Support Your Support

 In your lifetime, you have—and probably will again—need to make use of technical support services. Having been on both sides of the technical support chain, I have found a few ways to make your issue resolution as fast and as accurate as possible.

To begin with, a little prep work will save a large amount of time. When you contact a support department, have a few pieces of information on hand before you pick up the phone or send out that email. The first piece is your contact information. If you hit a voice mail mailbox, enunciate your name and phone number slowly and clearly. Repeating the phone number twice is better. All too often, I have had customers with important questions leave the following type of message: “ThisisJohnSmithwithGenericBiocorpsixonesixfivefivefivesevenfivefournine.” It is even harder and sometimes impossible to understand that message when it is spoken with a thick accent or over a bad connection. By speaking clearly, support personnel can more easily contact you if they cannot immediately solve the issue.

The second item to have on hand is specific information about the device, software, or usage problem. Have the model numbers, serial numbers, and version numbers of the items in question ready. This will help you navigate voice mail systems and give support personnel information for tracking problems.

Finally, have all the information about the problem that prompted the contact in the first place. Support personnel will want to know what is working incorrectly, what is working correctly, and what is working differently than before. Dreaded voice mail mazes are annoying, but they are not as frustrating as bouncing among a group of incorrect people.

During a support session, the support giver may provide specific instructions and procedures to be followed step by step. Hopefully, you will not be run through procedures that you have already performed independently, but it may be necessary. The technician often needs to get your system into a condition or position that is known and understood. Do not “get ahead” of the technician as they may introduce a subtle change to the procedure. This stepwise operation helps the support technician visualize the problem.

Large companies will often have a tiered support network. The first level of a tiered support network triages the case. Personnel at this level usually uses a support script, a book or program that operates like a flowchart. Support scripts are good for resolving common and well-understood problems. In some cases, the people using a support script have never seen the product in operation. The second level of a tiered support network provides more specific help. Level-two personnel usually have had training on the specific products and can provide more specialized support. The top level is usually a product engineer, who has an equipment setup to try to replicate your problem.

Sadly, not every problem can be solved remotely. When it cannot, either a support representative will come on-site or you will send the equipment out for service. There are a few very important things to do when shipping items. First, confirm the shipping address and return address. Next, include a copy of the Return Material Authorization paperwork in the box, and display the number clearly on the box. Then, record the tracking numbers so you can confirm delivery and receipt of the unit. Remember to buy shipping insurance for your equipment. When shipping equipment back to the manufacturer or service center, always have at least 2 inches (5 cm) of proper filler between the edges of the box and the unit. Having less than this voids most shipping-damage warranties and risks aggravated damage to the unit.

In summary, remember to have pertinent information ready before you call. Also, record all names, numbers, and times of your communications. Speak at a normal pace, enunciate, and be polite. Remember, people who perform customer support rarely, if ever, get called when things are working right. 24×7

Jason Brookbank is the service and technical support manager for Metron US, Grand Rapids, Mich.

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