Be Nice to Tech Support


Saturday night I spent an hour and half in a chat session with my wireless provider, trying to figure out why my wife’s brand new iPhone would not make actual phone calls. After long waits between messages, and two “technical issues” that required restarting the session, I went to bed.

The next morning I did another 90 minutes of troubleshooting chat before being escalated to a phone session with a very nice woman with an Indian accent and allergies in Birmingham, Alabama.

She was savvy enough to skip through the script and escalate me again with an appointment at one of their local stores. Five minutes there, and a new SIM card, solved the problem.1

But this post is not a rant about bad tech support. Actually I very much appreciate just how difficult troubleshooting can be, remote or otherwise. And just how much patience it requires, especially in dealing with the human part of the equation. 

For a large part of the time I worked for the overly-large school district, I had the rather generic job title of Instructional Technology Specialist.2 But, despite the “instructional” part, people with malfunctioning devices always seemed to see only the technology part.

So, I was the “tech guy”.

Although my job was to help educators integrate technology into their practice, the stuff actually needed to work for that to happen. And I was someone who might be able to fix things that were causing frustration and delaying important work. Without involving the formal request-for-help process required by the IT department.

I wasn’t always successful. But the time spent troubleshooting3 was a great opportunity to learn what was going on in the schools and to discuss how that integration might happen in this specific classroom. So, very much worth the effort.

Anyway, the only real point to this post is as a reminder that technology support is more about people than it is about computers, phones, software, and networks. Hopefully whoever you interact with in that department will do their best to make things work properly again.

Even if they have to complete every page of the troubleshooting script, in order, before finding someone else who can actually fix the problem.

The image is a meme from a wonderful British comedy called the IT Crowd. If you haven’t seen it and you have Netflix, check it out. The first two series (six episodes each) make a very funny binge, especially if you are a geek. Or just watch this two-minute compilation of their favorite troubleshooting technique.

1. I suggested the SIM card might be bad during the first half hour on Saturday but that didn’t fit the script so we went through a bunch of resets and restarts instead.

2. In HR-speak, Education Specialist, Technology.

3. Most often involving restarting the machine or reinstalling software.

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