that he’s better off learning a bit about his computer.

Yeah, I sort of get that. What drives me batshit is that I actually want to help folks and have a great deal of knowledge and resources to offer just about any given problem. Honestly, I don’t think that many people want their problems solved. I think that they just want to yell at someone because the big nasty software made them feel bad.

Complicating this is that we are a small company, and I have this sneaking suspicion that a lot of folks have figured this out and are using this knowledge to push us around.

Honestly, I am starting to think that this whole customer always being right school of thought is pretty played. If a service person is holding up their end of the bargain and being polite and competent, the customer should do so as well.

Also, to be frank, I am pretty done with the “this is what you are paid to do” school of thought. I think that this is just another excuse for people to be pricks to service folks. Is it so much to ask that the default setting for all social discourse be mutual respect and courtesy (he asks in the pit, of all places)?

In my field, which is not primarily software, tech support is also huge. Every major manufacturer has a support staff and most have a staff divided to handle specific pieces of equipment and applications. There are now many, many companies making access control equipment, PTZ domes with communication platforms in RS232, 485, coaxitron and RF. I am currently working on a project for a major snack manufacturer that is part of the homeland security plan. We can’t allow anthrax to get into the cheese puffs and be distributed nation wide. Three 16 channel multiplexing DVRs spead across a huge facility built upon its own fiber based network. 102 access controlled doors requiring 14 seperate control panels, RF intergration, two badging work stations, eight barrier arms with card access and intergrated time scheduling, also buily upon its own seperate fiber based network. It isn’t software but it will require a huge amount of tech support from all of the manufactures to make it work and they do it everyday. And BTW, my ex works for Caterpillar and they do have a very large tech support team.

Damn tech support people. Always thinking they’re the only game in town.

Hi Binary - I worked for 12 years in tech support and after a while, I was answering the phone, giving instructions and checking memory allocations in my dreams.

The people who called me fell into 3 categories: 1) people who just wanted to know how to do something without reading the manual (understandable, who wants to read manuals, after all?) 2) people with actual problems, and 3) utter jerks who should not be allowed near a computer or a telephone.

Most callers fell into the first two groups and they were grateful for the help and a pleasure to talk to (honestly). Those in the last group had me googling “sheep herding” and “llama farming”. Best of luck!

The sad thing is that I have been doing Tech Support for 6+ years now (a couple of different companies). I had this moment today where I realized that I have basically been having the same conversation with the same people (archetypically speaking) this whole time. Makes a fella tired.

I would bet anything he was joking. He had probably dealt with that problem dozens of times before, and knew it was something that had been inadvertently left out of the manual. You think the guys who write the manuals talk to the tech support guys? Not likely.

Yes I am sure this problem has been dealt with over and over on a daily basis. But couldn’t they just send an adendum to the manual at least instead of handing out smart ass comments? Guy probably just has the same attitude about his callers being in different catagories of supidity even when I have read the entire freakin manual and tried to solve the problem in the dark before I went to the painful length of calling asshole central, I mean tech support.

There was a great series of tech support skits on SNL about the office computer guy. “move!”

No offence Hank Fescue, but you sound exactly like one of the kinds of people that make it so very hard to do my job. See, the thing is that Tech Support has exactly 0 control over the contents of the manual. Our job is to help people with technical problems. Assuming that this happened, and the problem is solved, why badger the poor soul?

So sure, kudos to you that you read the manual. Not many folks do. But really, if you want the manual changed, call sales or something (after thanking Tech Support for their help).

I suspect that what happens in cases like this is that the solution is fairly simple, and makes the caller feel stupid. Like any good hierarchy based ape, the best reaction is to find a monkey yet smaller that you and get a pound of flesh.

Hank, I am awfully nice; kind to children and animals and have never once been sarcastic or dismissive to a customer - even one who feels that he is calling “asshole central.” My categories had absolutely nothing to do with stupidity or technical inexperience. I would rather spend hours with a pleasant customer explaining the hierarchy of folders and files and what an icon is, than 5 minutes getting berated about the documentation by an expert whose problem I’ve just solved. Wouldn’t anyone?

No wonder your work is so difficult. Your job is to update the manual so people don’t have to call tech support. To paraphrase, “You think the guys who write the manuals talk to the people who call tech support?”

Tech support falls into two groups.

  1. You tell them the problem and they say, “Yeah, that’s on our list. Here’s what you do.”
  2. You tell them the problem and they ask, “Is the power cord plugged in?”
  3. You tell them the problem and they say, “Hi, Opal.”

It is all I can do to remain polite when I know exactly what the problem is because I spent all day doing empirical testing only to have to read along, step by step, through the “Tech Support Manual for Dummies.” Jump to the Answer Appendex for crying out loud!

Q. How many programmers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. Works fine in my office.

I didn’t badger him. I am never anything less than thankful for helping me complete my task. I just think I could do without the smart ass comments from the comfort of a cubicle when I am busting my ass to install your product in the field without accurate documentation. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you is all I am saying.

I agree with you. I’m sure the comment was irritating. All I’m saying is, I bet he didn’t mean for it to be. He was just trying to inject a bit of levity. It was probably amusing to him, and he didn’t realize (though he probably should have) that you weren’t in the mood for jokes. It doesn’t mean he’s an asshole, though.