FutureQuest, Inc. FutureQuest, Inc. FutureQuest, Inc.
10 Ways To Improve Tech Support
Posted on 24 October 2003 06:17 PM
This page provides guidelines that, when followed, will help make your technical support experience better. Following all of these guidelines will speed up the response you receive from technical support as well as helping to ensure that your question is answered correctly and that the problem is resolved the first time around.

1. Determine whose technical support team you should be contacting.

If you purchased a new car, but didn't know how to drive, you would not call the car manufacturer to teach you. For driving instructions you need to contact the local driving school. The same rule applies with technical support departments. If the problem is with your hardware, contact the hardware manufacturer. If the problem is with a third party script, contact the script author. If the problem is with HTML consult an HTML guide. It is vitally important that you have contacted the right team in order to receive the right support.

2. Search for FAQs, tutorials, guides, and other references first.

There are an enormous amount of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), tutorials, and other references available on the Internet, free of charge, as well as the tutorials found here and within the Community Forums. If the question has been answered in the FAQs and tutorials, the odds are that the technical support team has already answered the same question many times before, hence the reason for the tutorials and FAQs. You will save yourself, as well as technical support, a great deal of time and frustration if you first seek out the answer within the many free online publications available to you.

3. Thou shall not lie.

A good way to not have your problem solved is to lie. If you have in fact touched the file, changed the code, not read the directions, changed your settings, switched software, or anything else, you will need to inform technical support of this. What you do not tell tech support only adds to the time it takes to solve the problem, and oftentimes can make the problem worse. Misrepresenting the information surrounding the problem is like lying to your doctor. It causes you more pain and makes it harder to find the remedy.

4. Technical support is deaf & blind without you.

You are the eyes and ears of the technical support team. They cannot see what you see, or hear what you hear, unless you show them where to look, give them directions on how to view it, and explain what it sounds like. Sending an email that says "It's broke, I tried everything, fix it!", will do nothing to solve the problem. You will need to explain what it is. How you got to it, what it is doing, and what you think it should be doing. Be precise, explanatory, and short with your question. Explain what steps you took prior to receiving the error, what the error message was if you received one, what you did after the error, what you think it should be doing, and make sure you explain what software was being used. Saying it was an FTP problem without telling them what FTP program you were using, or what settings you used, or even what the error was will only cause tech support to send a reply that simply asks these questions and does not provide an answer to the problem.

Two examples:

The wrong way: (50 minutes or more)

    Client: My counter is broke. Please fix it.
    Tech Support Opens browser, visits client's web site, and searches for a counter. -clock's ticking away- Counter seems to work. Emails client that the counter seems to be working and requests more information. Waits for new information.
    Client Receives tech support's unhelpful response 20 minutes later (or whenever they check their email again). Sends a reply that goes back into the tech support queue with: No it's not! It's just giving an error! Look at this page...
    Tech Support Receives email, and realizes client is referring to a different web site. Opens browser to visit web page. Notices the error message on the counter. Views web page source code and finds the html error. Emails client with instructions on how to fix the html error that seems to have been caused by their Handy Dandy HTML Editor.

The right way: (10 minutes)

    Client: I have a counter at http://www.mydomain.com/count.html that seems to have stopped working. It was working fine yesterday but after I edited the page with my Handy Dandy editor it stopped. There is an error on the counter image that says "error: this counter is broke" and I can't seem to find the problem. Please help.
    Tech Support: Recognizes the error, remembers that this is a common issue with the Handy Dandy HTML editor and sends a reply with the fix for the problem.

Notice that even on simplistic issues the wrong way takes longer and is more frustrating for both the client and technical support. There was more time wasted due to the wait time generated between receiving the first unhelpful answer from technical support, the second reply from the client, the time spent by technical support hunting down the problem and finally the second answer sent out by technical support. Whereas the right way allowed the problem to be quickly resolved the first time. If technical support needs to spend 20 minutes or more trying to find the problem it slows down the response time not only for you but for the others with questions after yours as well. Always remember to include your domain name within the message (within the subject of the message is best).

5. Do unto technical support as you would have them do unto you.

Simple common courtesy. Shouting, swearing, insulting, and name-calling will not help resolve the problem. The technical support team has one goal, and that goal is to help you help yourself to a more productive experience with the task at hand. Neither you nor the technical support team wish to waste any more time than is necessary. By shouting and venting at tech support you not only damage the important relationship between yourself and the team but you are essentially harming their ability to think about the problem at hand because they may be distracted by your words of anger instead. Remember that you have emailed them for help with a problem that you were unable to solve (if you had more ability to solve the problem than tech support had, then you shouldn't have been emailing them in the first place or you should be sharing your knowledge with them). When the communication is calm and explanatory the problems are fixed much faster and the experience is less stressful, for both you and tech support, which will lead to a more productive day for all involved.

6. If you're not a rocket scientist, don't act like one.

Technical support will always try to explain things at the client's level. If you send an email with many technical terms and scripts that are for the experienced user, then tech support is likely to respond with the same types of terminology. Many new users will try to act more experienced than they are simply because they feel a terribly silly answer will be received if they don't. -- Ever called tech support for a hardware problem and been asked if you remembered to plug it in? -- If you are not quite ready for a great deal of technical terms and/or require a deeper explanation then you will need to note this within your email. On the other hand, if you fear a barrage of common replies then note that you have already tested and checked the obvious steps 1, 2, and 3 when you explain the problem.

7. Make sure technical support can respond to you.

It is simply shocking how many emails are received by tech support that do not provide a way for tech support to respond. Double-check to be sure that the email address you have sent the question from is correct and working. Many times complaints such as "Replies to my emails never work" are because the email address is mistyped and this means tech support won't be able to reply to you either (unless they do extra investigative work to find your correct email address in which case refer to guideline number 4). Be sure to check the email account that you have sent the question from when waiting for a reply. It is not uncommon for a client to feel they haven't received a response from tech support simply because they spent the day checking for the reply at the wrong email account. Most importantly, make absolutely sure you include your domain name within the message (within the subject of the message is best).

8. Give a hoot, don't pollute.

Tech support should respond to your email in less than 24 hours. The amount of time it takes to respond will depend on a few things including:

    1. The current number of questions ahead of yours
    2. The difficulty of your question
    3. The time required to find the solution to the problem
    4. The information you provide and the clarity of your question
Tech support must take the time to read every message that arrives. As such, sending multiple messages to technical support will only clutter the support box and create a longer wait time for the others waiting with you. FutureQuest tech support monitors the Community Forums and Support Email regularly 24 hours a day 7 days per week. Posting your message to the forums and sending it via email is the same as sending the message twice and it will cause delays. By doing this you are double taxing the tech support team forcing them to respond twice to the same person concerning the same problem. If the problem is general in nature, the forums are a great place to post the question as the answer is given to others for future reference as well. If the problem is more specific to your account then email would be best. It's important that you choose one or the other. If tech support feels you made the wrong choice, they will let you know.

It is equally important that you allow the tech support team enough time to respond to your question before emailing again. Remember that they have up to 24 hours to respond, however they will always try to respond much faster than that. At times the question asked might be answered more appropriately by someone who is not available when your email arrives. In this case the response time may be longer. Again it depends on the items listed above. If it has been more than 24 hours there may have been a problem that caused your email to not be received (this is the Internet after all), and by all means, you should resend the email as well as remembering guideline number 7 above. Not cluttering the support box will help speed up tech support and is considered pure and simple netiquette.

9. Do not send attachments.

There are some rules that are faithfully followed by tech support for your protection as well as ours. Many computer viruses can be obtained by opening email attachments. For this reason, FutureQuest will not open attachments that are sent in. In fact, they will not even be downloaded for the opportunity to be there. If you have an image that you feel will help tech support see the problem, upload it to your www directory and send the URL so that they may view it from there. If you have a .doc file or other text document, copy and paste the required content to the email itself. Sending attachments will never help since they will never be viewed.

10. Give and ye shall receive...

If you have asked a question, the odds are there are others out there with the same question. Some may be too shy to ask; others haven't thought of the question yet but will in the future. Share your knowledge. This is a contagious habit and one that we would like to see spread around! Once you have learned something new, take the time to post the problem, along with the solution, to the Community Support Forums. This will do not one, not two, but at least three great things!

    1. Provide information to others who may need it.
    2. Help you to retain the information by typing it out.
    3. Speed up technical support by helping to remove that question from the support box.

FutureQuest is a community based service. Our pride is generated around the type of community you help to create! By sharing your knowledge on the forums, you will also be encouraging others to do the same, thus generating a larger support base for yourself! Creating an Internet Presence can be hard work at times, but it can also be an enjoyable learning experience. It all depends on how you approach it.