An open letter to everyone who calls tech support.

Friendly IT support staff member with computer message box guiding the customer - isolated

This isn’t me by the way…

Having worked in technical support in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years, I feel like I know something about the subject. In fact, during that time, I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end of technical support. So I REALLY understand.

On behalf of my brothers and sisters in the field, I want to share some thoughts with those of you who from time to time find yourselves needing assistance, whether with a computer, a smartphone or a crockpot (yes believe it or not, we have crockpots on the Internet).

1. We REALLY do try to help.

Sure you’re going to find duds every once in awhile, someone who is doing tech support because they HAVE to, or who has maybe been doing for toooo long. But for the most part, we really do want to help you. It may not seem like it but…

2. No one sets out to give lousy customer service

Sometimes it happens… OK often it happens….you speak to someone you can’t understand, who doesn’t care about your problem, blah, blah, blah. I admit it does happen. But tech support is beginning to have a reputation like the dentist’s office. You know it’s going to be unpleasant, maybe even painful. But truthfully, sometimes the dreadful anticipation we feel going into a technical support call affects our attitude, which sometimes is reflected back to us. For example, how different an experience would it be if each time we called tech support, we anticipated speaking with a friendly, intelligent person who’s only goal in life is to solve our problem? While this may be a little on the Pollyanna-ish side, I know that my attitude when providing support is MUCH better when the person requesting help is pleasant.

There are several factors that affect poor customer service:

  1. Some companies do not provide proper customer service training.
  2. Some companies contract with other countries to provide support to save money.
  3. Technical support jobs are generally entry-level, lower paying jobs
  4. Everyone has a bad day from time to time.

As technical support representatives, we sometimes speak to dozens of people who are all having bad days. If we’re lucky we can separate what’s going on in our own personal lives from that of our callers, but sometimes it’s difficult. Remember when you call, you may be the 10th person to call in just a few minutes. The person you’re calling has their own set of problems just like you. They may have a sick child or be sick themselves. They may have money problems (see number 3 above). They may have been up all night studying for a test the night before.

I firmly believe that most technical support reps are not intentionally trying to give lousy service. So don’t assume they are.

3. Don’t shoot the messenger

The tech support rep that you are speaking to didn’t create, manufacture, program, or sell the product that you are having issues with. They didn’t force you to purchase it. They didn’t stop your system backup from occurring, or cause the error that you are experiencing. It is NOT their fault that you are having a problem. Take a deep breath and remember they are a person doing their job, and they are trying to help you. (Go back and read 1 & 2).

4. Remember the old adage about assuming – ASS U (and) ME

Don’t assume the support rep can read your mind. You will need to provide a clear description of the problem you are having, and we may need to ask alot of questions before we can get to the helping part. Save some time on the front end by having the following ready:

  • Your customer information (where & when you bought the product, your account number, email address, etc.)
  • The product information (model #, software version,  etc.),
  • A brief description of the problem (we don’t need to hear your life story – just the facts that pertain to this call)
  • Error messages (the exact message including any error codes).

Speaking of error messages, don’t assume that the support rep will immediately know the meaning for every error message. Sometimes messages are cryptic to us too. But given a few minutes, armed with the exact text of the message, we can begin to find out what it might mean.

Don’t assume that the support rep understands all the ins/outs of the product you are using. If it sounds like we are reading from a script, we probably are. The script allows us to walk through a series of steps that will eventually arrive at an answer to your problem, or tell us to refer you to someone with a higher level of knowledge about your product. The product you are using may not be available to us personally, or we may not have access to it.

5. It’s not necessary to apologize for calling

If I had a nickel for every time someone has called me for assistance and started the conversation with “Sorry to bother you” or “I know you’re busy”. While I appreciate the sentiment, it is misplaced. The nature of the job is that I AM HERE SO YOU CAN CONTACT ME. Yes I am busy, but I am busy because I am trying to help you and other users. Be appreciative and patient, but don’t apologize…it’s a waste of both of our time.

6. If leaving voicemail…

Speak clearly and slowly. Make sure when you say your name, your phone or email address – slow down – don’t speed up. I can’t count the number of calls I have not been able to return because the person leaving the message mysteriously decides to speed up when they get to their phone number. Give the facts – slowly, and understandably – and hang-up.

7. If contacting via email…

As mentioned before. Provide a clear, concise description of the problem. List any error messages displayed (screenshots or picture are helpful – in Windows search for “snipping tool”). Describe how long the problem has been happening, and if there was any particular occurrence just before (ex. just installed new software, had a power outage, etc.). Provide clear contact information for the method you want to be contacted, and if there is a particular time of day that you are available (or not available).


It is difficult to avoid the fact that the experience of calling technical support will probably always be somewhat unpleasant. By definition it can be an emotionally charged situation, involving flawed human beings with preconceived attitudes, prejudices and opinions. Hopefully, if you’ve read this, it can be a little easier – who knows it might even be a pleasant experience. At any rate…I feel better getting this off my chest. Thanks for reading.

Until next time…

If it sounds too good to be true…

I’m sure you’ve heard it before – “If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.” I wasn’t able to verify the originator of the phrase with a quick Google search. I remember it from watching consumer advocate David Horowitz appear on The Tonight Show w/Johnny Carson when I was a kid. It stuck with me.

There are a lot of unscrupulous people on the Internet that are betting a fair number of folks never saw the Tonight Show, don’t know who Johnny Carson is (let alone David Horowitz) and have not heard that old adage. They fill Facebook newsfeeds with offers to reward anyone who likes, or shares a post with everything from free tickets to millions of dollars. In the past few months alone there was a wide-spread scam that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was going to give away millions to random people who liked and shared a post.

Most recently, the alleged benefactor has been Walt Disney himself, promising to give away hundreds of free vacations to the Happiest Place on Earth. Alas, Disney did not become the behemoth it is today, by giving away much of anything, let alone for simply clicking a, er um, mouse (no pun intended). Let’s take a closer look and maybe we can discover ways to pick out one of these “sounds too good” deals before we risk our personal information.

Here’s the post:

WD-FB-SCAMIt’s an attention grabber for sure. Who wouldn’t want a chance for a “all paid Walt Disney World Vacation. exclusive items and $2759 in cash”? All you have to do is Share and Like (and comment)…oh and eventually be taken to a web page where they’ll get some personal information so they can contact you (and sell your information, possibly plant some malware on your computer to spy on you, and other nefarious things).

The problem is, this isn’t really from Walt Disney World. From this post it is difficult to tell I’ll admit. In a moment we’ll look at some more obvious clues.

From this page all we have to go on is the adage we started with…if it sounds too good to be true – which this admittedly does.

But there’s something else, a little more subtle, but nonetheless present. Notice the spelling of the page “Walt DisneyWorld.” No space between “Disney” and “World” and a “.” in the name. Another version of this scam a few weeks ago, showed similar boxes stacked on a pallet (“ready to be distributed”). It was from a FB page named “Walt Disney-World“. Those minor changes (no space, period or hyphen) allowed the creators to get past the FB setup wizard without a “page already exists” problem.

Now let’s drill down a little deeper. Below we have a side-by-side comparison of the “Walt Disneyworld.” page and the official page.


Notice the circled differences:

Fake page (on left or top)

The page type is “Transport/Freight“. Sounds happy and fun right? And a whopping 7053 people have liked this page. Somehow I’d have expected more.

Now the official page (on the right or bottom)

Notice the page type and the number of likes and visitors. Now that’s more like it. Another more subtle difference, notice the blue checkmark next to the page title. This indicates that Facebook has verified this to be an authentic page owned and operated by Walt Disney World. These “verified” accounts are showing up in other forms of social media – Twitter, Instagram, etc. While this CAN be faked, it is difficult, and usually doesn’t get past them for long. These pages tend to be reported as scams, and get taken down. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen before thousands of people fall for the scam, often giving up their personal information, email addresses, logins and passwords.

While it is unfortunate, and seems really pessimistic, it is becoming more important all the time to learn to “TRUST NO ONE” at least as far as the Internet is concerned. Online thieves are getting better all the time finding ways to get users to give up their personal information, willingly. This is called “social engineering” and it is in my mind THE most dangerous form of hacking. It targets good, trusting people simply looking for a good deal, or a chance to take their kids on a dream vacation. In this economy, in this world, who can blame them. I almost feel guilty saying it again, but unfortunately it’s true. With few exceptions (God’s grace for example) – IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE – IT PROBABLY IS. Learn it – remember it – when dealing online.

Jimmy Fallon is great, but I really miss The Tonight Show w/Johnny Carson, and a much simpler time.

Till next time.