Being a Technical Support Agent is not an easy job. I should know, I’ve been in several companies, at different levels, and it can be difficult.
Working in technical support means receiving calls, emails or chat sessions from people who are not happy. It’s a lot like a retail customer service job, only without the benefit of body language, eye contact, and other things that facilitate human interaction. It is a unique race with unique challenges.
My How to Talk to Tech Support article was written to help make your overall experience working with them easier, but I think knowing some of this insider information can also help.
These five “secrets” are a mix of things that tech support people would like to tell you but can’t, and some that they’d probably rather you didn’t share at all. The last one falls into the second cube.
«We often work from a script, not from experience»
Unfortunately, many of the people who respond to the phone or chat request, or respond to the email you send, have no personal experience of what they are about to help you with, especially in very large support groups such as those that operate at big tech companies.
It is very likely that you have not used the router that you cannot get to work with, that you have not interacted with the software that you are talking about, or that you have not performed the most basic tasks of the service that is not working as expected.
The “Tier 1” or “Tier 1” support agent you are working with is probably following a flowchart. They ask you to check or do something, and then decide what to talk to you about next based on your response.
No doubt some of you have already guessed this based on the quality of help you sometimes receive, but don’t be too hard on the person on the other end. They haven’t used the product or service you’re telling them about because the company they work for didn’t think it was important , not because they lack drive or enthusiasm.
That said, if you’re having trouble getting the help you need from the person you’re first interacting with, you do have options.
“We can scale your ticket if you ask us”
While it may seem like the first person you talk to in support is your first and last choice, that’s almost never the case.
Sure, you can ask to speak to a manager if you run into an issue where someone isn’t cooperating with you professionally, but they’re not likely to help you much more with your actual technical problem.
However, there is another group that you can talk to with more skill, and probably more experience, with the thing you need help with. It is called “Level 2” or “Layer 2” support.
Members of this group do not typically follow a flowchart or predetermined list of questions. These men and women often have experience with the product and may even have been involved in designing or developing the product, meaning they are more likely to have advice specific to your situation.
Don’t take this new information as a license to interrupt a Level 1 technician before they start talking and ask for Level 2. That first layer of support exists in part to avoid wasting the time of better-trained support agents with issues. easy to fix.
Keep the “Level 2” option in your back pocket for situations where you are more knowledgeable than the Level 1 person (be honest with yourself about this please) or when you are frustrated with the level of problem solving that is required. is providing you.
“We have a target number of calls but also a strong incentive to fix your problem right now”
Tech support people sometimes find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They often have goals to meet on a daily basis, usually a number of calls. The more calls they receive, the closer they will be to their goals and the happier their managers will be.
On the other hand, the company pushes something called first call resolution – fixing your problem the first time you call – to save on overall costs. A helpdesk does not make a company money. Each call incurs labor and infrastructure costs, so resolving your issue quickly and efficiently saves you money.
You can use this knowledge to your advantage, especially if you’re having a particularly difficult time or if the problem is clearly related to the company’s product or service.
Knowing that they want you in and out quickly, and satisfied, don’t hesitate to ask for replacement hardware, a coupon or discount, or an appropriate upgrade. Ask too soon and there will be no incentive on your part, but if you do it right, you could be better off than before the problem started. Most companies have learned that keeping you happy, even at a short-term cost, pays off in the long run.
Beware of tech support upselling , a relatively common practice these days where tech support agents double as salespeople, offering you a higher level service or upgraded product, at a cost of course, during your call. Most of the time this is clear and easy to exclude, but some companies use this tactic as a way to support you – an “update and this problem is gone” something like that.
“Sometimes we have the answer you need but you are not allowed to tell it”
I remember being in this situation myself, as a help desk technician, on more than one occasion. Someone calls, has a need that the product I was supporting couldn’t fill, and I wasn’t allowed to do the right thing and send it somewhere else.
Fortunately, more and more companies are realizing that “doing the right thing” isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s also good karma, in a very measurable way. Providing a positive experience, even if it means losing that person as a customer, is something we’ll remember the next time we’re in the market for something the company provides.
The lesson for you, then, as a tech support “user,” is to remember that you may have other options, even if the person on the phone or at the other end of the email chain won’t let you in on that.
Remember, once again, this is not a cult of cruel tech support people who decided they didn’t want to help you the right way – these are company policies that agents have no choice but to follow.
“We have some not-so-pretty keywords that we use when we’re frustrated”
Last but not least, it’s a “secret” that few outside of the tech support world know about: the one that is sometimes being mocked, right to your face .
Have you ever been told that the problem you had was an ID-10T error , or that the root of the problem was a Layer 8 problem ? If so, you have been directly insulted and you didn’t even know it. Those are two of the many “keywords” that imply that the user (which is you) is…. well…stupid.
See Have You Been the Butt of a Tech Joke? for more information.
While certainly not an excuse, and none of these “jokes” are really deserved, they do offer some relief from frustration for some people in a very demanding profession.
More help Getting technical assistance
I have many resources on my site for those of you who are thinking of getting your computer or other technology professionally serviced. Here are some:
- Why you should always try to fix your own computer problem
- How To Fix Your Computer: A Complete FAQ
- Is online computer repair a good option?
I also offer personalized help. yes free See my Get More Help page for more information on this.