Thursday, January 19, 2006

You're Lucky We Don't Strangle You.

I had a revelation yesterday.

Have you ever noticed how Tech-support people, either fully paid professionals, or just the family member that knows a thing or two about computers, come across as arrogant, annoying know-it-alls?

I’ve discovered the reason why.

Picture the scene. It’s 8:20am, and Sunny has just come home from work. She asks if she can have the computer for 30 minutes. I save my work, and leave her to it.

I notice her starting up blogger, something I haven’t done for months, as I prefer to use Word with the Blogger Plugin. I try to tell her this:

“You know, you can use Word to write your posts, then it’s just a couple of clicks to publish, it’s much easier.”

Sunny (Not paying much attention, and continuing to log into blogger): “Uh-huh.”

“Right, just click start, then word, then…”

“Look, just leave me alone, I want to get this done.”

(Evidence Exhibit A : Upon attempting to show my lovely wife a much quicker, easier and ‘safer’ (less chance of losing your post) way to do something. She brushes me off. However, I’ll hold my hand up and say she wanted to get her post written down before she forgot what she wanted to do next…so I can understand her not wanting me to show her another way to do things.)

Anyway, a few minutes later, she’s done with her post, and I notice she has Word started up.

“Hey Sweetie.” She Says. “How do I do a whole new thing?”

“What do you mean?”

“You know!” (Gesticulates at the screen) “A whole new file or whatever.”

“You mean a new Document?”

(Evil Look) “You know what I mean! File, Document…it’s all the same.”

(Evidence Exhibit B : People tend to assume when we ask questions like that, that we’re being pedantic and showing off how much we know. It also tends to put people on the defensive, because they think we’re snickering behind our hands saying “She called a document a FILE! What a moron!” This is not the case. The truth is, she could have wanted to open a new file, or a new folder to store whatever she’s going to type. We actually need to know and be clear on this, or we spend 20 minutes showing you something that doesn’t help you out one bit. You see, saying “File, folder, document! It’s all the same” is like starting your first driving lesson and saying “So I press the gas to stop, yeah?” and when your instructor corrects you, you say “Gas, Brake Clutch…it’s all the same!”)

“It automatically starts a new document when you start it up.” I said, pointing at the blank page.

“So where will it save?”

“Wherever you tell it to.”

“What will it save it as?”

“Whatever you tell it to.”

I get a look like I’m being deliberately unhelpful.

“Look.” I say. “Just write what you want to, then when you’re done, you click file, then save…you know how to do this.”

She starts hovering the mouse pointer over the extra toolbar that blogger put there.

“Which one?” She says. “Save as Draft? What?”

“Is this for a blog post?” I ask…reasonable question, considering she’s looking at the clearly marked blogger toolbar.

“NO!” She says back, like she’s talking to a stubborn child. After all, I know about computers, so I should know exactly what she’s talking about, using my computer-based telepathy techniques.

At this point I walked away, and told her to call me when she was finished typing.

You see, tech support use a ‘diagnostic tree’. At the one end, there’s a million different things that could be wrong, and we ask questions until we narrow it down. You’re your computer won’t work the cause can be anything from it’s not plugged in, to a major hard-drive crash. There are a million possibilities, we need to narrow them down.

Saying “My computer doesn’t work. How do I fix it?” is exactly the same as saying “My car won’t go. Why?”

Basically, in order to help you, we need a precise description of what’s wrong. The more you tell us, and the more precise you are, the quicker we can get it fixed.

The other problem is if Tech Support is your actual job, or you’ve just got the reputation in your circle of friends and family for ‘knowing all about computers’, you think that we know exactly what to do from the off. If we ask any questions, or any input from you, we’re just being difficult and showing off.

Basically, we’re not asking a lot of questions to be difficult. We don’t correct the jargon you use just to show off, we correct it so we know what we’re dealing with. Plus, we also tend to get a little short tempered, because you never seem to give us all the information we need, and when we turn up to fix your computer, you get mad at us when we tell you we can’t fix it right then, because there’s other stuff we need to fix it.

I think the best way to explain this is with an example.

A while back, one of my Aunts called me to tell me that her computer wouldn’t dial up to the internet.

So, with the information I’d been given, I told her to check the phone lead, make sure she was getting a dial-tone. No luck. Then she told me she had a splitter so her phone and modem where connected to the same outlet. I told her to unplug the phone, and just connect the modem without the splitter.

At this point I tried to talk her through her modem settings, but ‘Dummy Mode’ had kicked in. Computers are far too difficult and technical for her to understand, so she asked me to come and check it for her. This is despite the fact that checking the modem settings is as difficult as clicking what I told her to, and reading some numbers off the screen.

So I went round. I checked the phoneline and everything. That side of things were working fine. I turned the computer on. It started in safe-mode.

I pointed this out.

“Did you not think that it was a little unusual that everything on the screen looked different, there’s no sound, and the big splash screen at the start that actually tells you it’s running in safe mode, and the fact that ‘safe mode’ is written in all four corners?”

Now, that could be construed as me being just a little pedantic. The stock answer is “I didn’t know it wasn’t meant to do that, I don’t know anything about computers!”

The truth is, if you use computers, and suddenly something is different, tell tech support FIRST. Technically, this is like calling a car mechanic out for a bald tire, when there’s black smoke coming from under the hood.

I discovered that the computer had one of the worst virus infections I’d ever seen. I mean EVERY single file was corrupted.

“What happened to the anti-virus software I installed for you, and told you never to go onto the internet without it running?”

“Oh, my son took it off. He said it slowed it down, and wouldn’t let him on some websites.”

Ok, please explain to me how anyone could not understand this:

Virus software blocks viruses. Viruses are bad.

A little more thinking would lead you to the conclusion that if a virus blocker blocks a site…then that site just might have viruses on it?

(Evidence Exhibit C : If we tell you not to do something, or to do something on a regular basis, we’re not lying to you. I once told my brother, when he got his first internet-capable computer: “Go to this website and download AVG anti-virus, it’s free and easy to set up. Do not go onto the internet or download anything without doing this first. This is important. Don’t come crying to me if you ignore me and your computer fucks up.” Two days later. “Err, my computer’s not working right.” “Did you go on the internet?” “Yes.” “Did you install AVG first?” “No.”)

Also, even if you’re a complete and utter computer newbie, don’t understand a thing about them…when someone you KNOW knows about computers installs a piece of software on your computer and says: “Do not, under any circumstances, go on the internet without this running. If you do, your computer will get fucked up.” Why on earth would you ignore it?

I said this to my Aunt. I got the usual glazed look, and a “Well, can you fix it or not?”

(Evidence Exhibit D : Yes, I can fix it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy or fun. Sticking with the car analogy, if you were a qualified mechanic, and had told me to never, under any circumstances, run my car with two pounds of sugar in the gas-tank, and I did just that, would you be able to fix it? Yes you would. Would you know exactly how to fix it? Yes, you would. Would you enjoy doing it? No you wouldn’t. Yes, I may spend most of my free time in front of a computer, but trust me, in that time, I’m not having a right good time clearing viruses of it. This is particularly annoying for people like me, because I’m giving my help for free. I gave her this advice so I wouldn’t have to waste my entire Sunday afternoon.)

In the end, that “Come around, it’ll only take you five minutes!” Took me close to 6 hours…not including the time it took for me to keep running home for software. If I’d been a professional, I would have charged 75GBP an hour, extra because it was Sunday, charged her for all the software I put on there (her discs had vanished somewhere). I tallied it up. Going rates, no service plan, Sunday call out…that’ll be roughly 800GBP please!

Instead I got a cup of tea, and three “Are you nearly done yets?’s”

Here’s my concluding argument:

Tech Support, both professional and amateur, only help you out because you’re either paying them, or because you’re in a position to save a friend or family member some money. Yes, we like computers, but we don’t actually enjoy fixing them. Despite this, when you drop your laptop off at my house, you expect to see my face light up like Christmas morning.

We ask you for information. However, you can’t be bothered dealing with it. So why can’t I just leave you alone and fix it already. After all, I know all about computers! Also, when you come out with the one piece of technical jargon you know, and we correct you…we only do it to clarify the situation. A car mechanic can’t give you advice when you tell him your ‘doohickey’s gone all wobbly’, and neither can we. Despite the fact that we can fix your computer, five minutes of your time will save 20 hours of ours. Tech support know about computers, we know what can go wrong with your computer, but we also need a little bit of information to work out the What, Why and How.

We fix your computer, tell you what you did wrong, and this is met by a glazed over stare. After all, you don’t know anything about this computer crap, and “Click AVG, then click ‘Update’ at least once every two weeks” is WAY over your head.

You tend to do the same thing wrong over and over again…and bring it to us to fix, over and over again…each time completely ignoring the instructions we give you.

Basically, Tech support as a species is faced every single day by a group of people who continually fuck up their own computers, refuse to learn even the simplest little thing, expect us to be delighted at the prospect of 6 hours in front of a computer screen trying to work out what the fuck it was you did…and then you get mad at us when we can’t correct your mistake RIGHT NOW.

…and that is why we come across as arrogant, stand-offish know-it-alls.


OzzyC said...

Would you clean my mouse ball?

Paulius said...

Unfortunately, no. But I WILL talk you through how to do it yourself over the phone.

...for a small fee, of course.

MC Etcher said...

Hear hear! I understand.

In the biblical way.