Sunday, March 12, 2006

Helping Hand or Slap in the Face?

Note: This entry appeared in my original blog, "Home|Work"

Customer Support, Technical Support, Help Desk, Hotline, Guest Services -- all wonderful names for the people you call out to when you have a problem. Sometimes they are quick-witted angels of mercy. Sometimes, well, sometimes they aren't as useful. I salute those who place their tremendous knowledge and technical skills in the service of this thankless task. Great job and thank you! For those who just read the script and go through the motions without really listening to the cries for help on the other end of the line, well, this one's for you.

Everyone has their horror stories of bad customer service. If you've worked with technology for any length of time, it seems, you really can't avoid it. I've had a few and I think it's story time. One was surprisingly bad. I say that because the company, Linksys, had always treated me wonderfully. I didn't have to call them often, but on those rare occasions that I did, they were able to get me straightened around in no time.

This time, though, my router/wireless access point was acting up. My desktop computer, connected directly to the LinkSys box, continued to chug along with no trouble. My wife's computer and my laptop, though, both using wireless connections could no longer see anything. I tried a few things, but when they didn't bear fruit, I called up the help desk -- and pronmptly received my first annoyance of the day. Wait time was 45 minutes. Not bad and certainly not enough to make me hang up and come back later. Still, a minor irritation. When the "service technician", i.e. the person reading the script, finally came on, we went through the basics (flipping things off and on, checking to make sure they are plugged in, etc), which I didn't mind. I believe in the basic troubleshooting dictum of "When in doubt, reboot".

The problem came when we had to go beyond that. The "tech" refused to comprehend that it wasn't my computer that was having the problem, despite the fact that all of my wireless computers were unable to connect. Still, in the vain hope of getting somewhere, I gamely attempted every inane "solution" she came up with, including such gems as renaming the network and plugging the router into a different outlet (I'm assuming if the lights are on, it's probably not the power). Finally after a total of three hours on the phone, I thanked her for her time, hung up, and drove out to CompUSA to get a new wireless access point. What do you know? My solution worked!

Later, I told my tale of woe to my sister-in-law, JoAnn, who used to train customer service people at the old AT&T Wireless. She told me that my mistake was patiently working with someone who patently didn't understand the situation. Within the first ten minutes I should have told them to "escalate" me. Next time I'll know!

In my next installment, though, I'll tell you about the time when I didn't have the opportunity to be "escalated"!

You must have a horror story or two, please share them with me. What was your worst cutomer service experience ever? If you are a customer service representative, I'd love to hear about the worst customer you have had to face.

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